Film Club Special: Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror

Posted by Cory Casciato On July - 6 - 2009

BurialGround-filmclubWhen I heard that the Final Girl Film Club was doing Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror my heart filled with joy. I reviewed this movie as one of the first half-dozen posts on the site, then just last month, added thoughts in a reaction piece when I watched it as part of my second annual Zombie Movie Marathon Month. So for Final Girl, I had to do something different, something more — so you get this, a few of my favorite things about the utterly insane Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror.

  1. Plot? What plot? – There is essentially no plot in this movie. I guess technically it has a plot: Three couples and one fucked-up kid (see item 10) go visit an old coot for unspecified reasons, right after the old coot has unleashed some zombies, also for unspecified reasons. Mayhem ensues. That’s it. This is a good thing. Plot would only distract from the insanity.
  2. Gratuitous nudity – What’s an Italian zombie movie without gratuitous nudity? In this movie, the women all get naked within the first ten minutes. That helps clear up what kind of movie we’re watching, right away, in case there was any question.
  3. Bizarre soundtrack – The soundtrack is part lite-jazz stock music and part drug-fueled mindfuck on the dark side of the moon. I’d be willing to bet money the composer just got as high as he possibly could, fired up a borrowed synthesizer, hit “record” on the tape deck and started twisting knobs and hitting keys more or less at random. Clearly he was going for something like the Goblin score of Dawn of the Dead; just as clearly, he was far too incompetent to even approach such a thing. The results are strangely fitting to the rest of the movie, however.
  4. Random bear trap – In one scene, a couple is running from zombies. The woman steps into a bear trap that seems to just be set out for no damn reason. Are there a lot of wild bears in the Italian countryside? No one seems perturbed by the fact that a bear trap was just casually placed on the path of this country estate, right where you might step in it while running from zombies.
  5. Smart zombies – The zombies are smart enough to use weapons (pitchforks, scythes, other farming-implement type stuff mostly) and work together to use a battering ram to get at the tasty meats (i.e. our protagonists) barricaded inside the country estate. Later, they dress up as monks to lure the survivors into a trap. Oh, you wily zombies! Overall, they show themselves to be significantly smarter than anyone else in the movie.
  6. Stupid, yet incredibly dedicated staff – On the contrary, the staff seem quite stupid and preternaturally dedicated. Even once the hardcore dying begins, they still follow orders promptly, even when those orders put them directly in harm’s way. Why can’t you find help like that any more? Oh yeah, they all died off in situations like these, or they were so stupid they set themselves on fire cooking.
  7. The maid’s death scene – Speaking of those staff, the maid’s death scene is an all-time favorite. While she is trying to close the shutters, a zombie throws a spike at her and pins her wrist to the wall with it. While she struggles against this cruel fate, another zombie reaches up with a scythe and beheads her. Ah, cruel fate.
  8. Leslie’s death scene – My second favorite death is Leslie, who suffers the unfortunate fate of serving as the Fulci “eye-gouge” knock-off of the film. Okay, technically it’s a glass shard that goes into her temple, not a wood splinter in her eye, but I am pretty certain this had to do with the effects budget, not any attempt at originality, because every other element of this scene seems directly lifted from the splinter-in-the-eye setpiece in Fulci’s Zombie.
  9. Toasty Stuntman – They set a guy on fire by accident during the filming, but the director insisted they keep filming while the guy screamed for help because it was too good of an opportunity to miss. You only learn this by watching the special features, but if there were any doubt that this movie is insane from top to bottom, that should clear it up.
  10. Peter Bark as Michael, the creepiest “kid” ever – Hollywood and Japan love the creepy kids, but they don’t know creepy like the Italians know creepy. You want a creepy kid? Cast a 26-year-old dwarf in a bad hairpiece as the kid, dub his lines in a weird, affected voice, then give him an incest subplot where he lusts after his mother. And gets to third base with her, before he becomes a zombie and kills her by biting off her nipple. That’s fucking creepy. Why didn’t this guy appear in more movies? Or why I haven’t I seen them, anyway?

