The Video Dead

Posted by Cory Casciato On February - 25 - 20093 COMMENTS

videodeadWhat you get with The Video Dead is direct-to-video gem from the ’80s that feels, at times, like a modern-day parody of that era. I mean, the main character is in college, studying aerobics and music video. Yeah, seriously. Here’s the plot: a cursed TV that shows an endless loop of the faux film Zombie Blood Nightmare (along with some other weird shit, including a noirish succubus and a grizzled demon slayer) comes into the possession of a family in the ‘burbs. The zombies escape the television, murder ensues and the heroes (two unsupervised suburban teens) are left trying to kill the zombies and restore normalcy, with the help of a former owner of the TV who happens to be some kind of cowboy.

This thing is all rough edges but it’s got its merits. Some highlights: a bride zombie who wields a chainsaw, a brilliant plan that involves dangling live human bait from a tree to lure the zombies in for the kill and a machete/chainsaw duel that ends as badly as can be imagined. The zombies here are interesting. They are plenty decrepit but seem to have an unusually high degree of self-awareness for the undead. They can’t stand their own reflections, for example, and seem to remember at least some things from their days among the living. They even display a macabre sense of humor at times. They’re also unkillable — shooting them, cutting them up and other trauma just slows them down temporarily.

As interesting as elements of this are, it’s not really surprising that it is so obscure. The plot is full of holes, the acting is shoddy and the direction is strictly functional in the most limited sense of the word. It’s weird — I kind of hated this while I was watching it, but as soon it was over I realized it was pretty cool in its limited way. If you run across it at a garage sale or maybe on late-night TV, it is definitely worth a look.

Broken promise: New Year’s Day

Posted by Cory Casciato On February - 24 - 20092 COMMENTS

newyearsdayTechnically, New Year’s Day is not a movie. It’s an episode of the FEARnet.com anthology series Fear Itself. Whatever — the distinction is pretty meaningless these days. The plot of this one follows a young woman who finds herself smack dab in the middle of a zombie outbreak after an epic New Year’s Eve bender. As you might surmise, she has to get across town to “safety” in the middle of all this shit. It’s not a bad set-up but this movie has some serious issues. The acting is fairly atrocious, but it’s not like the actors had much to work with – the writing is worthless. Add to this some utterly spastic and nausea-inducing editing techniques (think bad music video meets epileptic nightmare) and you have a pretty painful hour to sit through. The twist ending (I won’t spoil what the twist is, in case you want to watch it for yourself. You can do that by visiting the New Year’s Day page on the FearNET site) takes steps towards redemption, but then the inconsistencies pile up and you’re left wondering what a decent writer, director and cast could do with a similar idea — this group (including veterans of 30 Days of Night and the Saw franchise) fucked things up pretty good.

Rip-off: Zombies the Beginning

Posted by Cory Casciato On February - 23 - 20093 COMMENTS

zombies_the_beginningIn Zombies the Beginning, you have a classic steal – the filmmakers (Italian “legend” Bruno Mattei, chiefly) took Aliens, replaced the aliens with zombies and voila, new movie! Only, not very new – we’re talking line-for-line swipes 95 percent of the time. There are a few moments of amusement to be found here in seeing how they deal, or fail to deal, with the changes necessary to realize the zombified take on Aliens. There are also a few moderately humorous lines, including the obligatory nod to George Romero. Then there are a few real WTF moments, such as the weird brain that controls the zombies, the pregnant women incubating zombie babies (which seems awfully redundant and pointless since a zombie bite appears to makes more zombies, but whatever), the weird air-conditioning ducts that lead to the pregnant women in one scene and the fucked-up zombie-hybrid naked hobgoblin children that presumably come from the pregnant ladies. Mostly though, it’s just a dull, tepid, cheaply made Aliens rip-off that isn’t worth the time it takes to sit through.

End of an era: Plague of the Zombies

Posted by Cory Casciato On February - 20 - 20091 COMMENT

plaguezombiesFamed studio Hammer weighed in on the undead menace with Plague of the Zombies in 1966, just a few short years before Romero changed the genre forever. The excellent reference book The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia gives this move credit for pioneering zombies as decaying and hostile. Plotwise, it focuses on an evil squire’s plot to murder townsfolk so he can use their reanimated corpses in his tin mine and the efforts of a couple of doctors to stop him. It’s a fun, unintentionally campy movie that goes to show that whatever their failings, studios such as Hammer had the fundamentals of filmmaking down pretty well. It moves along at a decent clip (for its era, probably a bit slow for modern tastes); the acting, direction and editing are all competent or better; and the story isn’t completely full of holes. Even if it wasn’t a solid, well-executed zombie movie, it would be worthwhile to zombie fans for its historical value as both an early champion of the decaying, murderous zombies we’ve come to know and love, and as one of the very last zombie films made before Romero supercharged the zombie mythos with Night of the Living Dead. There’s a nice decapitation in it, too, which certainly doesn’t hurt its appeal.

A good start: Hell’s Ground

Posted by Cory Casciato On February - 19 - 20091 COMMENT

hells-groundWelcome Pakistan to the international fraternity (is there a gender-neutral version of that word?) of zombie filmdom! Hell’s Ground is actually two different familiar horror plots shoved rudely together. The primary plot is a Texas Chainsaw Massacre-esque creepy-family-in-the-woods vehicle. There’s a burqa-clad killer with a giant mace, and the greasy brother and the spooky older character (a mother, here) that should sound awfully familiar. Also, the six kids in a van that constitute our protagonists are an almost direct rip. Tacked on to that is a pollution-created zombie subplot that amounts to several scenes straight out of any post-Romero zombie flick.  A field full of zombies is shown, the kids get attacked by one zombie and – surprise! -  one of the kids (the handsome, slick player dude) gets bit and turn into a decaying, goop-yacking horror.

