ZMMM Dailies: 6/20/2009 – American Zombie

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 21 - 2009

DRTo mark the end of Italy week, we returned to the good ol’ US of A for American Zombie. This is a recent (2007) mockumentary that looks at the rising issue of the living impaired — what causes it, what their “lives” are like, the community of undead, undead activism (we’re here, we’re dead, get used to it) and the annual Live Dead festival (think Burning Man for zombies). It’s done in a very straight faced way, presenting itself as a straight documentary with basically no obvious jokes (more so than say, Best in Show) that ends up being pretty humorous nonetheless and works really well. The pacing could have been a little more brisk and there were a couple of things I wished they had gone into a little more but the ending was a nice twist that wasn’t totally expected (it wasn’t totally unexpected either, though). It was a different look at zombies and it sold itself well as a documentary. I’ve heard varying reactions to it, but I quite liked it — as did my daughter. I’ll probably buy this one shortly.

Next, the low-budget feature Day X, which has a friend of my girlfriend’s in it. Sweet!

ZMMM Dailies: 6/19/2009 – Zombie 3

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 20 - 2009

zombie3The idiocy of Zombie 3 left me almost speechless. In all honesty, this was probably the worst movie of Italy week, and probably the worst movie of the festival so far — only Hell of the Living Dead is close, which is, not surprisingly, another Bruno Mattei movie. Yes, Mattei did this, even though it claims to be a Lucio Fulci film, it’s pretty well established he had to leave this for health reasons and Mattei took over. Based on what made it in the movie, Fulci’s involvement was minimal, at best.

Zombie 3 is the story of Death-1, a compound that mutates into a virus (what?) and turns a whole city into zombies. Really stupid-looking zombies that look like a cross between Nightmare City‘s crap-encrusted, radiation-burnt creatures and more traditional grey-face undead. Some of the pulsating, oozing pustules on the zombies were impressive — the rest of the makeup and effects were ridiculous. Also ridiculous were the numerous, extended fight scenes between the zombies and commandos; the near-constant use of dry-ice fog; the severed head in a refrigerator that leaps out and bites a dude (okay, that was awesome and ridiculous);  and the elements blatantly ripped off from Return of the Living Dead and Day of the Dead: Mattei, you are a fucking thief! And an incompetent.

So Italy week was fun. We got to see some of the best and worst of Italian cinema, and at least one that was both (Burial Ground: Nights of Terror). Up next is the mockumentary American Zombie. Monday we start five days of Japanese zombie cinema — we’ll see how they compare with the Italians.

ZMMM Dailies: 6/18/2009 – Zombie

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 19 - 2009

zombiefulciDay four of Italy week was Lucio Fulci’s hallucinogenic masterpiece Zombie. It did not let me down. On the other hand, it did not win my girlfriend over — her complaints included bad acting, terrible dialog, terrible dubbing and way too much cheap gore. I’d personally call the acting functional, but I yield that the dialog is highly suspect and the dubbing is ludicrous. I love the gore though, and think it looks great — maybe not exactly realistic, but totally believable. And obviously, I love the movie and have loved it each and every time I watch it.

It comes down to looking for different things — she likes very linear, dialog and character driven movies (usually ones with no zombies in them) whereas I look for a movie experience that may or may not contain those things, but weighs all sorts of things like mood, camera work, stylistic flourishes, etc. that she doesn’t really register as terribly important. Zombie is a movie experience and Fulci was a master of using the camera,  using sound design, setting a surreal mood and creating great set pieces. This is the most linear, plot-driven movie of his I’ve seen — I think it’s a good thing I didn’t try to have her watch The Beyond.

We watched it in a little theater under a bar. It was a digital projection off DVD, but still freaking cool. This is definitely a movie to watch that way (in a theater, on a screen, with other people there) if you have the opportunity. It’s a different experience than watching it at home on your TV. The turnout was pretty small (I am a terrible promoter, and couldn’t dedicate a lot of time to it since it was a not-for-profit enterprise) but everyone that came, with the exception of my girlfriend, really dug the movie — even the people that came in two-thirds of the way through.

Also, thanks to the people that voted in my poll, especially those that are watching along with us this month. Don’t forget that if you write about the films I watched and wrote about and link back to my writings on the same films, I will return the link/favor and we’ll have a cool little zombie film club. Fun! I closed the poll, since it is over halfway through the month, but I will have something else up there shortly.