That’s it, my ten favorite things about Burial Ground. If you can read that list and not need to see this movie immediately, you are a far, far better person than I — or at least a far more balanced person.

You can access the Final Girl film club entries on this fine movie here.

ZMMM Dailies: 6/29/2009 – Zombie Strippers

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 30 - 2009

ZombieStrippersWhat would you expect from a movie called Zombie Strippers that stars Jenna Jameson? Lots of fake tits: check. Sub-par acting and story: check. Ridiculous, ham-fisted attempts at humor, scatological and otherwise: check. So yes, it is pretty much what you’d expect. There was a surprisingly high amount of clumsy philosophizing and political subtext (can it be called subtext when they beat you over the head with it?), but it was all so poorly executed it didn’t really go anywhere or engage at all. And besides, anytime they did anything remotely clever, they ruined it with stupid racial humor thirty seconds later.

The story, for what it is worth, concerns a plot to release a zombifying agent by a corrupt defense contractor (see, I told you: poorly executed political subtext!). After the marines clean up the first outbreak, one of them gets bit and wanders into a strip club, where he bites a stripper. Who becomes a super-zombie stripper. And eats patrons, but the owner doesn’t care because she is making mad loot for the club (okay, that part is pretty realistic). Then she converts more of her stripper friends, and other are conflicted about whether to join or stay individual. And a lot more people get eaten. Then the marines return and clean it all up. The end!

I didn’t hate this but I sure didn’t care for it either. I have seen far worse, though. The nudity was meh, because giant silicone stripper tits don’t do it for me. The zombie makeup was all right, but nothing special (pale complexion, sunken eyes, more animalistic appearance the longer they are dead). The gore was decent, but too much of it was this weird trend I’ve noticed lately of “stringy gore” — like everything inside anybody is just lots of gooey twine. It’s weird. Any doctors or coroners reading who want to chime in? Would what’s inside of me look like a bunch of bloody strings tangled together and knotted up if it was pulled out in violent handfuls?

Hard to believe but the end is nigh! The final entry is the blaxploitation/zombie classic Sugar Hill.

ZMMM Dailies: 6/27/2009 – Enter… Zombie King

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 28 - 2009

enterzombieking_ulyssesThere was a certain amount of fun to be had with Enter… Zombie King. I mean, Mexican-style masked wrestlers against zombies — and the Zombie King, naturally — in a  Saturday-morning-superhero-cartoon style story with lots of gratuitous nudity certainly seems like a can’t-miss proposition on many levels, doesn’t it? And it is, to a degree. It’s the kind of movie that can almost get by on charm alone. The problem is, it pretty much has to. The story is basically there as an excuse for masked-wrestling shenanigans. The zombies seem to have been chosen strictly for “cool monster” points. And even at 76 minutes, it seemed a little drawn out.

Maybe if I liked wrestling more or knew more about the culture, I’d have gotten more out of it — there was a lot of wrestling, but not a lot on the zombies. In truth, the zombies were kind of lame — eat flesh, pallid complexion, yadda yadda. They could be domesticated, but that was neither explained nor explored, so it didn’t do much for me. Still, with lots of psychobilly and surf punk tunes, some topless hot girls (and one brief, sort of hard to see full nude), decent pacing and amusing superhero/wrestlers it’s hard to complain too much. A light, frothy slight excuse for a movie, but certainly not a terrible one.

How weird is it that I had two zombie-wrestling movies back to back? These are the kinds of coincidences and connections you notice when you watch thirty zombie movies in a thirty day span. I certainly didn’t plan it that way. Another weird thing is the only other Canadian zombie movie I’ve seen, Meat Market, also had a masked Mexican wrestler character. Coincidence, or are our north of the border friends really so into our south of the border friends’ wrestling culture?

The next entry takes us back to 1973 for the reportedly atmospheric (which might just mean slow) zombie chiller Messiah of Evil.

