ZMMM Volume 6 progress report part VI

Posted by Cory Casciato On October - 21 - 2013ADD COMMENTS
The Battery

The Battery

The last three days were about as good as zombie movie marathoning get. Two nice surprises and a visit from an old friend that had been nearly forgotten. It’s little runs like this that make it all worthwhile. Well, that and the disembowelments. On to the films!

The Battery

If you read much horror criticism and coverage, someone has probably already told you how good this film is. They aren’t kidding. This is an indie zombie apocalypse film done right. It’s small scale, very personal and quiet, as far as zombie movies go. It’s also almost entirely character driven, and the two characters are both believable people. It deals with the big issues that The Walking Dead TV series tries (and largely fails) to address — what it’s like to be stuck with people you have little in common with, how the end of the world affects you, trying to retain your humanity in the chaos — with heart and humor. It looks good, it doesn’t rip anyone off (apart from the obvious Romeroisms common to nearly all zombie movies), and it’s entertaining.

Plotwise, it’s about two guys on the road, trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. One is very matter of fact about it all, the other is kind of in denial. Things happen. That’s all you need to know really. Just see it. If you care enough about zombies to read this website, even casually, you will like — if not love — this movie. It’s fucking great. Oh, and you can get it direct from the filmmakers for $5. $5! That’s less than a fancy ass latte, so just do it.

Night of the Creeps

How did I forget how sweet this movie is? How have I never watched it as part of my zombie movie marathon month? I don’t know the answer to either of these questions, but they are both resolved now. Alien parasites use animated corpses to breed and spread, college kids and a slightly homicidal police detective (captain?) have to deal with it. It’s set in 1987 (with a bonus flashback to 1959), so you get some sweet ’80s-isms. There’s a little romance. I just noticed I’ve never written a proper review for this one, either, so that’s another thing I need to rectify soon.

Birth of the Living Dead

This is not a movie about zombie babies, as sweet as that would be. Instead, it’s a documentary on the making and impact of Night of the Living Dead. At its center is a long, in-depth interview with George A. Romero, which is great. No one else from the film is really interviewed though, which is less great. It’s a must see for fans of the original, or of Romero in general, or fans of the zombie genre (NotLD is patient zero for the modern zombie, after all). It could be a little more well rounded, but that’s just quibbling. It’s an entertaining and informative doc for any fan of the the undead. I quite enjoyed it.

ZMMM Volume 6 progress report part V

Posted by Cory Casciato On October - 18 - 2013ADD COMMENTS
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.

ZMMM Volume 6 progress report part IV

Posted by Cory Casciato On October - 14 - 20131 COMMENT
You'll have this same look after you watch Burial Ground

You’ll have this same look after you watch Burial Ground

We’re approaching the halfway mark of the sixth annual zombie movie marathon and I’m happy to report that things are going fine. I fear I may have front-loaded the quality new stuff a little too heavily, so the back half might be a little painful, but what’s a zombie movie marathon without a little pain, right? That’s why god invented bong hits, anyway. Enough about the future, though, let’s look at the very recent past.

Dead Alive

Peter Jackson’s splatstick masterpiece satisfied as usual. Man, that fucking zombie baby is just the creepiest thing, too. That little bugger  earned his spot on my top ten zombie tots list, that’s for damn sure. Also, the best use of a lawn mower as a zombie killing weapon ever. Plus, it’s actually a pretty decent story and the characters have a bit of life to them. Indie zombie film makers, please take a lesson or five from this film when you go to make your own, okay? We’ll all be better off and I won’t have to suffer as much for future zombie movie marathon months.

Zombie Hunter

Remember what I said about low expectations in my last progress report? This movie is another perfect example. I was bracing myself for some deep hurting, but it turned out to be merely aggressively mediocre, so WIN! A bunch of no-name actors kind of mill around a low-key zombie apocalypse brought on by a drug called Natas (it’s Satan backwards, get it? SO SUBTLE!) and there’s a guy in a car with sort of a Mad Max vibe, only he has frosted tips, so he is impossible to take seriously. Danny Trejo plays an axe wielding priest (or guy pretending to be a priest, whatever) for like ten minutes, until some CGI thing takes him out (yeah, yeah spoiler alert, whatever — there’s not enough story here to worry about shit like that). It did have some stylized elements that were pleasant, and it moved along at a reasonable clip. I could even see myself watching it again. I wouldn’t go out of my way to do it or anything, but it’s not out of the question.

Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror

My love for this awful, awful movie is boundless. I can watch it any number of times, so I did. I don’t have anything to add to what I have already written, so if you want to hear more of my thoughts on the madness of this movie, try my original Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror review or perhaps my list of the top ten most insane moments from Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror. You could also check out my previous year ZMMM daily note on it. Also, you should watch it, because holy shit, what a lunatic movie.

ZMMM Volume 6 progress report part III

Posted by Cory Casciato On October - 11 - 20131 COMMENT

World War ZNever underestimate the power of low expectations. That is the lesson of the  past three days of Zombie Movie Marathon Month. I’ll get into the specifics below, in my movie notes, but it boils down to this: the lower your expectations for a film, the easier it is to have them exceeded and thus your net enjoyment is positive. Conversely, the higher your expectations, the harder it is to live up to them, much less exceed them, and thus the harder it is to have a positive experience. With zombie movies, it really pays to expect pain and suffering, because then if the movie is merely mediocre, you’ll end up quite pleased. Anyway, enough pontificating, on to the films!

Beyond Re-Animator

Oh, boy, were my expectations low. So, so low. The reason for that dates back to last year, when I finally got around to watching Bride of Re-Animator. Earlier in ZMMM5 I watched the original Re-Animator and it was as kick-ass as ever, so when I sat down to watch Bride, I was like, “Oh boy, this is going to be sweet!” And it was not sweet. It was awful, and I hated it. So I was braced for Beyond to be just abysmal and it was… not terrible. I mean, it was pretty lame — bad acting, bad writing, mediocre effects — but it was better than Bride (it ditched some of the lame attempts of humor, for one thing) and it wasn’t painful to watch, so I kind of enjoyed it. See, low expectations never  let you down!

Plotwise, Herbert West goes to prison, and some jackass doctor gets hired at the prison and helps him get his re-animation back on, and shit gets all wacky. It’s pretty weak, but hey, zombies in prison are always a good time.

Phantasm

It had been about five years since I saw this one, so it seemed like it was time again. It’s a very ’70-s movie, from the pacing to the dialogue to the clothes and decor. Also, it’s a damn ambitious movie for what had to have been a shoestring budget. Dimension-traveling alien/demon things, dwarf zombies, flying silver balls of death… I’m a big Don Coscarelli fan, and I have no doubt that seeing parts of this movie when I was like seven helped that. Highly recommend this, despite the “Oh shit, look how fucking ’70s this is!” vibe.

Also, read my interview with Don Coscarelli. He is a rad dude.

World War Z

When this was over, my wife asked, “So, how close was it to the book?” The answer: hahahahaha. By my count, there were three similarities — the title, the fact that dogs can detect the zombies, and the bit about Israel being the best-prepared for the zombies. Everything else was different. I don’t mind, because hey, the book is the book and the movie is the movie. I can enjoy both on their own merits.

My expectations for this were super, super low, and I was pleasantly surprised. I found it all a little heavy handed and predictable, but it was pleasant enough. Brad Pitt was fine (although he is falling into that typical older actor “fuck you, I’m going to play every part the same way, because I am fucking famous” mentality) as the globe-trotting UN super sleuth who figures out all the answers. The army-ant like super zombies were kinda meh, as usual. They strain credulity, since there is no real way to escape such things, much less fight them. It could have been a sequel/parallel film to Zack Snyder’s 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake, really. Is that a bad thing? Depends on your perspective, I guess. I will say this: it established that “zombie apocalypse” is a fine premise for an action movie, which is nice, because action movie premises get a little stale, and we can always use another.

Oh, any you can read this little essay I wrote about how it doesn’t matter that the film World War Z  is so different from the book World War Z.

