Deadlines: News roundup 4/16/09

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 16 - 2009

deadlines

A daily roundup of all the undead news that shambles into view… Got news tips? E-mail me at cory.casciato[AT]gmail.com.

The undead classics keep coming, because I guess if you hate classic literature, you will hate it less with zombies? Read all about the stage play of William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead.

What’s the science behind zombies? To figure that out, you’d need someone really smart, like a Harvard neurobiologist, to explain it to you in a cool video of some sort. Like this video on the neuroscience of zombies.

Japan weighs in on the undead again, and now you can get it here in the U.S. as Tokyo Zombie is released on DVD domestically. As soon as I can lay hands on a copy, I’ll have my own review, until then Fangoria has the info and a review of Tokyo Zombie.

After the jump, embedded trailers for Silent Night, Zombie Night and Mutants Read the rest of this entry »

John Carpenter does zombies: Prince of Darkness

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 16 - 2009

princeofdarknessJohn Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness is another one of those movies with lots of zombies that isn’t exactly a zombie movie. I’m not sure what it is exactly; the whole thing is a little confusing. It does have a lot of Carpenter’s signature “people under siege” action and apocalyptic themes — both zombie movie staples — and but there’s too much other weirdness going on to call it a zombie movie.

The muddled, dense plot involves an ancient order of priests called the Brotherhood of Sleep who watch over a cylinder containing a green fluid that is somehow Satan. Supposedly, these priests have held the true, secret meaning of Christ’s message until the world had the technology to defeat Satan, but the last brother of the order dies, kicking off a series of events that sees a non-initiated priest (Donald Pleasance!) take up the mantle. He brings in a crack team of wacky quantum physicists, biochemists, a linguist and other grad student-y types to figure out a way to stop the Dark Lord, who seems to be hatching out of his container. As they look at lots of columns of numbers on ’80s-era computers and listen to fancy machines go “ping,” old Scratch starts stirring things up. His shenanigans include raising the dead as murderous zombies (yay!), compelling schizo homeless folks to act murderous and zombielike (yay!), a little telekinesis, a spot of possession … you know, the usual. These lead up to a climactic confrontation that involves a lesion-covered possessed woman reaching into mirrors to pull out the Prince of Darkness. I think. There are lots of other sweet occurrences such as a videotape-recorded, backwards-traveling message from the future, Alice Cooper, angry insects, lots of green fluid that gets spewed around, a guy that melts into beetles, impalements, a sweet pornstache and several fantastic mullets … you know, the usual.

So much about this movie, from the haircuts to the actors utilized, screams ’80s that it can be a little distracting. Or vastly amusing, depending on your outlook on the ’80s (I lived through them already, so don’t find them that funny). It stars Jameson Parker (he’s the one with the sweet pornstache) fresh from ’80s TV sensation Simon & Simon and the female lead has a toned-down version of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust mullet, which was an inexplicably popular woman’s haircut at the time. There’s so much going on with the story that none of it makes a whole lot of sense and none of it is explained. The zombies are pretty low key (they just get a shitty skin tone and staring eyes) and the gore is fairly light, but there are some nice kills and a few jump scares. You can throw in some really clunky acting and the fact that this is one of Carpenter’s less polished directorial efforts and what you end up with is something of a mess – an entertaining mess, but a mess nonetheless. Still, while it isn’t the classic some partisans might claim it to be, it also isn’t the unwatchable train wreck others have labeled it. Don’t expect too much of it and there’s some fun to be had here.

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.

Cataloging the Dead: Romero Zombies

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 13 - 2009

flyboyzombiedod

Appear in: Night of the Living Dead; Dawn of the Dead; Day of the Dead; Land of the Dead; Diary of the Dead also, the Tom Savini directed Night of the Living Dead remake (1990) but not any other remakes as of current date.

Cause: Unknown (radiation from Venusian space probe is one hypothesized cause, but never tested).

Diet: Human flesh (eats only a small portion of the body, estimated at around five percent in Dawn of the Dead). Occasionally observed eating other animals (bugs, etc.).

Circumstances for creation: All dead bodies rise to become zombies. Zombie bites are invariably fatal, usually within 24 hours of being bitten. No known way to prevent reanimation short of destroying the brain.

Behavior: Slow moving. Easily distracted, such as by fireworks. Capable of learning and recalling at least some impulses from its life. The longer it has been zombified, the smarter it is. Newly risen are nearly mindless, but even they have been observed using simple tools to bludgeon or break windows to reach prey. Older zombies can communicate, organize and plan, including making efforts to resist distractions to focus on a task.

How to kill: Destroy the brain, destroy the zombie. Nothing else works.

Slow but implacable, the Romero zombie just keeps coming, ever hungry for the flesh of the living. In Romero’s universe, all recently dead people rise to become zombies – being bitten is not required. Being bitten, however, is invariably fatal, usually within a day or so. The early Romero movies showed zombies are largely mindless, but they seemed to get smarter with each installment, evolving over time (perhaps as they acclimated to a post-life existence?). Eventually they achieve cooperation, planning and impulse control, making them considerably more dangerous.