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: 6/6/2009 – Zombie Honeymoon

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 7 - 2009

zombie-honeymoon-leadsI may have spoken too soon. Maybe silly romantic melodrama is the theme of the marathon. This movie makes it five of six movies that contain that sudsy element. Zombie Honeymoon was reminiscent of the plodding, emo, “thinking man’s” zombie movie I, Zombie, only more briskly paced. Our lead gets attacked and turned to a zombie on his honeymoon, spends the rest of the film killing and feeling kinda bad about it. But not that bad. His wife, who kind of looks like a poor man’s Maggie Gyllenhaal and is topless briefly, helps him deal with it — which mostly means covering it up. It struck me as goofy and forgettable, but not altogether unpleasant. I suspect this one could have been better as an old-style movie, with more focus on the romantic melodrama (not that there wasn’t plenty) and less on the unimpressive gore.

Tomorrow I’m watching the timeless 1985 classic Return of the Living Dead with my daughter. That should be fun.

ZMMM Dailies: 6/2/2009

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 3 - 2009
Brigitte Lahaie: By far the best part of Grapes of Death

Brigitte Lahaie: By far the best part of Grapes of Death

Night two of the second annual Zombie Movie Marathon Month brought us the mediocre Grapes of Death. Seems the French just can’t give good zombie. They can, however, give great hot French girl, as this film proves via the presence of Brigitte Lahaie. Wowza. Something special here, folks. And for the people who keep finding my website via variations on the search term “gratuitous nudity,” you’ll be glad to know that Grapes of Death is all about the gratuitous nudity — including a nice nude scene with Lahaie, which almost justifies this movie’s existence.

This film is basically a protracted chase scene broken up with gratuitous nudity and cheesy gore effects. Snore. Still, it’s arguably an important developmental zombie flick, and it is far better than director Jean Rollin’s other zombie flick, the execrable Zombie Lake. Still, it’s not good. I paired my mediocre French zombie flick with a mediocre French wine, so at least I got a decent buzz out of the deal. I’ll have a full review up in a few days (and a splitting headache tomorrow) most likely. Next up is our June 3 installment, I Walked with a Zombie, an American film, but directed by a French guy.

Review: Return of the Living Dead III

Posted by Cory Casciato On May - 13 - 2009
Watch out, she bites

Watch out, she bites

Unlike the first two movies in the series, which planted tongue firmly in cheek for one great horror comedy (the original) and one below average one (the sequel, reviewed here), Return of the Living Dead III abandons the humor angle and takes a much darker tone. It’s a strange decision, considering that fans must have been expecting something in the same vein as the first two, but for a while it almost – almost – works. Then the admittedly meager promise of the beginning falls apart, leaving a tattered mess

The story this time around focuses more intently on the army’s involvement with Trioxin, the gas that reanimates the dead. Being the army, they are trying to weaponize it. Being the army in this series, they are utterly and completely incompetent, to a degree that is beyond ridiculous. The whole plot hinges on this incompetence and unfathomably lax security around base.

The leads are an army brat and his goth girlfriend. The two of them witness a reanimation test that goes awry, leading to some death and dismemberment. When she ends up dying in a motorcycle accident shortly thereafter, he decides to reanimate her. Once she’s back, they have a run in with some gangsters, she starts eating people, the army tries to catch her and bring her back, she tries to re-kill herself and things get more ludicrous by the second until it finally ends.

The film takes two serious liberties with the original. First, the bite of a zombie makes more zombies, which was not the case in the original — only exposure to Trioxin created zombies. Second, they introduce the idea that pain allows the zombie to control its need to feed. That’s in direct opposition to the original, where the pain of being dead was what caused the zombies to cave brains in the first place. These changes are extremely obnoxious.

On the plus side, the second change does offer an excuse for Julie — the girlfriend — to transform herself into the sexiest (yeah, I said it), most badass zombie you’ve ever seen. She pushes glass, scrap metal and chains though her skin, strips down to almost nothing and ends up looking like an extremely gruesome BDSM fetish model – which is kinda hot, admittedly. I assume that was the real reason for this movie.