ZMMM Volume 6 progress report part II

Posted by Cory Casciato On October - 8 - 20133 COMMENTS
Ken Foree is Peter in Dawn of the Dead

Ken Foree is Peter in Dawn of the Dead

Four more days, four more movies! Without further ado…

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

I got to watch the original Dawn of the Dead  in a theater, with an audience, for the first time ever! It was sweet. You notice the funny stuff more with a hundred and fifty people there to laugh when they hit. Before the show there was a good Q&A with Tom Savini and Ken Foree. Mostly standard stuff, but they told a funny story about the shooting. Seems that the Brown Derby bar in the mall stayed open until 2 a.m., so zombies would go in there and drink. One night, two of the zombies got loaded, “borrowed” a golf cart, and ran it into a column, causing about $7,000 worth of damage. Funny stuff. Oh, and I interviewed Ken Foree, too.

Also, Dawn of the Dead is never not fantastic.

ParaNorman

So, yeah, they make zombie movies for kids now. Wild, huh? I am not a big kids’ movie fan, despite having kids, so I wasn’t too sure about this one. That said, I do feel it is a sacred duty to see all the zombie movies, so… The thing is, this was pretty entertaining. It’s about a kid who sees and talks to dead people, and the obligatory kids’ movie message is about accepting people different than you for who they are, which a freak like me can get behind easily. Nice stop motion animation, too. You could do a lot worse for your kids’ “My First Zombie Movie.”

Frankenweenie

Since there are two kids’ zombie movies out, I figured I might as well just knock them out back to back (also, I’d watched two previously seen films back-to-back for logistical reasons, so this seemed like a good way to get two new ones out). This one is barely a zombie movie. More like a monster movie with one sort-of zombie in it. Still, kid resurrects a dead dog, that’s a zombie dog, right? It was just okay, I thought, but my wife liked it. She’s a Tim Burton fan, I am not, so that probably explains it.

When it was over, my wife leaned over and asked, “So, is Frankenstein a zombie movie?” to which I could only reply, “That is an excellent question that I have been meaning to address.” And I do mean to address it someday, but it is a deep topic, so I don’t have time to go into it now. Let’s just say “Sort of” and move on, shall we?

Night of the Living Dead (1990)

Last time I watched the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead I quite liked it. This time… well, less so. The zombies didn’t look as good as I recall (spoiled by The Walking Dead‘s zombies, I guess) and the acting was way worse. The writing too. It’s like half as smart as the original, which makes it pretty dumb. It was still a decent watch, and it belongs at the top of the middle, mediocre third of zombie movies, but that’s as good as I can do right now. I still think Savini should have gotten a shot to direct again, but I guess I can see why no one was too eager to hire him.

That brings us up to speed. Pretty sure tonight I am going to brave the depths of awful presented by Beyond Re-Animator. I’d like to believe it will be good, but Bride of Re-Animator was the worst piece of shit, so my expectations are basement level.

Zombie Movie Marathon Month Vol. 6 progress report!

Posted by Cory Casciato On October - 4 - 20135 COMMENTS
This guy is smarter than all the living characters in Dawn of the Dead 2004

This guy is smarter than all the living characters in Dawn of the Dead 2004

Zombie movie marathon the sixth is underway! What, you thought the site was dead, just because I haven’t posted in almost a year? Pshaw! You should know by now — if you didn’t shoot it in the head, it ain’t fucking dead.

Anyway, I’m three days into the annual month-long orgy of zombie movie goodness (and badness) and thought it was time for a quick update, in case anyone at home was following along. So, without further ado, here are brief recaps and random thoughts for the three movies I’ve screened so far. (Like last year, I am alternating movies I have seen with movies I have not, so expect about half old chestnuts and half newer/random shit.)

Dawn of the Dead 2004

The Dawn remake still holds up pretty well. It has some issues with its timeline — like, how long was it from the time the pregnant woman is bit until she dies? Days? Weeks? How come it takes so long for her, compared to just hours for everyone else? — and a lot of the action scenes make no sense if you think about them for a second (those zombies move too fast for escape to ever be plausible, really). Set that aside, and it’s pretty sweet, though. I particularly like how stupid it makes everyone seem, because face it, most people are fucking morons and a zombie apocalypse is not going to change that. “Hey, we’re holed up in a mall with a reasonable amount of supplies and no way for zombies to get in, what should we do?” “I know! Let’s fuck all that and head for some goddamn imaginary zombie-free island in the middle of a fucking lake, because ‘I don’t want to die in a mall’ is a good reason to die sooner!”

