I know. It’s been several months since Thanksgiving. But I’m currently about a year behind on my “to read” pile, and I fell even further behind due to interruptions such as the holidays, putting my Christmas horror novel out in December, and, well, the stress and distraction of the election season.
Speaking of the current political and social climate in the U.S., Turkey Day by Armando D. Muñoz is the kind of commentary horror we will probably be seeing a whole lot more of in the coming years as artists channel their angst into their creations. We’ve already been seeing it in horror films like The Purge franchise and Red State, and Muñoz himself is a filmmaker (I cover his films and his previous novel here), so it’s no surprise that Turkey Day reads like a holiday slasher movie.
Muñoz is the king of campy, crude horror, and some of that can be found here, considering the killer in this slasher novel is dressed in a turkey costume, is called Turkey, and goes around on Thanksgiving Day mutilating a family to make them the main course. With the author being a lifelong fan of horror, it is no surprise that all the crucial elements of a slasher are perfectly presented, including gruesome, inventive kills, chase scenes, body reveals, and a whodunit…or is it a whatdunit?
Yet Turkey Day is not simply a masked-killer-hacks-up-horny-teens slasher. This is an unapologetic story about the vicious cultural clash between the far left and far right, with a lesbian couple leaving the safe bubble of urban life to celebrate the holiday in a small, conservative town. Right from chapter one, you’ll be wondering why the frick they would even bother.
Even though they are a couple of tree-hugging, clit-licking liberals, Kelly is bringing her wife Angela to meet her family for the first time. Problem is, while most of the family is accepting and supportive, Kelly’s mother and grandmother have gone off the deep end, serving up a dish of hateful religious extremism the likes of the Phelps clan of crazies. In fact, both sides come across as virtual caricatures of their ideology.
To illustrate the point of division in our country, Muñoz doesn’t hold back, with all members of both parties regularly, aggressively expressing their beliefs and opinions through their words, actions, and thoughts, so that essentially, everyone is in-your-face and unwilling to except that the other side has a differing viewpoint. These characters eat, breathe, and sleep their feelings on everything they loathe about the opposition.
Reading the novel will make you feel just as anxious and angry as most people on either side of the wall…um, I mean…aisle do in our current reality. However, you’ll also have your own stance challenged, for there are moments when even the characters representing the “side” you more identify with are so hyperbolic and antagonistic that they become rather detestable. The good news with that is…Turkey doesn’t discriminate, so everyone is on the chopping block.
The rest – the brutally descriptive gore, tension and suspense, atmosphere, and shocking killer reveal – is gravy.
Plenty of creepy apparitions and psycho killers in this streak of 5 films I streamed over the weekend, so there were moments of chills, thrills, and brutal killing, but overall, none of these films brought anything new or exciting to my personal horror history. Here’s the rundown.
HOTEL HELL (2012)
This is a tight little indie horror anthology with a wraparound, three stories that feature familiar but varied and always watchable scenarios, some good performances, and quite serviceable horror atmosphere. For me, the only downside is that each already cliché story sets us up for a much more intense and shocking ending than the predictable, surprisingly anti-climactic conclusions we get.
The wraparound has a very weird paranormal investigator touring a supposedly haunted hotel while telling a videographer tales of terror. The stories don’t take place in the hotel, which is usually how these location-specific anthologies work, but that might be because this film was originally titled The Damned Thing – clowns and hotels are simply more marketable these days. Also, only one of the stories is actually about paranormal activity….
1st story – After moving into a new house with her husband, a woman begins to have terrifying encounters with a creepy man in black.
2nd story – Bullied as a child on Halloween, a boy spends years working out and creating a freaky clown mask to enact Halloween night revenge on his bully.
3rd story –A trio of friends heads into the woods to make a Bigfoot documentary, but encounters backwoods crazies instead.
Making up for the underwhelming shorts, the wraparound actually delivers a final boy, a chase scene, and a twist involving two of the three stories—no idea why the third wasn’t incorporated as well to fully tie it all together.
21st CENTURY SERIAL KILLER (2012)
(aka: Killing Me, aka: Killer Clowns Part II)
Here’s how studios and distributors really kill any chance of a film being appreciated for what it is—re-market it under a title to cash in on name recognition (after it has already been re-edited and re-released under a different new title once before). Killer Clowns Part I as listed on Amazon is actually the unrelated clown film Sloppy the Psychotic, which I blog about here (what the fuck am I doing with my life?). The truth is, there’s only one person dressed as a clown in this film, and only for about 5 kill-free minutes.
The plot is narrated by the protagonist, who explains that he’s dreamed of a career as a serial killer since he was a child. Problem is, he doesn’t have the guts to do it, so he tries various other jobs while researching serial killers. He ends up working at a post office, the perfect drab setting for the first drab 40 minutes of this 75-minute film. Finally, he teams up with an actual serial killer, who takes him on a killing spree in an attempt to get him to break into the business. Then, there’s a twist at the end.
Moody and dark with quirky characters and some mean-spirited murders in the second half, 21st Century Serial Killer has some good performances by the cast, but it is too low energy for my tastes, isn’t quite in line with my sense of dark humor, and in general is just not my taste in movies. But if you’re a fan of films that get into the mind of the killer and are a bit of a downer – think The Last Horror Movie – you might want to check this one out.
Ghostlight is a supernatural drama that delivers some eerie atmosphere and a few jump scares, but runs too long considering its goal is to not go very far. It would have worked better as a 30-minute ghost story in an anthology film.
A radio contest gives a man a chance to win a lot of money…if he can stay locked in an abandoned theater overnight. His wife doesn’t want him to do it because there have been numerous murders in the place and she’s having nightmarish dreams about it.
The man spends most of the movie roaming around the dark theater with a flashlight, getting spooked by various theater props and seeing black and white flashbacks of murders that took place there. Meanwhile, the wife is at home having paranormal experiences and talking with the ghost of their deceased daughter. And really, that’s it. The movie isn’t propelled forward very much, as it’s really more about the husband and wife coming to terms with the death of their daughter, which leads to a bit of a spiritual conclusion.
Keep an eye out for Russell Hodgkinson – aka, Doc in Z Nation – in a minor role.
DEAD END (2014)
Dead End is essentially two horror subgenres in one movie. Both are presented with the right look and feel, and each had potential to be a damn good indie film on its own. The big problem is, neither gets the full attention it deserves. The minor problem is, both parts rely heavily on bogus jump scares, causing it to lose its potency fast.
The film begins as a slasher, with a masked figure going around hacking people up with a machete. The score, the atmosphere, and even the cheesy gore pretty much nail it. And as the film progresses, we discover it revolves around Valentine’s Day, with kids partying then sitting around a campfire talking about the killer, complete with a prank scare.
The other part of the film is about a young reporter covering the murders. She lands smack in the middle of a ghost story, complete with a J-horror type ghost girl terrorizing her.
Once again, the film manages to do a good job of delivering what it’s going for, but like I said, the two subplots end up feeling disjointed for quite a while, and each only gets partial focus in the film. As a result, I never felt fully immersed in the story.