The look of the zombies was wildly inconsistent. The original experiment zombie looked fantastic – dead, creepy and believable. Later, some zombies that get released from Trioxin canisters look subhuman, like trolls or goblins, rather than rotting, reanimated corpses. Most of the rest, such as the clerk Julie eats early on, just looked cheesy and bad. The credits list three different studios for the zombie work, which explains the inconsistency. Why they didn’t stick with the original studio and look is a mystery.

Considering the lack of continuity in tone from the first two movies and the extreme liberties taken, RotLD III would have been better served to abandon the connection altogether and set itself up as an entirely new movie. It would still be pretty crap, but at least it would have been more original crap then and wouldn’t have suffered from the comparison to the original.

Return of the Living Dead III/US/1993

After the break, enjoy a NSFW pic of Julie in all of her BDSM zombie-babe glory

Read the rest of this entry »

Strange appeal: Oasis of the Zombies

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 21 - 2009

oasisofthezombiesYou want more Nazi zombie badness? We got more Nazi zombie badness. French/Spanish Nazi zombie badness in the form of the cheap, schlocky Oasis of the Zombies from the early ’80s. In this slow, ponderous outing a group of treasure hunters run afoul of a group of Nazi zombies haunting an oasis where millions in stolen Nazi gold is hidden. The zombies are some kind of weird hybrid ghost-zombies who disappear at dawn (even though it’s clearly light out in several scenes…) and hide in the sand when they aren’t busy stalking and murdering.

The problems of this movie are legion. The set and production design is possibly the worst I have ever seen. For example, one bit of evidence the Nazis had been there was clearly just a slab of wood with a swastika clumsily painted on it in white. The story was weak, the writing was miserable and the dubbing was atrocious. Yet despite being a bad movie by most every measure, there was something strangely watchable about it. It had a nice sense of atmosphere and really hot girls, a few of which supplied the obligatory gratuitous nudity. It’s not worth the time if you aren’t a total zombie-movie fanatic, but I’d call it the best of the terrible Nazi zombie movies, for what little that is worth.

Waterlogged: Zombie Lake

Posted by Cory Casciato On March - 25 - 2009

zombielake1Sweet lord, is Zombie Lake bad. Bad. It’s one of the curious subgenre of  Nazi zombie movies. You’d think angry, dead, fascist Germans eating folks would be a can’t-miss proposition, but you’d be very, very wrong. I swear this subgenre is cursed. So far every Nazi zombie movie I have seen has been god-awful. Seriously, these are some of the worst of the worst in a genre teeming with terrible ideas, half-baked execution and incoherence.

Anyway, you’ve got some Nazi zombies living in a lake. Or not living, I guess. They came to be there after being slaughtered by some French folks at or near the end of WWII. For some reason they revive to eat the occasional swimmer in the titular lake. Then they come out to terrorize the town, or in the case of one zombie, to reconnect with his daughter. Curiously, his daughter doesn’t seem particularly concerned with the fact that her dead father is a rotting, shambling mess, despite never having met him before. Eventually the town folk formulate a plan to save the day. Hooray. None of this is explained and it all happens at a plodding, interminable pace. Long, long before this is over you will be begging it to end.

The make up and gore effects were, hands down, the worst I have ever seen. Seriously, I’ve seen little kids’ Halloween makeup that was much better done. The gore was limited to buckets of fake blood — they basically didn’t bother faking wounds for the most part. A zombie bites, fake blood is doused on the area and they call it a day. Add to the mix execrable writing, dull direction and terrible acting, and you have a big pile of vomit. It did have plenty of nudity, which honestly is one of the few things saving this from being the single worst zombie movie I’ve ever seen. Let’s face it, some attractive naked women help break up the monotony. There are two full frontal nude scenes, one of which featured like ten women. All hot. It was still not enough to lift this off the bottom of the barrel, but I’ve helpfully included a NSFW shot of a few them after the jump, to save you the trouble of actually watching the movie. Read the rest of this entry »

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