Archive for the ‘Capsule Review’ Category

Inspiration Re-Animated: Night of the Dead: Leben Tod

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 20 - 2009

lebentodSo many movies rip off the Romero canon that is is great to see the occasional movie that rips off something else. The something else ripped off by Night of the Dead: Leben Tod is Re-Animator, a classic in its own right. And in the course of ripping it off, NotD: LT turns out to be a pretty solid zombie outing.

The plot is a little convoluted. There’s a pregnant woman and her husband, who is the nephew/intern of a mad doctor who runs some sort of bizarre private clinic. There’s the reanimating serum he’s developing — bright, fluorescent pink instead of green, here. Then you throw in a bunch of goofy yet creepy sidekicks, some dead family members and an unlucky bunch that chooses the worst possible place to stop for help in a medical emergency. Shake and bake those elements and let the good times roll — flesh-eating mayhem and buckets of gore ensue. Seriously, buckets – this film doesn’t skimp on the grue.

The uneven pacing — some passages move along at an excellent clip, while others take forever to go anywhere — and some weak acting dragged this one down, but it had its moments. Like the hilariously cheap-looking car accident that triggers one of the main plot points. Or the hen-pecked mad scientist lead role. Or the little girl that just loves to eat the living. It’s not as funny or as well-executed as its inspiration, but for a shot-on-video, low-budget zombie movie it’s quite enjoyable.

Soporific: Outpost

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 17 - 2009

outpostLest I give the wrong impression by reviewing one good Nazi movie (Dead Snow) after reviewing only one terrible one (Zombie Lake), I thought it was time to balance the scales with another, typically awful stab at the Dead Reich genre. In this case, the 2008 snoozefest Outpost serves as our example. In this turkey, unkillable Nazi soldiers are created by a last-ditch effort to harness a “Unified field” via a “unified field generator” as the Nazi regime is collapsing at the end of WWII. Then some modern day mercenaries get involved, and mayhem ensues. Very, very slowly.

The director was obviously trying to go for atmosphere over gore or action, but come on! There’s a certain amount of action implied for a movie chock full of mercenary killers and undead evil. Instead we got lots of futzing around and weird, awkward attempts to borrow from Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Stargate movie — at least, that’s where my mind wandered during one of the many interminable scenes. The acting was barely conscious and the film used some kind of filter than made everything look grainy, washed out and ugly. In short, a total mess, well worthy of its place of (dis)honor amongst its crappy Nazi zombie brethren.

Icky: I, Zombie: A Chronicle of Pain

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 14 - 2009

izombieFor all of its flaws, I, Zombie: A Chronicle of Pain is interesting for the simple fact that it is a novel yet faithful take on the familiar zombie mythos. It’s a thinker of a zombie film about a man who tries to help a sick woman (zombie), gets bitten and descends into zombiedom. He chronicles his reluctant embrace of cannibalism as he is driven to murder people and eat their flesh in order to stave off the crippling effects of the zombie disease. His body disintegrates into a grotesque, oozing mess of living death shown in a painstaking close-up style reminiscent of David Cronenberg’s The Fly. As a story told from the titular zombie’s point of view, it inverts the usual expectations. The horror here comes not from his victims trying to escape, but from the personal psychlogical and physiological trauma of literally falling apart in the painful transformation to zombiedom.

The gore is low budget and occasionally cheap looking but there are several ghastly moments, especially the infamous genital trauma (wang loss) during an ill-conceived masturbation session. It was a little too smart for its own good, which made it talky and glacially paced and the acting is barely competent. Don’t expect a lot of excitement, but the realistic approach — zombiism presented as a degenerative, fatal disease — and novel point of view make it worth a watch.

Limp noodles: The Quick and the Undead

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 9 - 2009

quickandundeadIf you’ve ever wanted to see one of Sergio Leone’s Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns remade as a cheap, schlocky zombie gore-fest, The Quick and the Undead will make you very happy. Until you actually watch it, anyway.  The basic premise is that 85 years after biowar weapons create zombies, large swathes of the world are overrun. Bounty hunters make a living by exterminating the foul beasts and collecting their fingers to claim their bounty. Two rival hunters square off, lots of double dealing ensues, people get killed, people get eaten, stupid plot twist after stupid plot twist is revealed and the hero rides off in the sunset.

The plot made no sense to even cursory examination. See, the main bad guy is supposedly scheming to create more zombies because he’s afraid his livelihood is running out. Great, except that the whole freaking world is still overrun. Every corner they turn is crawling with freaking zombies. A better plan might have involved not teaming up with so many untrustworthy idiots. Less shares of the loot to dole out, less double-crossing, fewer utter dumbasses fucking up your groove.

It didn’t help that the acting was atrocious. The direction, production and writing — all from one guy, no surprise — were abominable. The movie looked like shit and the ham-fisted steals from Eastwood/Leone classics came off not as homage but as pathetic mockery. All in all, it was just a total mess.

Miscast: Uncle Sam

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 6 - 2009

unclesamThere are plenty of so-called zombie movies that are actually something else. Some just don’t feature enough zombies to be a zombie movie (say, Night of the Comet) and are simply movies with zombies in them — a subtle difference, but worth noting. Others have a creature that could well be considered a zombie, but so closely hew to the plot structure, pacing and style of a different type of movie — a slasher film, say — that they can’t really be considered a zombie movie. That’s the case with Uncle Sam.