Seriously? Yes, seriously. You know people would actually be this stupid in a real apocalypse, so I love that aspect of it. They all get what they deserve.

Warm Bodies

I heard a lot of good things about this and… yeah, not so much. It wasn’t terrible, by any means. Reasonably well made, moved along at a decent clip, yadda yadda. I even appreciated the fact that it takes a standard zombie apocalypse trope and uses it for its own purposes. But those purposes were a horrid mashup of Tim Burton-style whimsy and a teen romance (come to think of it, that’s Edward Scissorhands) and I was just kind of meh on that approach. I can see why people like it, though. I am just not one of them.

If you haven’t seen it, it goes like this: Zombie meets girl. Zombie decides not to eat girl. Zombie falls in love with girl. Can girl reciprocate? Definitely different, and worth seeing for that reason, but don’t expect too much.

Pet Sematary II

Oh, Pet Sematary II you are SO FUCKING NUTS. I made a list of all the insane things in this movie as I watched it. They include a kitten massacre, a bunny holocaust, dog murder, death by dirtbike, scenery chewing greatness from Clancy Brown, two insane dream sequences complete with furry fetishism, and, of course, zombie rape. Come for the kitten massacre, stay for the zombie rape, that’s what I always say.

In case you didn’t guess, this is a “so bad it’s good” kind of film. It is SO BAD and SO SO GOOD. I cannot recommend it highly enough for connoisseurs of the terrible.

Okay, that’s all for now. I’m going to see the original Dawn of the Dead in the theater tonight (Tom Savini and Ken Foree in attendance!), plus two new films this weekend. See you Monday if I can find the time to bang out a quick post.

The wide world of zombie film

Posted by Cory Casciato On January - 21 - 20131 COMMENT
ZvSFulci

You can thank Italy for this classic moment

The modern zombie movie is a thoroughly American invention, forged in Pittsburgh by George A. Romero. But like rock and roll and nuclear weapons, it wasn’t long before foreigners had a look and decided they just had to make their own homegrown versions. Before the blood was even dry on his incredible undead innovation, zombie began popping up all over the world, a trend that continues to this day. Once you’ve finished picking the corpse of Romero’s canon clean, had your brains eaten by Return of the Living Dead and devoured Zombieland  and are ready to travel the world in search of new zombie thrills, this handy guide should get you started. It’s by no means comprehensive—that’s a book, not a blog post—but it should serve as an intro to what the world outside of the good old USA offers the zombie aficionado.

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Review: Monster Nation

Posted by Cory Casciato On December - 3 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

Monster Nation reviewIn Monster Nation, the second book in David Wellington’s “Monster” trilogy, we go back, to the beginning of the zombie apocalypse that’s a foregone conclusion in Monster Island. The book opens with an attack in California, then switches to strange happenings high in the mountains of Colorado, both events that any undead aficionado will quickly realize are the first pieces of a zombie puzzle. Before long we’re witnessing the slow fall of the Florence ADX (aka Supermax) prison to the newly vigorous dead and things really get rolling.

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An interview with George A. Romero

Posted by Cory Casciato On November - 7 - 20123 COMMENTS
George A. Romero

Photo by nicolas genin

George A. Romero. The father of the modern zombie. Arguably the most influential filmmaker in the horror genre. Legend. Icon.

And, as it turns out, a pretty nice guy.

When I first launched this site, one of the biggest things I hoped it would eventually lead to was a chance to talk to George A. Romero (my very first post was a happy birthday message to him!). This past weekend, it did and I got 20 minutes with the man himself. It wasn’t long, certainly, but it was still pretty fucking great. We talked about The Walking Dead, video games, what he’s working on and lots more. I’m sure I don’t have to sell you on reading this — if you’re reading this site, you love zombies. If you love zombies, you’re going to want to read this. So onward…

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

Posted by Cory Casciato On October - 17 - 20124 COMMENTS
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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