Next up is Zombie 3, a movie that Lucio Fulci started (cool!) and Bruno Mattei finished (uh oh…). That will end our five day excursion into Italian zombie cinema.

ZMMM Dailies: 6/17/2009 – Nightmare City

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 18 - 2009

NightmareCityAh, Nightmare City, you have restored my faith in Italy. Actually, it’s an Italian/Spanish co-production, but whatever. This movie had its faults — a pretty bad script, craptacular zombie makeup, ridiculous ending — but wow, was it ever fun to watch. A plane comes down full of zombies, who run out, start shooting (yes, shooting — these are smart zombies!) and stabbing the living shit out of everyone in sight and head out to take over the city. Along the way, they eat (well, drink the blood of, technically) an aerobics/disco show, tear off a lot of chicks’ clothing (gratuitous nudity is a staple of these spaghetti dead flicks), crack open an elevator like a nut to get the tasty treats (i.e. people) inside, kill and get killed in some very entertaining and graphic ways. This is also one of the first movies (if not the first) with fast zombies, and one of the few with smart zombies — apart from being burnt-looking and lacking the ability to speak, they have pretty much the normal capabilities of their non-zombie victims. The last third drags a little bit and the ending is definitely lame, but this is still a really fun, if really stupid, zombie flick.

Next up, Lucio Fulci’s hallucinatory opus Zombie. Free public showing in Denver! Hopefully lots of people show up.

ZMMM Dailies: 6/16/2009 – Hell of the Living Dead

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 17 - 2009

helldeadThere seems to be an inverse square law of sorts when it comes to movies released under multiple names — the more aliases a movie is released under, the worse it is. This 1980 Spanish/Italian co-production was released under at least ten titles in various countries and languages and it is god awful. Director Bruno Mattei is bad — this fucking guy could give Uwe Boll a run for his money. The story is ridiculous (a plot to reduce population goes wrong — or right? hard to say — and creates a fuckload of flesh-hungry zombies) and contains more holes than actual development. Acting: terrible. Effects and makeup: inconsistent, but generally bad. Use of stock footage: excessive, bordering on slapstick. Gratuitous nudity: appealing, but brief. Score: stolen! Yeah, this is a mess all right.

There are a few cool moments. The zombie rat that kicks off the madness is worth a laugh. There’s a zombie kid that is seriously awesome. And toward the end, a cat jumps out of a woman’s stomach cavity. A highlight reel of those would be great — sitting through the rest of this to get there? Not so much. The other moments of levity and amusement are slight and few; the padding and endless, pointless scenes are many. Cut down to about 75 minutes, this could be fun, if ultimately pointless. At its actual run time of just over a hundred minutes, it’s more like a punishing test of endurance.

Next up is Nightmare City, a contemporary of this work of art. God help us all.

ZMMM Dailies: 6/15/2009 – Burial Ground: Nights of Terror

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 16 - 2009

burialground-leslieI’ve already reviewed Burial Ground: Nights of Terror and I stand by that review. By most standard, it is a terrible movie. Terrible acting, terrible effects and makeup, terrible writing, dubbing, you name it. Yet somehow, it totally works. Probably because of the rule of Spinal Tap: everything works better when turned up to eleven. And this film is constantly turned up to eleven. Or maybe eleven and a half — everything is just a little but louder, or, in this case, just a little bit crazier.

Every crazy thing that could happen does, not to mention a bunch of shit that has no business happening (the incest “subplot” is just unbelievably off the wall, in particular). If you were to look up “exploitation film” in the dictionary, you should see a picture of this movie. Sleazy sex, sleazy gore, a dwarf (Peter Bark) playing an adolescent, random bear trap accident, five disembowelments (four shown in loving, graphic closeup), which I believe is some kind of record — that’s just the start.

The makeup is utterly crap, with little consistency from zombie to zombie, and all of it borrowed from better movies (Fulci’s Zombie mixed with the Blind Dead films). The effects aren’t any better, and are similarly ripped off, mostly from Fulci. A soundtrack that is equal arts cheesy lite jazz stock music and some dude high as a kite dicking around with a synthesizer and organ, horrible dubbing, shaky handheld camera work, poor continuity and weird editing … it’s a frigging mess, top to bottom. But somehow, totally hypnotic and irresistible, with a strange dreamlike quality in parts. It wasn’t quite as riveting the second time through (I watched it maybe four or five months ago) but I still had no issue getting through it. Recommended!

