ZMMM 3.0 Launch

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 1 - 2010

June has arrived and with it, Zombie Movie Marathon Month 3.0! I’m kicking things off tonight with Night of the Living Dead and a short film to be determined. The additional 29 feature films can be found below. I’ll determine which short films I watch each night in a random manner.

Starting tomorrow, you’ll see daily reaction pieces on the previous evening’s viewing. These aren’t full reviews (although sometimes they come close) but just a quick reaction from em to what I have just seen. For June, these reaction pieces, the daily news roundup and Fashion Zombie will be all you see. I won’t have time to work on much else, but the usual schedule will return in July. Remember, if you are doing any zombie movie marathoning and blogging/Tweeting/Facebooking about it, let me know so I can link to you and share the joy. And you can always find all the ZMMM coverage via the dedicated Zombie Movie Marathon Month tag.

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ZMMM 3.0 Update

Posted by Cory Casciato On May - 26 - 2010

It’s hard to believe, but the third annual Zombie Movie Marathon Month starts in less than a week. Easier to believe is that the planning is coming down to the last possible minute. That’s just how I roll, there’s no avoiding it. That being the case, there’s still plenty of time for you all to weigh in with some suggestions. Below the break, I’ll explain what this years themes are, give you the preliminary list of movies I’m considering and solicit your input on the which should stay, which should go and what I should add. If you are currently asking yourself ‘Zombie movie mara-what now?” then read the ZMMM 3.0 Intro post, which includes complete lists of what was watched in years one and two.

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Zombie Movie Marathon Month 3.0

Posted by Cory Casciato On May - 6 - 2010

Hark! The third annual Zombie Movie Marathon Month approaches! June is just a few short weeks away and that means it’s almost time for my annual thirty-day, thirty-film zombie marathon. If you’re not familiar with the tradition, you can read last year’s introductory post, orlast year’s wrap up post or even the whole batch of posts tagged with Zombie Movie Marathon Month to get up to speed. Or just keep reading this and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what is going on by the end.

Seeing as how the initial ZMMM was more or less responsible for the birth of this site, it’s kind of a big deal to me. But what does it mean to you?

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Review: Sugar Hill

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 2 - 2010

In 1974, two of film’s greatest movements — Blaxploitation and zombies — combined to form Sugar Hill, one of the most unjustly forgotten movies in film history. It’s the story of a woman (Marki Bey as Diana “Sugar” Hill) who turns to voodoo to get revenge on the powerful mobsters who murdered her boyfriend. With an army of chrome-eyed, cobweb-festooned zombies commanded by voodoo god Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley), Bey dons a funky jumpsuit and takes out the mobsters in inventively horrible ways. The incredibly loud clothing, unique creature design and stylish camera work result in one of the most visually stunning entries in zombie film history.

In an interesting and rarely used twist, this movie really played up the voodoo angle, utilizing not just zombies but voodoo dolls and rituals, a voodoo-drum heavy soundtrack and a starring role for voodoo god/spirit Baron Samedi. The zombie design is unique — and awesome — as well. The cobwebs, blank expressions and weird, silver eyes were both cool and creepy. I’m actually somewhat surprised no one has used that look since. It’s very effective.

Okay, the plot is paper thin, the acting is generally mediocre with occasional flashes of scenery-chewing insanity and it’s non-PC to the point of being embarrassing to modern sensibilities. But you don’t go to a Blaxploitation/zombie film looking for deep plot, deft characterization or a message — you go for jive talking, corpse raising, and ass kicking, and it delivers all of that in abundance.

Sugar Hill/US/1974

Parts of this review originally appeared in my initial reaction piece when I viewed it as part of the 2009 Zombie Movie Marathon Month and in a piece I wrote for Westword.

List: Old-school zombies

Posted by Cory Casciato On March - 24 - 2010

These days, the Romero-inspired vision of flesh-eating zombies is so ingrained as the de facto blueprint for the living dead that it’s hard to remember that anything of substance came before. Yet before he came along and changed the game forever with the now-classic 1968 feature Night of the Living Dead, zombies already had a rich, 35+ year history at the movies. Admittedly, most of those films were, to put it mildly, forgettable. There are a few worthwhile films to be found in the first three and half decades of zombiedom, though. Here’s a guide to five of them that are worth the time to track down, in order from least worthwhile to most.

