ZMMM Dailies: 6/30/2009 – Sugar Hill

Posted by Cory Casciato On July - 1 - 2009

sugarhill1The second annual Zombie Movie Marathon month is history, folks. It wrapped up with the 1974 blaxploitation-meets-zombie film Sugar Hill. At its heart, this is a very basic revenge story. A guy gets murdered by gangsters, his girlfriend goes after the gangsters for revenge. With zombies. 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. Pretty sweet stuff.

I really enjoyed this depsite the corny overacting and simplistic plot. A big part of that enjoyment was due to the design and look of the zombies. They were covered in cobwebs, with weird, silver eyes and unwavering expressions. They were mostly silent, but a few of them let out a growl or hiss here and there if I recall correctly. I’m actually somewhat surprised no one has used that look since.

Apart from the great zombies it was pretty fun, and the lead actress Marki Bey, as Diana Hill/Sugar Hill, looked hot in her sweet ’70s jumpsuit. This was very much a ’70s film, especially in the dialogue and wardrobe. Overall the movie just screamed “period piece.” But a fun, if somewhat embarrassing, period to revisit. Oh, and it had a death by being dumped into a bunch of hungry pigs, a good fifteen years or so before Hannibal did the same thing.

So that is that! Over the coming days and weeks some more traditional reviews of some of these movies will trickle out, plus other non-ZMMM posts for a change of pace. Oh, and I will be doing some kind of wrap up post or posts soonish, as well. Hope you enjoyed the marathon as much as I did!

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: 6/28/2009 – Messiah of Evil

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 29 - 2009

messiahofevilI didn’t get much out of Messiah of Evil. It was, as I feared, deadly slow. It did have a somewhat dreamlike atmosphere and a couple of effective scenes, but there definitely was not enough movie in this movie. I think the most enjoyable aspect was something akin to what I got from Mutant — the bad, late-night, horror-movie feeling. This was the kind of movie that used to come on cheap cable or weird local channels at ungodly hours.

It’s a story about a girl, Arletty, looking for her missing artist father in a town that is slowly becoming all zombie (the alternate title for this is Dead People). It’s not clear what is causing this, but anyone in town is vulnerable. These zombies look pale, can’t feel pain, have a tendency to bleed from the eyes, eat raw meat of pretty much any type (people included, naturally) and are apparently waiting for a “dark stranger” to come and lead them (I guess that is the messiah of evil in the title?). Yeah, he never really affects the story anyway. She’s “assisted” in this quest by a swinging threesome led by a guy named Thom. They basically never figure anything out, but his two girlfriends get killed and Arletty starts becoming a zombie (in one scene, she pukes up a bunch of bugs and lizards, which is pretty cool, if totally nonsensical). Then Arletty and Thom try to escape the zombies by swimming out to sea and Arletty ends up in a crazy house. The end!

Wait, what? Yeah, that was it. Pretty pointless. The best scenes are of Thom’s girlfriends getting murdered, especially the younger one in the theater. The opening is kind of cool, too, although barely connected to the actual movie. This felt like it could have been something, but it just never got there. You can see for yourself if you like, since the film is in the public domain.

Download Dead People from the Internet Archive.

Next up is Zombie Strippers with Jenna Jameson. Are my expectations incredibly low? You bet they are!

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: 6/26/2009 – Japanese Double Feature

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 27 - 2009

JUNKCompared to last night’s debacle, things went great tonight. My new copy of JUNK worked flawlessly, delivering a great movie that only made me more angry/sad that my own copy is DOA. Fuck. But yeah, JUNK was just fantastic. I didn’t notice the first time around how like the Italian zombie movies it is, probably in large part because I had seen far fewer Italian zombie movies at that point. While it does have a very Japanese sensibility, the look, gore and plot of it were very reminiscent of the spaghetti dead — which is a good thing. Lots of gore, very Dawn of the Dead Romero-looking zombies, visual and audio references to everything from Re-Animator, Lucio Fulci’s Zombie, and Return of the Living Dead (or perhaps Zombie 3) to Terminator 2 and Aliens. It seems like a very influential zombie movie in terms of later Japanese works, which is also a good thing.