Oh, and Final Girl is doing a Film Club on it this month, so look for a link to that shortly!

Next up, Hell of the Living Dead takes us deeper into the heart of Italy.

ZMMM Dailies: 6/14/2009 – Night of the Living Dead (1990)

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 15 - 2009

notld90aI quite enjoyed the Night of the Living Dead remake, just as I did the first time I saw it years ago. I have to say that this remake compares really well to the original classic NotLD. Of course, with George Romero doing the screenplay, Romero, John Russo and Russ Streiner producing and Tom Savini (who did effects for Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead) directing, it damn well should have — that’s an impressive pedigree. It’s weird that this movie got such a lukewarm reception on its release and that Savini hasn’t directed anything else. The direction here seems fine — some of the acting is a little questionable (but never bad enough to derail the movie) but apart from that, this is a great remake. The zombies looked great (not surprising from an effects guy as director), the story was nicely updated (especially love the new ending) and the nods to the first were all very clever and not cheap at all. Considering some of the hack directors working today, Savini deserves another shot behind the camera.

Next up is Burial Ground: Nights of Terror — a movie I love for its sheer insanity. It will mark the halfway point for the marathon and kick off the first theme week — five days of Italy’s finest undead mayhem.

ZMMM Dailies: 6/13/2009 – Plan 9 from Outer Space

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 14 - 2009

plan9-torFor a long time, if you said, “Worst movie ever made?” any respectable film geek would reply, “Plan 9 from Outer Space.” Well, years of shot-on-video crap and Uwe Boll films have taken away that easy, go-to answer, but make no mistake, Plan 9 is indeed a bad film. So bad it’s good? Yes and no — there are definitely parts where the badness transmutes to pure comedy gold, but there are long, interminable stretches of pain between those parts. I will say Tor Johnson made a good zombie, though. The overall verdict on this one is: ridiculous — but worth seeing for historical value and a few laughs.

Up next is the 1990 Tom Savini remake of Night of the Living Dead. Should help wash the taste of this out of our mouths.

ZMMM Dailies: 6/12/2009 – Resident Evil

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 13 - 2009

resident-evilIn all honesty, I liked Resident Evil a lot more than I thought I would — and a lot more than I did the first time. I guess when I saw it the first time back in 2003, I had only seen maybe a dozen zombie movies, and mostly the cream of the crop. Since then, I became a zombie obsessive and watched another hundred or so, covering everything from genuinely fine cinema to punishing trials of endurance. Seen in the proper context, Resident Evil is really not that bad of a zombie movie. Yes, it is dumb. Yes, it is as subtle as a hammer to the face. The direction uses way too many pointless slow-motion shots, exaggerated action bullshit and cheesy effects sequences such as the laser grid. But it is a video game movie, after all –  turn your brain down to “simmer,” and this is a pretty damn fun movie. And it’s got Milla Jovovich looking hot and kicking ass. It doesn’t follow the plot of the games, but considering the convoluted melodrama and half-baked insanity of the games, is that really such a bad thing?

Next up is Plan 9 from Outer Space, sometimes called the worst movie ever made. We’ll see — I’ve seen some prettty god damn terrible movies in my time.

ZMMM Dailies: 6/11/2009 – The Walking Dead

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 12 - 2009

karloff-walkingdeadI said yesterday we were hoping to class things up with The Walking Dead, and you know what? We totally did — or rather, Boris Karloff did. The man has gravitas. The movie itself, while it didn’t conform to many tenets of what one might expect from a zombie movie, was well made and fairly entertaining for a 1936 movie, but Karloff is why it is special. He has a real presence, and he lends this odd tale of a man returned from the dead to witness supernatural revenge befall his murderers (they frame him for a murder and get him executed). His accusing stare and the way his eyes communicate remorse and sadness as he witnesses each death are brilliant. Note I say witness — this isn’t really a revenge tale, because he has little or nothing to do with any of them dying, and as I said, he looks genuinely sad when they die (although he seems plenty angry beforehand). So far, the pre-’60s selections have been awesome. We’ll see if that trend continues when Plan 9 from Outer Space gets its turn.

Tomorrow night we watch Resident Evil and I see if it is as crappy as I remember, or if I overlooked something the first time through.

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