OUIJA SUMMONING (2015)
Mashing up the Ouija craze, the creepy ghost girl in a white nightgown craze, the passing on a death sentence craze, and the possession craze, Ouija Summoning at least does a decent job of delivering the atmosphere, tone, and cheap scares of all said genres to make a genuine horror film. But not surprisingly, the plot is a bit of a mess, which just killed it for me.
I think the basic premise is that there’s this Ouija board with a spirit in it that looks for victims to carry on a tradition of killing a single loved one. That gets all jumbled up when we meet a teen whose mother gives her an enthusiastic sendoff when she heads into the woods to camp in a tent with two boys. Um…okay.
The kids stop at a crime scene just long enough to grab a Ouija board from it. They use the board, the teen is terrorized by a woman with long black hair and wearing a nightgown, she has death dreams about her grandmother, who then begins acting weird, she calls in a priest, he wants to do an exorcism…I’m getting a headache just trying to make enough sense of it to write about it.
Bottom line, it has plenty of ghostly atmosphere (the nightgown bitch floating past the cute boyfriend’s car is killer), it’s just hard to stick with the story.
A new blog was just screaming out to me this weekend when I browsed through my streaming watchlist to see that there were three black horror titles in the hot seat, and in all three, the dead are back for blood.
HOOD OF THE LIVING DEAD (2005)
Major props to filmmakers Eduardo and Jose Quiroz for putting together a cohesive indie zombie film with some effective horror scenarios, hints of light humor, and a tight plot that works well within the limits of a small production.
I had my doubts when Hood of the Living Dead began. Visually, it’s quite clear that there wasn’t much budget to work with—this has that old school, direct-to-video look. However, because the film takes place in the hood at night, the rough and grainy presentation works quite effectively with the authentic shoot locations.
The plot is about a young scientist working in a lab on a regeneration experiment. When his brother is shot dead by a gang of baddies on the street, the distraught scientist tries the experimental drug on him out of desperation. It works just as we’d expect…his brother becomes a raging zombie.
Hood of the Living Dead does a great job of focusing on just a handful of characters and a small number of zombies thanks to its concise plot – the young scientist and his friends have to hunt down the zombie brother and any other infected in the hood before the epidemic runs rampant.
The infected are not rotting zombies, so visually, they have “the crazies” look, with insane eyes and lots of blood dripping from their mouths, but these are fast, intense zombies. There’s plenty of zombie action, but little in the way of scares, although several scenes, particularly one in which the scientist enters a bloody bathroom, shows that the Quiroz guys definitely know how to create suspense.
And while this is a serious film, there are some funny lines that are delivered with perfect subtly so they don’t clash with the overall tone. Most notable, most of the acting is much better than you’d expect from an indie, with the guy playing the main young scientist giving a standout performance.
Really, the only thing I’d change about this one is to edit it down about 15 minutes—it runs a full 90 minutes, so at times it feels like it’s being padded to draw it out to that length.
TEXAS VOODOO ZOMBIES (2016)
Another decade, another zombies in the hood flick. Texas Voodoo Zombies is a straight up zombedy, and most of the humor comes courtesy of leading man Garrick Thomas. This guy deserves his own sitcom. He just has that deadpan comic quality about him, and he’s adorable to boot.
Garrick plays Doobie, a convicted weed lover who is told by his probation officer that he needs to get a job or it’s back in the slammer. So Doobie scores a gig as a bug exterminator. But his ex-girlfriend, intent on getting him back, performs a voodoo ritual that causes his chemicals to turn a house full of his partying friends into zombies! It’s up to Doobie, his sister, and her sexy boyfriend to stop the zombie outbreak.
Texas Voodoo Zombies is another 90-minute film that should have been shaved by about 15 minutes. And those 15 minutes should be taken from the first hour of the film. See, the zombies don’t come in until an hour into the movie. There’s plenty of charming comedy in the first 60 minutes as we get to meet all the unique characters in the hood (including a horny redneck daddy bear hot for Doobie), but the pacing starts to lag after a while.
The zombie segment is a hoot – kicking off with the best take on a “Thriller” joke I’ve yet seen in a zombie flick – but it’s disappointingly brief.
The zombies are awesomely 80s in heavy face paint and blood, and our heroes deliver some funny action sequences…of which I wanted more!
With such charismatic characters, smart humor, and fun zombies, this one could have been a classic if it had focused more on the zombie plot. But the truth is, that segment only last about 20 minutes!
We get virtually 15 more minutes of movie after the zombie outbreak is stopped, most of it unnecessary, before the film concludes with a clever little twist.
I vote for a more zombie heavy sequel in which Doobie has to team up with the horny redneck daddy bear!
THE LEGEND OF BLACK ANNIE (2012)
In the opening scene of The Legend of Black Annie, three boys harass a young girl then chase her…causing her to run right off a cliff with a hilarious fading scream that sounds like someone was told to scream and then just let the scream fade out.
From there, things go south fast – to a southern town, where this one turns into a bizarrely funny supernatural slasher that gave me a campy creepy 80s Creepshow or Tales from the Crypt vibe!
An urban legend comes to life to terrorize the town. Like something from a J-horror, “Black Annie” is a ghost woman in a nightgown with black hair covering her face. Seriously, we never get to see Black Annie’s face, which is really my main disappointment.
Other than that, she is creepy as hell, floating in a cloud of fog whenever she appears, and speaking and cracking jokes in a sort of Freddy Krueger voice as she goes on a vengeance killing spree.
The cheesy, low budget tone really captures the 80s slasher feel, with plenty of bloody kills, sleazy sex scenes, over-the-top southern characters (it’s like watching community theater), nonsense plot points, and flashbacks revealing the backstory of why Black Annie is after so many people.
Meanwhile, three guys sit in a restaurant commenting on each kill in oddly comic scenes sprinkled throughout the film.
I’d say I hate myself for being so entertained by this mess of a movie, but I as good as have a DVD copy in my Amazon shopping cart already.
I never know what I’m getting myself into when I dive into these streaming zombie titles with alluring poster art (the covers are usually always zombie perfection). This time around, the majority of selections proved to be unlike most zombie films out there, so let’s take a look.
ZOMBIELAND TALES (aka: Edges of Darkness) (2008)
Originally titled Edges of Darkness (better than the cash-in “Zombieland” attempt), this one is sort of a zombie anthology. There are three stories – presented in a back and forth fashion rather than consecutively – of different dilemmas various characters face during the zombie apocalypse. However, all three situations are unique to the genre in that they actually have more to do with supernatural happenings characters are dealing with on top of the zombie outbreak.
The bizarre plots combine with some excellent performances and some notable, gritty visuals capturing the spirit of classic zombie films to make this a highly watchable film. Even so, there’s an uneven tone, for certain aspects of the film look and feel like a typical lesser-quality low budget indie. But that doesn’t completely detract from how different Zombieland Tales is from the usual zombie flick.
Smartly, it has a strong opening for traditional zombie fans, with a grindhouse look, desolate streets, shuffling zombies, and plenty of gut-munching. Then we are introduced to the trio of odd plots: a bloodsucking couple trying to survive the zombie apocalypse; a man who is so obsessed with his computer and technology that it begins to literally consume him; and a young woman who rescues a young boy from zombie death only to find that there’s also a priest that seems to want him dead.