If you don’t know the plot, JUNK concerns the intersection of some amateur jewel thieves, their double-crossing Yakuza fence and a U.S. military experiment in reanimating the dead. That’s pretty much it — just throw those elements together and away we go. It had two opposing strong female leads — one of the jewel thieves repping the living, and a super-zombie hottie (yeah, I said it — she runs around naked for a good chunk of the movie and looks good, just kind of pale) who leads up the animate dead. Very feminist, until they kind of throw that out at the end and the jewel thief accepts a traditionally subservient role to get with her man. Lame. But not lame enough to reduce the awesomeness of the movie. It’s a real shame this is out of print. Needs a special edition NOW.

tokyozombie1In a stroke of good fortune, Tokyo Zombie was also awesome, albeit in a totally different way. A movie about two factory workers who live to practice jujitsu and the zombie apocalypse that befalls them, TZ is absolutely absurd from beginning to end. It’s full of slapstick and Three Stooges-style physical humor, takes numerous insane and unexpected plot turns, delivers clever, if not particularly subtle, jokes aplenty and was generally enjoyable. It was also nicely produced, shot and acted, so it looked good and went down easy.

It’s definitely one of the more light hearted and strange zombie movies of not just Japan week, but of my zombie experiences. I can recommend it highly, but I suspect not everyone will agree with me — I happen to really enjoy the Japanese sense of humor and approach to storytelling, which isn’t necessarily a common thing.But if you like manga (this is based on one), anime or similar Japanese pursuits, this might be right up your alley.

So that is it for Japan. We return to mostly themeless meanderings acorss the zombie landscape, although I chose our next entry, Enter Zombie King, because of its Lucha Libre connection, as a nod to a friend of mine who’s doing a lucha thing the same night. Good luck with your event, Sid!

ZMMM Dailies: 6/25/2009 – FAIL!

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 26 - 2009

junkfailIt wouldn’t be a marathon without at least one epic fail. Last year, we had one where our “zombie” movie had no zombies – Rise of the Dead, if you’re curious, a bad ghost/reincarnation movie with no zombies despite the lying bastard of a cover and name! — and we had to return it and ended up watching an Asylum rip off of I Am Legend (called I Am Omega) instead. Last night, I got my epic fail when my JUNK disc turned out to be totally bunk.

I bought the DVD about a year ago but hadn’t had a chance to watch it. Turns out, it’s useless — none of the players I tried it in, including a PC DVD drive, even registered it as being present in the drive. Of course, I also got a late start last night (it was almost midnight when I got home from a quasi-work engagement) and I was suffering the effects of about $12-$15 worth of $3 pints of beer. So by the time I gave up screwing with the JUNK disc and checking to see if I could watch it online anywhere and put in Tokyo Zombie, I was on my last legs. Not surprisingly, I passed out in front of it after about twenty minutes. D’oh!

So tonight, after securing a copy of JUNK from a friend (it’s good to have friends almost as obsessive about zombies as you are!), I will be watching a double feature of JUNK and Tokyo Zombie to make up for it. Should be awesome — I am staying sober to minimize the possibility of passing out.

ZMMM Dailies: 6/24/2009 – Onechanbara

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 25 - 2009

onechanbara2So, Onechanbara. Yeah. Based on a video game, and if you somehow didn’t know that, I think you’d figure it out pretty damn quickly. You’ve got a wafer-thin plot (mad scientist creates zombies to take over the world, now with 70 percent more sibling rivalry subplot!), lots of bad acting, bad characterization and god-awful CGI. The lead character was a samurai chick in a bikini, with a fat, bumbling sidekick, a leather-clad hottie gunslinger as a quasi-partner and a rival/sister who is somehow fueling the creation of zombies. Yeah, it didn’t make a lot of sense to me either. Most of the fight scenes were sped up and it was hard to tell what was going on, and you could all but see the lead character’s special attack powering up. The zombies weren’t half bad looking though — nothing special, but not terrible.They dissolved into spurts of blood when they got killed by our hero, a little like the vampires in Buffy the Vampie Slayer when they got staked, which almost has to be an inspiration.