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Zombie Movie Marathon Month 2009 wrap up

Posted by Cory Casciato On August - 13 - 2009
zmmm2009

Just a few of the movies I viewed

Hard to believe, but it was almost six weeks ago that I wrapped up my second annual Zombie Movie Marathon Month. At the time I promised a wrap-up report “soon.” I guess I meant “in about six weeks.” For those unfamiliar, the ZMMM is my annual tradition of watching thirty zombie movies in thirty days, at the rate of one a night. It happens in June, and, as mentioned, this is year two. Why do I do this? Because I really, really like zombie movies. There are other benefits a well, but essentially that’s what it boils down to.

Watching that many movies in such close proximity is interesting. It was the first such marathon that transformed me from zombie enthusiast to zombie fanatic – the existence of this website is essentially a direct result of that first marathon. This year, the results weren’t quite as dramatic – I couldn’t be much more of a fan than I already am – but it did refresh my love of the genre and put a solid dent in my ungodly pile of movies I need to watch.

I saw twenty-four new movies during the month, plus six I had seen before at some point. Almost half of them I watched with my teenage daughter, the rest I watched alone except for Lucio Fulci’s Zombie, which I did as a public showing at a small bar/theater in town. The turnout was low, but those that made it appreciated the film – except for my girlfriend, who was thoroughly unimpressed (she is not a zombie fan).

Some oddball themes appeared. Early on, turgid melodrama was everywhere. I Walked with a Zombie, Zombie Honeymoon, even Dead Set were predicated on sudsy, schlocky relationship drama, and several other movies had some elements of it, too (even no-brainer action-fest Resident Evil!). During my Italian and Japanese mini-marathons, sleaze made a strong showing – and the Japanese are just as depraved as the Italians. One different thing, though – the Japanese really like to cast women as the heroine, Italians just like to torture them.

I realized that Resident Evil was actually pretty decent, for a popcorn zombie movie – compared to some of the dreck I sat through, it was fucking art (looking at you, Redneck Zombies and Hell of the Living Dead). Hell, watch enough zombie movies and simple competence at putting a movie together seems to be a rare gift. I added Shanks to my list of “too insane to be believed” zombie movies. I realized I need to buy a region-free DVD player so I can own Dead Set, which is awesome. And I only fell asleep during a movie once, after drinking a lot before watching Tokyo Zombie (re-watched it the next night, it was awesome). There were some pleasant surprises, such as the clever mockumentary American Zombie, and some not-so-pleasant (you do not want to watch Attack Girls Swim Team vs. the Undead with your kids. Trust me.). I learned that planning (as I did this year) results in a much better experience than not planning (last year). I added about six movies to my collection and am looking to add at least two or three more, if they are ever released domestically. Would I do it again? Hell yeah, next year. Feel free to join me. After the break, see the full list of movies I watched.

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Review: Zombie Honeymoon

Posted by Cory Casciato On July - 29 - 2009

zombiehoneymoonIn Zombie Honeymoon we get a sad and horrific tale of zombification told from a point of view sympathetic to the zombie. While on his honeymoon, Danny is attacked by a zombie that emerges from the surf, pukes black ooze into his mouth and expires. Danny dies, reanimates in the hospital and begins eating people shortly thereafter – much to the chagrin of his newlywed Denise. She sticks by him even as the body count rises, but it’s a hard lot (indeed) and before long she’s questioning her decision.

The premise of this movie, while not completely original, is at least a lot fresher than the typical zombie apocalypse/siege. Unfortunately, the execution is pretty weak. The relationship between the leads seems believable, but incredibly shallow – it’s hard to imagine she’d stick by him if he got a parking ticket, much less when he starts eating people. The actors playing the leads just aren’t really likable enough to generate any sympathy, so you end up hoping they’ll get caught, or he’ll eat her or something bad will happen to them. Of course, the people getting eaten aren’t terribly likable either, so it’s kind of a wash.

The zombie makeup is passable if unremarkable, but it doesn’t really get used a lot until the last third when the decay sets in. And by that point, you’re pretty much ready for it to end, or for more people to go zombie or for anything to happen besides the sudsy, melodramatic and unbelievable relationship dynamic that drives the whole thing. The pacing is glacial, and remarkably little happens for most of the movie. There are a few murders and a little bit of gore, but not enough to keep things moving. It’s a made-for-cable movie, and probably worth sitting through if you came across it some late, sleepless night when there’s nothing else on — it might help fight insomnia, but it’s not really worth much beyond that.

Zombie Honeymoon/US/2004

This movie was viewed as part of my second annual Zombie Movie Marathon Month — see the initial reaction piece here.