The movie shows us the story of an angry Gulf War vet who returns home dead (well, undead) and proceeds to wreak havoc and seek revenge against anti-war protesters, politicians and anyone else he thinks wronged him in any way. Despite the wooden performances and heavy-handed yet  somehow sleepy direction, this managed to be pretty watchable, even moderately entertaining. Maybe it was the ultra-creepy Uncle Sam mask the zombie/slasher wore? The weird-ass kid? The presence of veteran character actors Isaac Hayes and Robert Forster? I did watch it late at night, so maybe I was a little out of it and that helped? It’s hard to say. In any case, this is really a mediocre slasher movie with a zombie-like slasher, not a zombie movie.

Super wacky: Wild Zero

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 3 - 2009

wildzeroAre you ready for a super wacky Japanese rock and roll zombie love story? That’s Wild Zero! And man, is it wacky! Think I am overselling it? Then just wait until you see how thick the actual movie piles it on.

It stars the ultra-cool band Guitar Wolf and a fan of the band named Ace, who really wants to be Guitar Wolf. A meteor brings the dead back to life as flesh-hungry zombies, Guitar Wolf is pursued by a double-dealing club manager, there’s a hot arms dealer and a transvestite who wins the heart of Ace. And it is so wacky.

I didn’t love this. It was too much rock-and-roll fantasy posturing and self-conscious wackiness and not enough zombie movie. It amounted to a long, self-indulgent music video in the vein of the old Beatles movies. It was still sort of entertaining, though. Just don’t believe the hype that this is anything special. It’s a mildly amusing, overly long, jokey music video for an overrated Japanese rock band — with zombies!

Painfully dumb: Dead Moon Rising

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 1 - 2009

deadmoonrisingEvery once in a while, I buy a movie without knowing anything about it. It rarely ends up well. A perfect example is the fact that I own Dead Moon Rising. It’s one of the dumbest and flat-out worst movies I’ve ever seen. The random, incoherent story pits a ragtag bunch of idiots in a fight against hordes of zombies, with nary an original idea in sight. Every fifteen minutes something new and stupid was added. The constant novelty kept it from being too slow, but made it extra retarded. The smirking, cartoonish goofball of a lead — who can barely act — delivers the majority of the story in a series of asides, which is just unforgivable. What else went into this shit sandwich? There were many lame attempts at humor. According to the cover, it has the largest zombie scene ever. I suppose that’s something, if it’s true (is there some kind of certifying board for that?). Basically, not worth anyone’s time unless you have to see absolutely every zombie movie ever made. In that case, save it for the last stretch and maybe you’ll luck out and die before you get to it.

Pointless: Living Dead in Tokyo Bay

Posted by Cory Casciato On March - 26 - 2009

ldtb1The Japanese have done interesting zombie movies such as Stacy and JUNK. The forgettable Living Dead in Tokyo Bay, however, is not one of them. After a meteor causes the dead to come back to life, a badass Japanese woman in a tight, futuristic jumpsuit has to rip off the plot of Escape from New York and rescue her scientist father, only instead of gangs, she faces zombies. And some super zombie Power Ranger-esque villains created by a corrupt military dude. And right now, if you are imagining something cool, stop. It sucks. It could have been fun, given better direction and a slightly more coherent plot, but it’s really lifeless (ha!) and slow and pointless. The zombies don’t get enough screen time and manage to underwhelm even low expectations when they do. The gore is gutless, the super-zombie villains are ridiculous and even a hot girl in a skintight jumpsuit manages to bore. Apart from being the oldest Japanese zombie movie I know of (1992) I can’t think of a single reason to even acknowledge this film’s existence.

Scare air: Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane

Posted by Cory Casciato On March - 17 - 2009

fotldI didn’t expect a whole lot from Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane, but maybe that’s why it was such a surprisingly enjoyable movie. I think its biggest strength was it knew exactly what it was: a well-funded b-movie without pretension. Plotwise, it was a pastiche of cliches from the zombie and plane movie genres, but it got a lot of mileage from its competent (albeit unremarkable) cast of vaguely recognizable character actors and generally high production values. The director kept things from getting too hammy and kept the pacing moving along nicely — why can’t more horror and b-movie directors do these two, simple things? These zombies were the fast type, which I generally disapprove of but am becoming more accustomed to, and the make-up and gore were nicely done. I especially liked the yellow eyes of the zombies, which are illogical but pretty cool looking.

The story is exactly what you’d expect: mad scientist dude illegally transports zombie on commercial flight, zombie busts lose on the plane and things get seriously negative for the crew and passengers from there. Everyone reacts pretty realistically, which is to say mortal terror, panic and selfish if ultimately stupid actions by most of the soon-to-be zombie chow.  The ending was awesome, too. I liked this one so much I bought it.

Ungood: FleshEater

Posted by Cory Casciato On March - 12 - 2009

flesheaterWhen zombies make zombie movies, bad things happen. The sole claim to fame offered by FleshEater is that it is the pet project of Bill Hinzman, who was the graveyard ghoul in the original Night of the Living Dead. He wrote, directed and starred in this turkey, which mashes up NotLD with any generic Friday the 13th inspired slasher film and ends up as a mess. A dumbass farmer unearths a zombie, who breeds more zombies in the usual, bitey way. This troupe of flesh-loving undead systematically kill a bunch of completely unappealing teens during a camp out. In a departure from completely generic zombiedom (but well in line with generic slasherdom), the zombies all use weapons — pitchforks, a hatchet, etc. — which gives a little bit of variety to the killings. Things are set to get all apocalyptic up in this bitch when the local townsfolk pull out the guns and wipe them all out — or do they? Then the end rips off NotLD‘s ending — what a surprise. Apart from being slow, dull and dumb, it wasn’t bad. Just kidding, it was bad.

As an aside, I am pretty certain this was filmed in rural Pennsylvania. Something about the scenery, the mullets and the ready availability of firearms and Iron City beer just reminds me of my time there.




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