I’ll admit, I didn’t totally understand what exactly it all meant in the end, but that actually makes Zombieland Tales a film you think about after it’s over—and one you might want to give a second look once you know you should be going into it for more than just the usual mindless zombie fun.
THE DEAD UNDEAD (2010)
Pretty much everything about this zombie/vampire action indie is odd, which is why I had to give it a chance. In the end, it has its moments, but it’s so inconsistent I couldn’t fully stay with it.
The premise is that a militant band of vampires is hunting vampires that have been “infected” and are now “zombie vampires.” Weird, right? Well, it’s weirder than that.
We first meet a group of kids that comes to a cabin in the woods. This really feels like it’s going to be that kind of film. Within minutes, a crazy zombie vamp boy appears in the cabin, the kids freak out, and then they’re being attacked by a bunch of zombie vampires! Minutes later, the armed militant vamps show up and start blasting away these vicious, running, leaping zombie vamps! Kick ass opener for sure.
What little humans are left after the attack join the vampires to take down the zombie vamps, which is when The Dead Undead loses momentum. Sure, there are endless fighting scenes in the woods, complete with lots of gunfire and explosions, but it’s mostly filler that does nothing to propel the plot forward. And the nonstop, repetitious, hard rock instrumental soundtrack adds no nuance to the scenes. It’s not design to fit specifically with what’s happening on screen – like in a video game, it’s just background noise to make the action scenes seem cool and high energy, which gives the film that cheap indie feel.
On top of that, the film’s budget begins to show as we learn more about the militant vampires in cheesy flashbacks to other time periods. Cringe. Honestly, that really just killed it for me.
ZOMBIE DECADENCE (2012)
At some point, this Full Moon feature was renamed, because it’s listed on imdb as Zombies vs. Strippers. Yes, it’s another zombie movie in a strip club.
Surprisingly, it’s not as much of a piece of shit as Full Moon films have become in the 21st century. The first part sucks, with loads of boring, unfunny dialogue as strippers shake their T&A and the owner of the strip club whines about how bad business is.
Eventually, zombies start slowly infiltrating the club, as do a variety of quirky characters, and this becomes a better zomcom b-movie than I would expect Full Moon to be able to pull off. There’s loads of cheesy gore and zombie shenanigans relating to sex and naked people, plus the humor suddenly gets better.
Adding to the energy is the always-awesome horror daddy Brad Potts. This hunky papa deserves so much more recognition as a cheesy horror action hero.
Zombie Decadence delivers some original ideas but relies heavily on good old zombie clichés, including the “Brains!” shtick, as well as a Michael Jackson “Thriller” parody moment. Hey, it’s not the worse strip club zombie film I’ve seen, and I’ve seen quite a few, which I cover here.
THE ZOMBINATOR (2012)
Based on the title, the sky is the limit for how cheeselicious, exploitative, midnight movie trashy, or spooftacular this movie could be. The fact that it ultimately fails on every count and becomes an uneven mess is a bummer.
The Zombinator simply rambles on with no sense of what type of movie it’s trying to be. Essentially, two completely different movies collide into an uneven narrative. It begins as a found footage film that does at least do an okay job of mimicking all signature gimmicks of the genre. My poor attempt to follow the story has me thinking a bunch of kids filming a fashion documentary end up at a funeral. Suddenly, zombies crash the party – kind of cool that they just nonchalantly meander in – and the kids run and hide in a Catholic school. There, they meet a group of ghost hunters doing their own filming.
Together, the two groups pretty much just stand around waiting for zombies to shuffle over to them and attack one of them, prompting the rest of the kids to finally run off and hide in a different room to repeat the process. WTF?
40 minutes into the film, the kids run out of the school and The Zombinator appears! He herds them into the back of a truck, where a priest is waiting to make them pray. WTF?
Aside from one girl commenting that the hero looks like The Terminator, the kids are now a useless distraction in a completely different movie in which The Zombinator takes on baddies responsible for releasing the virus that caused the zombie infection, led by action film veteran Patrick Kilpatrick, who seems to get more sizzling daddy hot the older he gets.
The good guy and the villain have a variety of clashes to fill in the remainder of the film’s running time until The Zombinator finally wins the fight in an absurdly dramatic final scene.
There are actually a handful of funny and clever moments in the film, but you don’t get the sense that this is supposed to be a humorous movie, so it’s very easy to actually miss these highlights or taking them as bad moments in a serious film. Plus, the Zombinator comes into the film so late and is so understated as the main hero and onscreen presence that he feels like an afterthought. Honestly, if a little more effort were put into revising and streamlining The Zombinator in a better-focused remake, I’d give it a second chance.
It’s a Pumpkinhead look-alike vs. a Halloween slasher! Here are my brief thoughts on these two from the first decade of the new millennium.
Unearthed stars Emmanuelle Vaugier, who was a big time scream queen in the first decade of the 2000s (Saw II, Ripper, Return to Cabin by the Lake, Wishmaster 3, House of the Dead 2), and former Bros boy-bander Luke Goss, who has become somewhat of a scream king (Blade II, The Dead Undead, Inside, Lost Time).
The film comes to us from Matthew Leutwyler, director of Dead & Breakfast, so it has three things going for it right off the bat.
It also has a pretty cool Alien/Pumpkinhead hybrid creature…until the bad CGI kicks in. Granted, it’s not horrible SyFy Channel CGI, but it is the type in which the creature’s proportions get all fucked up whenever it makes quick jumping movements. You know the kind I’m talking about.
Not to mention, Unearthed is agonizingly slow. Vaugier plays a hot mess of a sheriff who is suddenly confronted with some mysterious deaths – of both cattle and people – in her dusty desert town. Early on, there are some pretty intense kill scenes in which we just get fleeing glimpses of the creature’s appendages. One particular scene involving a woman trying to escape through a window is particularly good. There’s also a pretty sick scene of the creature tossing a woman onto a stove, an explosion that sends Vaugier somersaulting through the air (it looks kind of funny), and a kick ass head split. Plus, one chick has the best response when the dude she’s with in a getaway van says, “Forget about the others!”
Problem is, all the action doesn’t come in until the end. Before that, there’s just too much talking and too much backstory. It’s a fricking creature feature! Just get to it! Unfortunately, that’s also when the bad CGI comes in, leading to an awful, anti-climactic final confrontation. It’s so bad that the creature literally just stumbles OFF SCREEN to die. WTF?
STABBED IN THE FACE (2004)
For reasons beyond my comprehension, I have yet to see the Cockface Killer films. I really need to erectify that. But my point is, Jason Matherne, the director of those films, brings us Stabbed In The Face. The title is a great throwback to 1970s exploitation horror films, but this is more of a straightforward slasher, which takes place on Halloween night.
The film begins at a Halloween party, where everyone looks fantastically 80s. There are even Iron Maiden and Testament T-shirts on display, plus debate over Freddy and Jason in a room covered in horror movie posters.
Then a scary story flashback shows a crazy lady killing a couple she finds having sex (complete with T&A and bush). The batty old white trash killer lady rules.
So the kids decide to head to the house where it all happened. There are plenty of disturbing visuals in the film (a guy licking the gore that drips out of a rotting corpse’s mouth is unforgettable), and there is some good 80s throwback horror atmosphere and musical cues, but Stabbed In The Face is kind of all over the place.