Review: The Grapes of Death

Posted by Cory Casciato On July - 27 - 2009

GrapesOfDeathThe French may make great wine, but I have yet to see any evidence they can make a decent zombie movie. The best thing that can be said for Jean Rollin’s The Grapes of Death is that it is much better than his other undead attempt, Zombie Lake. Considering Zombie Lake is one of the worst films ever, that’s the very definition of damnation by faint praise. The other thing that can be said for it is Brigitte Lahaie naked. Of course, the woman made porn, so it’s not like this is your best chance to see that.

The Grapes of Death is about a nasty pesticide blend that poisons a batch of wine so thoroughly that everyone who drinks it becomes a rotting, sore-covered maniac/zombie. The film begins with our heroine on a train. A rotting dude gets on the train, kills her friend, and kicks off an interminable series of painfully slow pursuit sequences. Each is the same: our girl runs; meets up with another woman; the other woman gets killed and naked; repeat. Okay, near the end she meets up with some dudes who don’t get naked but do get killed. Wow, what a plot!

The languid pace strips any tension out of the already meager formula, leaving us with a cheap, sleazy and boring exploitation flick. At least the naked scenes are more or less evenly distributed and all the girls are hot, but a few gratuitous nude scenes and some tainted wine are all this zombie movie has to offer.

The Grapes of Death/France/1978

This movie was viewed as part of my second annual Zombie Movie Marathon Month — see the initial reaction piece here.

Review: Plan 9 from Outer Space

Posted by Cory Casciato On July - 23 - 2009

plan9 It’s probably a bit of a stretch to say that Plan 9 from Outer Space is the worst movie ever made – not in a world with Uwe Boll and Troma films. Still, it’s not difficult to see how director Ed Wood’s disasterpiece earned that reputation. This is a bad movie. At points, it is so bad it’s good. But for the most part, it is just bad.

The movie is the story of a half-baked alien plot to resurrect the dead to convince Earth people of the existence of aliens, or take over, or both (it’s kind of unclear) and to stop them from discovering how to make sunlight explode and thereby destroy the universe (yes, really).

This story is told in voiceover, through lots of exposition by the characters and with a few weak action scenes. We do get some dead people wandering around – one of them, Tor Johnson, is actually even kind of menacing – and occasionally attacking people, but we get a lot more talking: poorly written, terribly acted, interminable talking. And then the occasional terrible effects sequence, including the pie plate on fire that serves as the movie’s climax.

If you love bad films for their badness, there are a few laughs here. If you are interested in film history, especially zombie film history, it’s worth seeing. But don’t expect much in either case or you’ll be disappointed.

Plan 9 from Outer Space/US/1959

This movie was viewed as part of my second annual Zombie Movie Marathon Month — see the initial reaction piece here.

Review: I Walked with a Zombie

Posted by Cory Casciato On July - 22 - 2009

IwalkedwithazombieA gothic romance that essentially repackages Jane Eyre on a tropical island, I Walked with a Zombie is the story of a series of overlapping love triangles – the nurse, the ill woman and her husband; the ill woman, her husband and his brother; and, to a certain degree, the brother, the husband and the nurse. It’s the triangle between the ill woman, her husband and brother that results in her illness (actually, her zombiism, to be precise), but the weird, stilted affair between the nurse, the zombie woman and the husband is what drives the plot.

The zombies here – there are two, a native zombie and the zombie woman at the center of the plot – are old-school voodoo zombies. They don’t eat people, nor even act particularly menacing unless ordered to by their masters – except in one inexplicable case early on that implies the zombie woman sees the nurse as a threat. They just walk around with empty expressions, unresponsive to stimuli. Not terribly exciting for fans raised on Romero’s gore-splattered hungry dead, but probably quite creepy by the standards of their day. The movie’s treatment of the native people and the voodoo religion and practices is surprisingly respectful, for its time.

The relationships at the core of this movie may be sudsy and melodramatic but they have a certain old-school charm. Despite not a whole lot happening, it moves along at a decent clip, the acting is excellent for the era (a little stagy by today’s standards, but still quite good) and it’s beautifully shot. The direction creates a nice moody atmosphere and conveys the sense of doomed love well. It’s interesting to see how the standards of horror have changed – only the atmosphere and sense of despair/doom remotely qualify this as a horror movie. The movie may be unbearably talky and slow by today’s standards, and it is certainly not what zombie fans typically look for in a zombie movie, but I Walked with a Zombie is a good, perhaps even great, movie.

I Walked with a Zombie/US/1943

This movie was viewed as part of my second annual Zombie Movie Marathon Month — see the initial reaction piece here.

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