Honestly, it was kind of okay. I can’t imagine ever sitting through it again (yet I probably will at some point) but it wasn’t really too bad — I’ve seen many, many worse movies. And gratuitous nudity fans, you get two quick boob shots here, and one simulated sex scene.

Next we get JUNK. I really liked JUNK a lot when I saw it before. We’ll see if that is still true.

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: 6/22/2009 – Versus

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 23 - 2009

versus-AThere’s little doubt that Versus is the finest martial arts/superhero/zombie/fantasy epic I have ever seen — and the fact that it is the only such film I’ve seen should in no way be seen as diminishing its level of awesome. Innovative camera work, awesome fight and effects sequences, an epic fantasy story, gallons of blood, references of everything from Evil Dead to Star Wars to fighting video games, a little bit of love story, a bizarre ending, lots of zombies that are slow and stupid but not above using a gun (poorly) given the opportunity — is there anything this film is missing?

It’s the story of a dark hero, his girl, his brother and the shared destiny of all three of them in a forest that brings the dead back to life and serves as a portal to the world beyond death. A dude’s head gets kicked off. Another guy gets his head punched through. A heart gets ripped out and eaten. Bullet opera, wire fu, and lots of stylish clothes. I’m a little awe struck — a friend told me I’d want to watch it again immediately following my first viewing, and you know what? He was totally right.

It’s a little long, at two hours, but honestly, I was never bored or restless. I’ve sat through 75 minutes features that felt twice as long — every minute of this was crammed to capacity with awesome. Can the rest of Japan week possibly live up to this? If I had known, I’d have ended with it instead. We watch Attack Girls Swim Team vs. the Undead next — the title is promising at least!

ZMMM Dailies: 6/21/2009 – Day X

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 22 - 2009

dayx-dvdWe’re in the homes stretch now and Day X kicked off the final third of our selections. I picked this one because I needed a few low-budget zombie epics to fill out the roster (they are such a huge percentage of what is out there it’s folly to ignore them) and because one of my girlfriend’s friends is in it (Melissa Holmes — hi, Melissa!) and it is always amusing to see someone you know in a movie, no matter how bad — and Day X was pretty bad.

Not epic, painful, worst-of-the-worst bad, but definitely not good. It had some cool stuff going for it — the leads were almost competent actors, for example, and there were a couple of cool ideas. But also many problems: the poor makeup (black base paint smeared on faces? Really?), shoddy direction, obvious padding, terrible editing, and many other issues equaled a lot of squandered potential.

The plot was a government-experiment-gone-wrong scenario that seemed a little like something that was cooked up after spending too much time with a bunch of 9/11 Truthers. The quasi-zombies (the lead character kept insisting they weren’t zombies because they weren’t actually dead, but no one else listened to him) were a cannibalistic and venomous twist (yes, that’s right — poison zombies) on 28 Days Later‘s Rage zombies. There was a weird, under-explored subplot with a creepy looking girl that could neutralize the venom by kissing the people who got bit and kill the zombies by biting them.

That subplot sort of summed up the movie’s core issue — the few interesting things it did, it didn’t do enough with. Lack of focus? Misunderstanding what they had? Too many cooks? Who knows, but the results were haphazard and a little frustrating. The movie was sort of amusing and moved along quickly enough — in part due to its 74 minute runtime, even with the aforementioned obvious padding — to not really wear out its welcome, but in the end, it was pretty disappointing.

Next up, we tackle five of Japan’s finest, starting with Versus and ending Friday with Tokyo Zombie.

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