I was pretty much confused, between sudden shots of what is supposed to be the ghost of the crazy killer lady and a seemingly unrelated scenario of a guy torturing a girl.
None of it has anything to do with the actual killing that finally begins way into the movie. After a lot of nothing happening as the group of friends explores the house, rapid-fire kills begin. The gore is pretty brutal and there’s a chase scene, but it’s all set to my least favorite indie horror cliché – a raucous, no frills metal soundtrack.
By the time the messy twist came in, leading right to one of those “so did that really happen or was it a delusion?” final frames, I was pretty much over it. For me, the 80s throwback feel didn’t outweigh the lack of cohesion.
At this point, I cover any 1990s flix I haven’t yet touched on my blog simply so I can appear to be unbiased—not to mention, as a reminder that my bias is completely founded, because 1990s horror predominantly sux as much as mainstream music did during that decade. So here are my thoughts on another three slices of 90s torture.
SORORITY BABES IN THE DANCE-A-THON OF DEATH (1991)
Todd Sheets is still making low budget films with midnight movie titles these days, but I haven’t seen any, so I don’t know if his work has improved beyond looking like a bunch of friends with a camcorder played pretend and recorded it on tape. A sequel to Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama this is not.
If I had to guess, I would say that the cast of Sorority Babes in the Dance-A-Thon of Death was a bunch of college kids in 1989 that were approached to be in a movie…like right now. Like, skip your next class and let’s head over to that abandoned building down the block so you can run around acting like you’re scared because one of your friends got possessed. And you, you’ll play the possessed one, and we’ll know you’re possessed because you’ll spin in circles and slam your head repeatedly into a wall while giggling. You’ll also pretend you pulled your eyes from your head by keeping your eyes and fists closed, then pressing your fists back on your face before opening your eyes to show you’ve put them back in. That’s her doing it, right there in the dark. See it?
Really, it’s unwatchable. I should know. I watched it. Here’s what I could make out in this miserably lit (as in, there’s no movie-making lighting at all) movie. Sorority girls buy a cursed crystal ball from an antique store. They dance around their sorority house while boys watch through a window. They play pinball. They play twister. They watch a horror movie (I’m assuming it’s another Todd Sheets movie). They have a séance.
They stay in an empty building for the night. The goofy-acting possessed girl play fights with some of the kids before chasing them in circles around the building. They run out of the building and into an empty club. The old couple that owns the antique store comes to exorcise the possessed girl on the dance floor. Actually, the old couple is the funniest and most entertaining part of the film.
THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1996)
The year that Scream saved horror from the hopeless abyss that was the 90s, this one – based on the work of HG Wells of course, and from the director of the classic 1979 creature feature Prophecy – was a good demonstration of just of how bad the genre was at the time. Yes, it’s as bad I remembered—it’s also pretty damn gay.
The premise is classic. A castaway is rescued on the sea and taken to a remote island, where he soon discovers some seriously fucked up experiments are being done on humans…and animals. As in, the two are being crossbred to create an all-out carnival sideshow of freaks.
The only scene that mattered to me from a horror standpoint here is when the main guy first sneaks off on his own to explore, slips into a lab, and witnesses a bunch of man-beast doctors helping a woman-beast delivery her baby-beast. Fucked up. After that, this film becomes a disastrous farce of goofy talking creatures like something out of the Star Wars cantina, really bad CGI creatures leaping through the woods, and a Planet of the Apes overthrowing of the human controlled island.
Now for the good bad stuff. Marlon Brando plays the crazy scientist running the island, and in his first appearance, he’s dressed in some sort of nun drag. Thereafter, his drag ensembles just get worse.
He has no wife to speak of, but his “daughter” is a shy belly dancer played disastrously by favorite horror girl Fairuza Balk. I can’t believe this is the same chick who rocked The Craft the same year.
And finally, there’s young and beautiful Val Kilmer, Brando’s “assistant”…who appears to be more of his boy bitch, if you ask me. After nursing our main man back to health, Kilmer fondles a purple flower pinned to the main guy’s shirt while talking about how he “came out” to join Brando. Later, he runs around the jungle in nothing but tight army fatigue short shorts looking like he can’t find his way to the set of the gay military porn he’s about to star in.
And if I had to guess, I’d say he’s the one who convinced Brando to open the big dance club in which the man-beasts revolt at the end of the film. Fucking 90s horror.
THE GRAVE (1996)
Seriously, I’m barely going to talk about this film, which broke my ADHD-o-meter. It’s inexcusable that this film is categorized as a “comedy horror.” Trust me, there’s no horror here—unless it was happening during my ADHD-o-meter malfunction. Craig Sheffer is a convict who makes a prison break with his buddy so they can go hunt for some treasure they learn is buried in a crypt.
What we get is an unfunny, boring as fuck trip across country as the pair runs into the likes of Eric Roberts, Donal Logue, and Anthony Michael Hall, with everyone plotting against each other to nab the treasure.
With 18 minutes left, they enter the tomb and the door closes on them! Ooh scary. Turns out Sheffer’s girlfriend has locked them in. It doesn’t even matter what happens after that, but soon after, the credits roll.
It’s another round of cleaning horror house, this time, looking at five zombie films from my movie collection that span the decade from 1980 – 1989.
ALIEN DEAD (1980)
This is one of the first ever movies by crap horror king Fred Olen Ray, so it’s even crappier than usual! Although the plot has locals around a swamp concerned about alligators and a houseboat that sank after being hit by a meteor, we don’t see any of that. We just watch a bunch of people bantering back and forth with bad hick accents until they are attacked by zombies.
Alien Dead has that classic low budget look in which most of the film takes place in “dark daylight,” which always adds some good atmosphere, as does an effective horror soundtrack. Unfortunately, there is also oddly out of place music used during some zombie attacks, including a bad country song!
The zombies range from bad makeup to awesome makeup, and even some faces that look like masks. There are no graphic scenes in which we see zombies actually biting into victims (just mimicking the act of eating them), but there are some “gore” moments of zombies basically playing with guts for the camera. Also, these zombies pop out of the water now and then and even swim underwater.
Only nostalgia for bad low budget zombies films of the late 1970s and early 1980s would give anyone a reason to watch this. Oh, that and the fact that veteran pretty boy actor Buster Crabbe had the misfortune of making this one of his last film appearances.
BURIAL GROUND (1981)
One of the most infamous Euro-sleaze zombie flicks of the late 70s/early 80s, Burial Ground is also one of my favorites, from the bad English dubbing to the decrepit zombies that are freaky as hell even in broad daylight.
Guests arrive at a mansion, and none of them hesitates in having sex, providing us with immediate nudity. Minutes later, rotting zombies with faces covered in maggots begin crawling out from the ground and chasing everyone through the gardens of the estate.
These creepy gut-munchers look like a cult because they’re all wearing the same drab garments. They also don’t mess around—these fuckers use sharp tools and even machines to turn victims into chopped meat. The blood is glorious bright red, the old mansion setting is eerie, and the hypnotic horror soundtrack sets the perfect atmosphere. Plus, having a bunch of people stuck in a house surrounded by zombies is forever the most effective setup for the genre.