The underlying TCM engine that drives the movie is a classic choice and it’s decently, if uncreatively, executed. The zombie bits were well done but they are unfortunately few and far between. Basically, the zombies are an afterthought. You could cut those parts out entirely without losing much. The movie itself isn’t much more than a decent melange of familiar horror elements. Still, it’s more or less worth seeing just for the fact that it is a Pakistani zombie movie. It will fill the gap for that part of the world until we get a Bollywood zombie epic.

You can find more information on the film at its website, Zibhakhana.

Tiresome: Zombie Death House

Posted by Cory Casciato On February - 18 - 2009ADD COMMENTS

zombie-death-houseSweet lord, Zombie Death House was a chore and a half. Its biggest claim to fame is being the sole directorial effort of veteran character actor John Saxon. It’s obvious why he never directed again, although with this script he never had a chance. You have a Vietnam vet who gets framed and goes to prison where he faces John Saxon’s mad-science disasters in the form of the walking dead. Only it’s far, far more convoluted than that and not in any kind of good way. There are subplots layered upon subplots, flashbacks, endless exposition and more ridiculous crap – hell, we have several threads of plot introduced in the interminable five-plus minute opening credit sequence! Plodding, rambling and dumb as a bag of rocks, this film is as close to worthless as they come.

Bloodless: Blood of the Zombie

Posted by Cory Casciato On February - 17 - 2009ADD COMMENTS

deadoneBefore Romero came along and changed things forever, zombies were rarely very interesting on screen. As evidence, I present Exhibit A: Blood of the Zombie. It’s also known as The Dead One and that’s a pretty apt title — thee ain’t much life here. It’s a typical early-’60s bit of plodding, matinee-monster crap. A man inherits a plantation, upon condition of  getting married, so he takes his blushing bride down to check things out and take possession of the property. But his voodoo-practicing cousin has other ideas, and plans to murder the wife — via zombie — before the will can be executed. With one scenery chewing exception (the voodoo priestess cousin) the acting is totally wooden. The writing and direction are both awful. The zombie is as slow, unthreatening and uninteresting as the movie itself. The best feature of this movie was its runtime: 68 minutes — and that’s with some early padding scenes of belly dancers and jazz bands.

Getting colder: The Chilling

Posted by Cory Casciato On February - 16 - 20092 COMMENTS

chillingDespite the R rating, The Chilling has a very made-for-TV vibe. It’s a sloppy, uninspired zombie tale featuring a couple of recognizable faces, most notably Linda Blair of Exorcist fame and the guy who used to play Grizzly Adams. The plot involves a cryogenics facility, a doctor stealing organs from the frozen stiffs, an all-too-convenient lightning strike and some newly awakened, pissed-off dead folks. The whole thing is contrived, boring and pointless. It’s not good, not even a little bit. I was done with this movie well before it was done playing. I don’t know if you can make it out, but on that cover there, it says, “They came, they thawed, they conquered.” That joke, as lame as it is, is far better and infinitely more clever than the movie. At the very end of the movie, there’s also a Grizzly Adams joke tacked on that might, might coax a smile out of you if you have a warm reservoir of nostalgia for that particular hunk of ’70s cheese.  Unless you’re like me and simply must see every zombie movie ever made, don’t bother with this.

Flashback: Dead Rising

Posted by Cory Casciato On February - 13 - 20095 COMMENTS

dead_risingJust a couple of days ago I wrote about my excitement for the upcoming Dead Rising 2 and my love for the Xbox 360 original. As it turns out, I reviewed Dead Rising for my college paper and I thought I’d share that review with you all, since I am typically lazy on Fridays. Plus, I think I am going to play through some of it again this weekend and next week, which will probably mean some new thoughts I’ll want to share on it. In turn, that means it might be useful for you all to have the original review to provide context. These days you can get the game for $20 or less, so if you have an box 360, love zombies and somehow missed it, click through and read my review, then rush out and buy the thing. You will thank me.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Worst: Zombie Night

Posted by Cory Casciato On February - 12 - 20097 COMMENTS

zombienightThe worst zombie movie I’ve ever seen has got to be Zombie Night, and that’s really saying something. I mean, I have a totally different set of standards as to what is acceptable when it comes to zombie movies versus “regular” movies. It never even came close to watchable and the 93 minute run time was easily the longest hour and a half of my life. Seriously, I have had dental surgery that was more fun.

This is a movie that epitomizes fail in every possible way. The acting would make a bad high-school play look fucking awesome. The effects and makeup were just terrible. Stunt work? When a zombie “attacked” it basically touched its victim who then immediately fell down. Even the sound design was laughable — for the wet chewing/smacking noises of a zombie feast, they appear to have recorded something splashing around in a tub, for example.  As far as I could tell, there was no script whatsoever and the direction matched the level of the writing (i.e. it was nonexistent). Production values? None — it appears to have been shot on location in a semi-abandoned office park and there is clearly visible traffic in the background of one scene, despite the supposed apocalypse. Plot? I guess there was one — something about World War III, and chemical weapons as a causative agent for zombies. There are some people and they find some other people and then there’s the bad guy that keeps screwing everything up and then rejoining the group…

It was just a big, hot mess that made no sense at all. Shoddily imagined, horribly executed and all-around painful to experience.  Do not misunderstand — this is not a so-bad-it’s-good type movie. This genuinely stunk, bad. I had to go all MST3k on it to make it to the end. That was kind of fun, admittedly, but there are better movies even for that purpose.

The best part is there are not one, but two sequels to this. The mind boggles.

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