Romero’s zombies appear to get sustenance from eating the living. They can exist for a long period, perhaps indefinitely, without feeding, so there may be something else at work besides simple desire/need for sustenance. They can not be killed except by destroying the brain. Massive damage to the body may incapacitate the zombie, but as long as it can still bite it is dangerous. Since all bodies rise to become zombies, the bodies of the dead must be disposed of as soon as possible after death, regardless of the cause of death.

The zombies of George A. Romero’s work are in many ways the prototype for all modern (post-1968) zombies. As such, they appear frequently in others’ works, sometimes with minor variations. A good rule of thumb for any new and unidentified zombie encountered is to treat it as a Romero zombie until evidence suggests otherwise. These zombies first appeared in the seminal Night of the Living Dead and then in its four follow-ups. The first three of these, through Land of the Dead, appear to take place on a single timeline. The last, Diary of the Dead, appears to be a reboot/reimagining and further installments may alter these observations or make a case for categorizing a second variety of Romero zombie.

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.

Dead Snow

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 7 - 2009

deadsnowBased on the average quality of Nazi zombie movies, I thought it would be a cold day in hell before I saw a good one. I was almost right. The Norwegian Dead Snow is easily the best Nazi zombie movie I have ever seen — and it’s certainly cold.

Eight medical students head up to a secluded cabin for fun in the snow. Even before most of them have arrived, one falls prey to the as-yet-unseen undead soldiers. Shortly after the rest arrive, a mysterious and cranky old man appears to deliver the film’s back story (Nazis used to have an important base here, were evil, pissed off the locals, robbed them of their gold, were eventually chased into the mountains to freeze to death) before disappearing into the night to become the first victim we see get it. Before long, the revelers have found a stash of said stolen gold (what a surprise…) and the mayhem begins in earnest. From that point on, characters are dispatched at a decent pace in some impressive ways until the inevitable showdown between a whole army of mostly dead, extremely angry Nazis and a couple of survivors armed with tools.

This is a splatteriffic horror-comedy that wears its inspirations on its sleeve — almost literally, since one character is wearing a Braindead (aka Dead Alive) shirt. It’s the tone of that zombie classic — and, to a lesser degree the Evil Dead series, which is discussed by the same character at one point — the filmmakers seem to be aiming for, and they hit it for the most part. And while Dead Snow is nowhere near classic status itself, it is a lot of fun in its own way. The humor falls a little flat at times, but it manages to get off more good lines than bad. The writing and acting are both competent and more than up to the task of telling its meager story. The direction is impressive, apart from a few points where the pacing drags. Even better is the cinematography, which is beautiful and really makes the most of the bleak but gorgeous Arctic setting.

The zombie make up generally looks good but is a bit uneven — some zombies look pretty damn cheesy. The real star of the film is the outrageous gore. It’s creative, relentless and almost constant. The deaths and maimings are gruesome, clever and technically impressive. The highlight is several literally gut-wrenching intestine-centric scenes. Seriously, the filmmakers love the intestines. What Fulci was to eye trauma, these guys are to guts.

The movie does have some issues.  There’s no consistency to the toughness of the zombies. Some keep coming regardless of what’s done to them, others go down for the count after a single shotgun blast to the chest. The story itself doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you come right down to it — there’s a definite implication that the discovery of the Nazis’ gold stash is what riled them up, but at least two characters are killed by them before that happened. Since this isn’t a movie that takes itself too seriously, neither of these issues hurt it too much, but the nagging inconsistency was enough to subtract from its considerable charm nonetheless. Despite that, it’s definitely worth a look from any zombie fan, and it looks like U.S. audiences will get the opportunity, since a distributor picked it up  at Sundance.

Visit the movie’s web site to see a trailer and, hopefully at some point, information about its U.S. release.

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!

Hated and despised: Dead and Deader

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 2 - 2009

deaddeaderA lot of movies bore me. A fair number of them exasperate me. But very few anger me. It takes a special kind of awful to really make me mad and Dead and Deader fucking enraged me. I hated this movie with the kind of passion usually reserved for people that have done me wrong. Which, I guess, this sort of did. It was another zombie comedy except it wasn’t funny. At all. It was actually aggressively unfunny. Who told Dean Cain he could act? Worse, who told him he had the capacity to be funny, or react to funny things in a realistic manner? I want to hurt that person. I owe them pain.

It was poorly written, terribly acted, horrendously edited and barely coherent. Actually, no — it was completely incoherent. Plot? You want the plot? Yeah, so do I. It was largely missing from the actual movie, which just sort of skipped from moronic set piece to moronic set piece in a haphazard fashion. There were some scorpions that turn people into zombies and some army guys and … uh… who gives a fuck? Clearly not anyone involved in this production. There was a midget though, which was pretty much the movie’s high point.

The worst part is, the production values were clearly decent. And clearly wasted. I’ve seen movies ten times as good as this trash that were shot with budgets that were half what the craft service here probably cost. No one who worked on this should ever be allowed to make another movie, ever, and I wouldn’t watch this again if I was paid handsomely for the task. Avoid at all costs.

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.

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