Too bad the dumb broads in this flick can’t seem to get it through their heads that you should stay away from windows when there are zombies right outside (although, their stupidity results in some great gore). The women in Burial Ground also provide a clear example of how far female portrayals have come in horror, because these are old-fashioned damsels in distress—backing themselves into corners and screaming helplessly as zombies approach. It’s embarrassing to watch.
The only female character you think is going to come out strong is one who beats the fuck out of a zombie she finds eating her son. Problem is, this woman is motivated to do so because of her freakishly incestuous relationship with the kid. This dynamic makes for the most unforgettable aspect of the film. The “boy” is actually played by an adult dwarf, which makes things real icky, because he looks like an adult. And then, when he comes back from the dead, mom’s sick love for him is so strong that she finally gives him what he wants in the infamous scene we still talk about today – she lets him breastfeed….
The novelty of this zombie flick is that the main zombie is played by Bill Hinzman…the ORIGINAL zombie from the ORIGINAL Night of the Living Dead. 20 years later, he looks exactly the same: not a day over dead.
It also so happens that Bill wrote and directed FleshEater. He impressively nails how bad 1980s direct-to-video movies are supposed to be. Watching this will totally take you back to the era.
A bunch of kids goes on a hayride on Halloween to party in the woods. Some redneck discovers a weird grave on his land, so he digs it up. Out pops…Zombie Bill! Zombie Bill doesn’t hesitate in attacking any living person he can get his teeth on, and pretty soon, the undead are roaming the woods and our cast is boarded up in a house.
FleshEater has a good old-fashioned 80s horror soundtrack and some great bright red gore, sex scenes, boobs and bush, cheesy 80s kids, and a Halloween party in a barn. Plus, the leading man has a beefy butt of death that looks fantastic in tight 80s jeans.
The zombies may not look much better than the blue faces from Dawn Of The Dead, but the real star is Zombie Bill, and he looks awesomely undead as always. He gets the majority of gut-munching screen time, is hardcore and strong, uses numerous weapons to mutilate victims, and even makes a meal out of a little girl trick or treater. Delicious.
In the final act, there is an unnecessarily long segment of all the locals blowing away the heads of zombies roaming through fields…right before Bill blatantly rips off the Night Of The Living Dead. Even so, it’s just another thing that makes this one 80s trashtastic.
THE DEAD NEXT DOOR (1989)
There’s a very good chance that when you watch the opening scene of this film – a man and his daughter locking themselves in a basement as a big zombie attacks – you’ll think that it has a total Evil Dead vibe. There’s a good reason for that. The Dead Next Door is produced by Sam Raimi.
As 80s b-movie as you could want, the film then cuts to a video store, where a guy renting a horror classic is attacked by zombies. Everything about this film is totally 80s horror campy, from the intentional over-the-top acting to the over-the-top zombies.
It follows an often comic team of government zombie killers – all named after our favorite horror directors and writers – as they go from one infested location to another in their search for a cure to stop the outbreak. As super fun gore and humor follows, the zombie killing team eventually discovers there’s a bigger enemy…a bunch of religious freaks that are intentionally keeping zombies alive.
Actually, the introduction of the crazy cult is my least favorite part of the film, which is otherwise a series of cheesy good 80s zombie fun. The cast is awesome, there is a kick ass tearing apart of a guy at the end, and a perfectly 80s new wave track plays during the closing credits.
THE DEAD PIT (1989)
The Dead Pit is a trippy late 80s mess—and it does it so well. If Re-Animator and Hellraiser joined forces to deliver a zombie horde climax, The Dead Pit is what you’d get.
In the opening scene, we learn of a crazy doctor that experiments on patients in a mental institution, then dumps their bodies in a pit in the basement.
20 years later, a young woman is admitted to the same hospital for lost memory issues. She has weird premonitions about people in the basement, keeps seeing undead visions of the crazy doctor, has nightmares about being tortured – and stripped – by an evil nurse, and runs around in her underwear a lot…without anyone in the hospital ever telling her she should put on some clothes so she won’t tempt the other crazies.
This movie is such a great 80s disaster, and adding to the fun is a lot of thunder and lightning, dark, creepy halls, neon blue lighting, and fog machines. Plus, there’s a really sexy male patient who befriends the main girl and becomes one of the heroes when the zombies finally come crawling out of the pit.
The main girl spends over an hour being terrorized by the crazy doctor (who now has glowing red eyes) before The Dead Pit at last becomes a classic zombie film, with plenty of gore and a typical convoluted late 80s plot twist concerning the main girl’s purpose.
The only thing that ruined the ending of this one for me a little is the sudden decision that they need a nun to bless a water tower so they can drown the zombies in holy water soup. Seriously, you’re going to bring religion into a zombie film? Ugh. Although, I must say, that holy water sure delivers some good face dissolving action.
When the new millennium hit, Resident Evil stepped into it strong with Code Veronica. Introduced on the Dreamcast in 2000 before being released on Playstation 2, it was the first game in the series to get a major bump in graphics post-PS1.
And then came…Resident Evil Remake and Resident Evil Zero on GameCube in 2002. Visually, our favorite zombie series would never be the same. However, the gameplay format was intact, providing us with plenty of tense atmosphere and cheap scares, plus manageable action and puzzle solving to fully immerse us in the horror experience.
After a long wait of 3 years, Capcom finally continued the series with the divisive Resident Evil 4 on GameCube. Longtime fans of the series were kind of devastated, while action game fans insisted Capcom finally “fixed” what was wrong with the series.
A decade later, Resident Evil 4 has made its way to Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Replay time! And I can say pretty much everything I felt about it the first time still holds true for me. It’s a fun game. It’s a challenging game. It’s often tedious. It’s not scary. It’s just not Resident Evil. But at least it has a “Don’t come!” nod to House of the Dead!
I’ve actually played Resident Evil 4 through at least 3 times over the years, and one thing I can say is that the game is so long that there are still parts of it I don’t remember ever playing before, which means there’s something new to discover every time I play it! While I did have fun on the replay – and I’m actually a lot better at the hardest areas simply because I’ve experienced them before – everything that disappointed me about the game still does.
I start immediately with the length. This game definitely gives you loads of hours of gaming, but it is so fucking exhausting you just kind of want it to end after a while. Seriously, you rarely have time to just stop, take a breath, and enjoy the scenery…or to enjoy the fact that you’re playing a game. This shit is work. There’s no more lurking through desolate halls and city streets fearing a zombie is just going to suddenly pop out from around a corner because…there are no zombies. You instead enter one area after another loaded with “villagers.”
They’re zombie-like in their look, but these are very aware humans with melee weapons and the ability to find you wherever you try to hide. Fight, fight, fight. That’s all you do. If it’s not the villagers, then you’re contending with human-like “cult” guys with guns and gear that would be more befitting of a Star Wars movie. Eventually, these humanoid enemies will morph when you shoot them, their heads bursting into a series of dangerous tentacles that will hurt you if you don’t kill the fucker fast. But honestly, other than that and the occasional “boss” confrontation that delivers some sort of mutated monster, Resident Evil simply isn’t much of a horror game.
There’s still the classic typewriter, with no need for ribbons, which means infinite saves. While this the last time we will ever be able to save at a typewriter in a Resident Evil game, the inventory storage chests, having disappeared in Resident Evil Zero, are gone forever. Now, you must carry everything on you, in an inventory grid system that requires you to rotate and move items to make room for new ones to fit into the grid (don’t worry, the game pauses when you go into inventory, even during battles), which you can buy expansions for later. Yes, buy them. Because now, when you occasionally come across a save typewriter, you will also meet a “merchant,” who will sell you stuff and buy stuff from you.
You can purchase weapons, health, and maps that show you where hidden treasures are so you can have more shit to sell the merchant. Often, you have to shoot the items out of trees or off ceilings, and, some items you find can be combined with items you find later to greatly increase the value when selling them to the merchant. Plus, you can by upgrades for your guns. The only thing not for sale is ammo, which sucks, because it is the one thing you’ll need the most that you rarely have enough of, despite being presented with areas overrun by enemies at all times. Chances are you will be busting your ass trying to take guys down with your fricking knife numerous times in the game. You also get opportunities to run up to them and kick them when they’re a bit wounded, but if they’re not wounded enough, the kick won’t kill them, just put them out of commission for a short time.
The good news is, enemies drop goodies when you kill them—health and ammo, but most often, money you can use to buy items from the merchant. There are also boxes and barrels throughout the game that you can smash for items, as well as crows you can shoot that drop items. The weirdest thing of all is that very often, when you encounter the merchant, he’s in an area where there are items out in the open all around him that you can pick up, including money, which begs the question, why doesn’t this opportunist pick that shit up before you arrive so he can just sell it to you? There are also times when the merchant lets you go into some sort of shooting gallery challenge to earn money to buy shit, but I seriously did not understand the rules, never won, and even tried to read up on the rules online and still didn’t understand them, so I’ve never bothered with it. And one last thing about the merchant – you can kill him. Oh shit. It was an accident, I swear. I was haggling with him in a cave when these fricking bats started flying around my head. So I swiped at them with my knife, but instead of them dying, the merchant crumpled to the ground, dead. Luckily, it turns out if you do kill him, the next time you arrive at a merchant spot, he’s alive again.
Next, there’s the completely overhauled control system, which makes it clear this is an action game. These days we’re so used to free roaming views, but Resident Evil 4 basically just modifies the classic Resident Evil tank controls so they don’t seem to be as much like tank controls. You can move the “camera” to see around you, but only in limited doses, plus you can’t strafe, so you’re forced to go around corners blindly. In a game in which enemies are known to shoot at you or hurl bombs at you the instant they see you, it puts you at a great disadvantage. Adding a bit more animation to your character is the introduction of jumping. You can’t jump whenever you feel like it, but there are places at which you have to hit a button to jump across gaps or to jump up to grab a ledge. For me, the most dreaded addition to the “action” feel of the game is the quick time event, from suddenly having to push a button combo to avoid a falling rock to series of button sequences to complete battles. Argh!
You will be challenged to get used to the new, action-heavy Resident Evil right from the start. In the very first chapter, after some brief exploring and item collecting, plus fighting a few of the new villagers in the woods, you enter their village…having no idea that there’s no way they won’t spot you, even if you try to hide behind buildings. Since you begin with very limited ammo, you can run around trying to find stuff to fight them, but it will soon seem you don’t stand a chance, because you immediately meet a great pain in the ass of Resident Evil 4 – the chainsaw sack head man. WTF?
This dude is a one-hit killer (oddly realistic for a video game, considering he takes a fucking chainsaw to your neck and you can’t eat an herb to heal it), but if you want to kill him, you’ll need more ammo than you usually have. However, this first time you meet him (while also being chased around this small village by axe-throwing villagers), you actually just have to run around avoiding them all for a certain amount of time and then they get a cue to go away! Really, save your bullets and just run around in circles. But be warned that you’ll also have to contend with some dangers that are merely annoyances to piss you off early on, and don’t appear in the game that much later, such as wired bomb booby traps and bear traps (both of which you can set off with a weapon if you see them before running into them).
While there’s not much mental challenge in the game (like I said, puzzles are mostly a thing of the past), it does mix things up with a wide variety of gameplay techniques in different areas. For instance, early on, you’ll see a dog stuck in a bear trap. If you set him free, little do you know that later on, he’ll appear to help you take down a boss! There’s a nightmarish boat boss – you’re cruising across a lake, and suddenly you’re chased by a mutant alligator you need to harpoon. Every time you fuck up, the creature knocks you into the water, and you have to button mash in terror to swim back to the boat before it can get you.
There’s a segment in which you’re in a house that’s under siege, and you have to kill hordes of villagers as they try to climb through windows. Another segment has you on a runaway mine cart, with villagers dropping onto it as you race ahead while trying to shoot them off before they get you. Meanwhile, you occasionally have to button mash to duck under obstacles, and two fucking chainsaw sack head men leap on board, plus there are sudden button mashes at the end. Screw any of this up and you have to start all over. WTF?
There are pendulum sections you have to run through safely. There’s a hedge maze filled with hounds from hell. You get trapped in a small cage at one point with a giant enemy that can only be taken down if you get behind it and shoot the parasite off its back. Meanwhile, regular enemies are outside the cage shooting at you! WTF? There’s an enemy that will respawn no matter how many times you shoot it unless you’ve bought a special infrared scope for your gun that reveals the four spots in which you need to shoot it to take it down.
And then there’s the very long segment of the game in which you have to protect and defend another character. Yep. For what feels like almost half the game, you have a helpless chick with you as enemies and bosses swarm you. At times you even separate from her so she can go operate machines to open up new areas, at which times you have to defend her from afar while you have enemies surrounding and attacking you! WTF? Plus, you even get to play as her for a short time, on a mission, with enemies, no weapons, and a handful of quick time events. WTF?
As if to make up for all the torture it puts you through, right before the end, the game gives you an escort to get through an area loaded with enemies…a helicopter! Seriously, you could actually just stay in the shadows and this guy will shoot all the enemies from the sky, plus, his bullets won’t hurt you. However, there are chances some enemies will be able to get themselves into places the helicopter can’t access, so inevitably, you do have to do some fighting.
The final boss also isn’t very hard, but reading up on how to take him down is essential, because there are a few environmental techniques you can use to make the fight much easier, but you might not realize it unless you’re clued in. After that’s done, Resident Evil 4 gives you one last headache – a timed race on a jet ski, through tunnels with falling objects. Argh! It will take you several tries before you finally escape.
And just when you thought you finally conquered the game…there are two mini-games in which you play as longtime Resident Evil character Ada Wong.
This bonus game is just long enough to give you a good taste of Resident Evil 4. It’s essentially a sample of sections from the main game, and even has the merchant and save typewriters. I prefer this more streamlined experience because it delivers the fun without pushing you to the point of getting burned out by all the action.
Separate Ways takes us through everything Ada is up to in between her occasional appearances to help Leon out in the main game. For the most part, you do much of the same stuff he did, traveling through all the same areas and fighting the same enemies. As a result, you have an advantage because you’ve done this before, even if you did have a different arsenal as Leon. Not to mention, you can’t upgrade guns in Separate Ways. Even so, that missing aspect actually simplifies things and prevents the possibility of making a bad buying, selling, or upgrading decision. Plus, before the game ends, you can buy all the weapons the merchant has to sell, and you should. Which means you should also save all the ammo you collect, even if you don’t have the right gun at the moment.
Ada has her grappling hook, but you can only use it when you’re prompted to as you walk past key spots in the environment. There are loads of enemies and a few of the same bosses Leon fights in the main game, but Ada does get one epic section on a battleship that doesn’t appear in the main game, plus she gets a unique boss battle.
Added content is a big deal these days in video games, so it’s no surprise that Ada gets two separate side games. But honestly, Assignment Ada should have just been integrated into Separate Ways to give us one slightly beefier game. After all, this mini-game has Ada traveling through completely different sections from the main game than those in Separate Ways.
However, the game mechanics are a bit different. You have to play this game in one sitting because there are no save typewriters. If you die, you can simply choose to continue, which starts you off at the nearest checkpoint.
There is also no merchant. You’re stuck with the guns you’re given at the beginning. This game is very action-oriented, so you are often low on ammo. Your mission is to find 5 samples along a linear path as you fight your way through areas loaded with enemies. It’s a really unsatisfying game compared to Separate Ways.
And finally…that final boss…
There’s only one boss at the end of the mission (one you also fought as Leon but in a different location), and it’s a bitch. You’re on a long, narrow walking bridge. You’ve just come off from a major fight with a load of enemies. You’re short on ammo and health. There are 3 barrels of goodies on the bridge, but you’ll have pretty much no chance to break them open or grab the items because this boss is relentless. For starters, his first hit nearly takes out all your health and it seems to be unavoidable. Your goal is to shoot his head, but he holds shields in front of him as he charges at you. You need to try to shoot his feet to get him to let down his guard so you can get in a few hits. The openings to do that are minimal. Not to mention, every time he charges you, you will be forced to do a button mash to dodge his attack…his one hit kill attack. And he’ll take several jabs at you before finally jumping back for a few seconds so you have a blink of an eye to stop your head from spinning.
So how do you defeat this guy? Here’s a tip. When you initially step through the door that takes you to the bridge, you have to move ahead to trigger a cutscene that begins the battle. However, you can go back through the door you just came from before moving ahead to trigger the battle. You’ll find that some easier enemies have respawned in the previous area. Kill them with weaker ammo to get the goodies they drop—such as health and better ammo—before returning for the battle.
Here’s another good thing to know. At any time during the boss battle, you can go back through that door! There won’t be any enemies and the boss doesn’t follow you, so you can take some time to get your blood pressure under control. Plus, when you go back through the door to return to the bridge, the boss starts again at the far end of the bridge, giving you time to aim for his feet as he begins his charge approach. I used that trick a lot.
Which of these two high profile titles was less torture for me to sit through? Let’s get right to it.
I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER (2016)
I seriously thought I was going to have an ADHD meltdown trying to get through this snoozefest. My soul was revolting, trying to tear through my skin to escape this mental prison—a sight that would have been more frightening and gruesome than anything that happens here.
An organ harvesting serial killer is on the loose in a small town. There’s this teenage boy who is obsessed with serial killers and works as an assistant for his mom, the local mortician. He is also one unlikable fucking protagonist. I just can’t get into the creepy, moody, morbid, long-haired high school weirdo type when it’s a dude. This kid’s angle is that he knows if he doesn’t focus completely on trying to be normal, he’ll turn into a serial killer.
So in keeping with that plan of acting normal, he spends the movie lurking in the shadows around the snowy streets of his town profiling the serial killer. He occasionally gets some unnecessary input from an unnecessary best friend character. He talks to and spies on his neighbor – played by Christopher Lloyd, who is probably great in this film. I simply couldn’t tell because I couldn’t hear a single word he whispered.
Selfies of my face while watching I Am Not A Serial Killer
In a couple of moments that try to bring some suspense and horror to this mind-numbing experience, the teen witnesses some murders that reveal the non-human circumstances of this particular serial killer. So he eventually takes on the killer in a climax that is as monotone and low-energy as the rest of the film, leading to a sudden jarring upbeat ending. WTF?
I imagine that this story, based on a novel from a series by Dan Wells, probably just works way better as a book.
The only positive I got from I Am Not a Serial Killer is the awesome song “Zom-beee-aye-eee” by Combo Zombo, which plays during a Halloween dance. The video even has a gay moment at 1:40.
Yes, there’s a Halloween sequence in I Am Not a Serial Killer…but the film even succeeds in making Halloween boring.
BLAIR WITCH THREE (2016)
That’s right, it’s Blair Witch THREE. How dare they pretend the crappy masterpiece-compared-to-the-first-film sequel Book of Shadows doesn’t even exist.
So, yeah. Pretend that the sequel doesn’t exist. 15 years after his sister Heather disappears, some dipshit decides to make a documentary with his friends about heading into the woods to find her. He believes she’s alive because he has a piece of her lost footage that shows her running up stairs and seeing in a mirror reflection what is clearly a fucking witch…yet this dude is like, “That’s my sister!” WHAT?
For a majority of this rehash, the best part is the surround sound. Make sure to watch only if you have a home theater audio system, because the endless cheap jump scares would be nothing without the sound, and most of the movie would be nothing without the cheap jump scares.
This new group of kids has a drone to add modern flavor to the footage. The good news about that is that we aren’t staring at leaves on the ground for a fucking hour. Yes, I’m referencing the piece of shit original movie.
We watch these kids hike, set up camp, talk about the legends of the forest at a campfire, then fight and split up. Eventually, Blair Witch becomes a way better movie than the original (any attempt at a sequel should be ashamed if it isn’t). Shit actually happens here that better demonstrates some sort of serious witchery going on in those woods beyond a bitch scratching at a tent.
But it’s when the kids finally arrive at the house that the creators of the sequel show us what the original film could have been. There’s a fricking tiny tunnel crawl scene that completely got under my skin (I seriously can’t handle nightmarish, claustrophobic shit à la The Descent).
However, it’s lengthier time spent in the house, an actual sighting of a creature, and a final suspenseful scene directly tied to the legend of having to stand in a corner that make this film all worth it, even if the conclusion does borrow heavily from the final scene of [REC].
The Walking Dead may have made zombies mainstream, but the current zombie craze has been going on since the beginning of the 2000s, when movies like Resident Evil, Shaun Of The Dead, and Dawn Of The Deadremake resurrected the dead after over a decade of near dormancy.
Naturally, I consumed every cash-in flick that followed in the first decade of the new millennium. So…it’s time to clean horror house, and take quick looks at a bunch of zombie flicks from the 2000s that I have in my collection.
THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING! (2000)
This is the kind of film that gets me all nostalgic for that the late 90s/early 2000s era, when Buffy made it okay for horror to be self-aware and goofy, horror was still chill enough to cast pretty people and a little sexiness, and the campy comic horror films of Full Moon still had some credibility as horror movies. The Dead Hate The Living! may even be one of the last worthwhile Full Moon features to date.
Directed by Dave Parker, who went on to do The Hills Run Red, It Watches, and a segment of Tales of Halloween, this zomcom focuses on a small film crew that has snuck into an abandoned building to make a low budget horror film. One of my favorite scenes is actually from the movie they are shooting…because a cutie turns zombie while practically naked! Even that skeleton wants to bone him!
Our quirky, likable characters poke fun at cult directors, indie filmmakers, and their fans, keeping us entertained even though the film moves a bit slow at first.
45 minutes in, the action begins, when the crew finds a biohazardous area in the basement of the building, along with a dead body! They make the mistake of deciding to use the dead guy in their film. Before long, the dead guy is resurrected as a zombie master. He unleashes some gnarly monsters, including a nice big piece of zombeef.
The Dead Hate the Living! is fun, fun, fun right through the end, with things getting noticeably gorier as the body count rises. Highlights include: a conversation with a zombie in which she explains the obvious reason why they are killing people (it’s right in the title); the director character and his special effects man using movie makeup to disguise themselves as zombies so they can walk among the actual zombies unnoticed; and the zombie master raising the dead…from a fake cemetery the film crew made in the building!
CHILDREN OF THE LIVING DEAD (2001)
As is often the case, this is one of those movies that seems to have been hindered more than helped by its stunt casting of a horror icon in a cameo. Tom Savini is the star for a fairly extensive opening scene that could easily be picking up right where Night of the Living Deadended.
Classic looking slow zombies are walking through fields and being shot by rednecks in a small town cleanup effort. But the focus is on Tom Savini, who looks SEXY in a tight black tank top as he delivers a long zombie killing sequence.
The tone of the film shifts into a fairly silly plot, but I couldn’t help getting sucked in by the messy b-movie feel. It’s almost impossible to follow the timeline or comprehend what the hell is going on. We are introduced to quirky characters in this small town that apparently got past its zombie infestation problem at some point. Unfortunately, an infamous serial killer comes back from the grave as a gnarly ghoul. He goes around town turning victims into zombies to create an undead army.
Meanwhile, a cute kid is overseeing his father’s latest venture – moving a cemetery to build a business on the land. As the cemetery is dug up (by cute workers), it unearths the truth about the town’s zombie past, and before long, the zombie serial killer and his army of the dead has all the locals trapped inside a diner.
This shit is so goofy, but the absurd plot and grunting and groaning monster villain that lurks in the shadows day and night reminds me of some of the great, crappy creature features of the 1970s.
This is one of my faves because it delivers zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead would get all the glory for a year later, from wacky action sequences to loads of over-the-top zombie mutilations. Plus, Undead features a totally oddball twist that blows away the competition. You just really have to stick with it through the end to finally understand what it all means.
When meteors rain down on a small town, people are transformed into some perfectly gruesome zombies that are virtually like Deadites from Evil Dead. A small group of survivors ends up trapped in a farmhouse (very Night of the Living Dead) and must fight to get out alive.
But when it comes time to escape the town, they discover a giant, mysterious wall blocks their escape. On top of that, burning rain starts to fall, and beams of light start sucking people and zombies into the sky.
Fast, funny, and unique, Undead has a great main girl and an unlikely, bearish hero with plenty of tricks up his sleeves—until he strips out of his clothes and shows off his buns!
The slapstick zombie action rules, and the film uses cool sepia tone filters but occasionally splashes bloody red across the screen for the full gore effect.
DEAD MEAT (2004)
Conor McMahon, the director of Stitches, brings us a short, fast-paced “infected” flick that takes place in the countryside of Ireland. No time is wasted in getting to the zombie action, as a couple accidentally strikes a man with their car on a deserted road. Needless to say, the roadkill comes back to life.
As our heroes try to stay alive, it’s nonstop zombie mutilating and chase scene for the entire film, with loads of gore created with good old practical effects.
There are even zombie cows (and a zombie clown). Plus, the country setting provides a never-ending feeling of total vulnerability.
In fact, the final battle with the zombies within the walls of some crumbled ruins is fricking epic and relentless. It really feels like there’s no hope for our heroes.
With little time wasted on plot, this is purely a survival film when you just need a zombie overdose complete with gore, a dark sense of humor, and tense atmosphere. Plus, the “Dead Meat” theme song rules.
DEAD & BREAKFAST (2004)
Dead & Breakfast is quirky comedy splatterfest gold. The cast alone makes this a winner:
Jeremy Sisto (during the height of Six Feet Under)
Erik Palladino (looks so hot with his bulging biceps and BJ lips)
Bianca Lawson (Buffy, Teen Wolf, The Vampire Diaries, Witches of East End)
Oz Perkins (young Norman in Psycho II)
Gina Philips (Jeepers Creepers queen)
Diedrich Bader (hot off The Drew Carey Show)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (pre-Supernatural)
Ever Carradine (who should be a scream queen, because she kicks ass)
Portia de Rossi (an only slightly longer appearance than in Scream 2)
The young group of friends is heading to Portia’s wedding in an RV. They stop at David Carradine’s bed and breakfast, and before long, locals begin turning into a zombie-esque horde. But these “zombies” have their wits about them, and even talk. So with the help of the sheriff (hunky Jeffrey Dean), the friends try to solve the mystery of what is making the dead walk.
Dead & Breakfast is a total slapstick farce with the perfect cast to deliver all the quick-witted humor.
There’s a “Greek chorus” in the form of a redneck banjo band, comic book panel segues between scenes, a “Thriller” dance scene, and the classic house under siege scenario.
There’s also loads of over-the-top gore. And in the end, it’s the ladies who steal the show, particularly Ever Carradine.
ALL SOULS DAY (2005)
This more involved undead film comes from director Jeremy Kasten, who also brought us The Wizard of Goreremake.
All Souls Day is oddly structured. First, we get a setup scene in which Danny Trejo plays a man who sacrifices all the people in his Mexican village. Then we flash ahead to 1952. Halloween 4 main girl Ellie Cornell and horror icon Jeffrey Combs appear as a couple traveling with their two kids.
They stop at a hotel in a small Mexican village, their teen daughter gets naked for a shower, and then zombies in colorful Mexican garments and masks attack…but we don’t actually see what happens to the family.
Finally, it’s 52 years later. A young couple literally crashes into a small Mexican town, and before long, they are staying at the same hotel, have called their friends to come join them, and then discover that it is All Souls Day, the dead have been resurrected, and the locals are in need of a sacrifice to get rid of them.
There’s a kick ass scene of a female zombie leaping and running as she tries to get one of our main characters, but other than that, all the other Mexican zombies pretty much just shuffle around the dirt road in front of the hotel while the main characters hide inside trying to figure a way out of their predicament. I’d be okay with being stuck in a hotel with this guy…
There’s an okay old school European zombie feel to this part, but the film is more focused on the details of the backstory than the gory details of zombies munching on people. It’s not a bad time killer, but it’s mostly forgettable.
AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION (2006)
This was the first film by Steve C. Miller, who went on to make Under The Bedand Silent Night(the Silent Night, Deadly Night “remake”), and I must say, I’m a fan. This simple little 75-minute film gets trashed online, and I’ll never understand why. This is one seriously competent low budget indie.
The only common complaint that holds any ground for me is that there’s too much shaky cam. But let’s face it. That’s to be expected not only because it’s a technique that helps hide any shortcomings of a filmmaker’s budget, but it’s also a fricking trend. Movies – even big budget films – use shaky cam all the time to create a sense of chaotic energy, despite the fact that pretty much no one likes it.
The film starts strong with a jump scare and some gnarly gore in a morgue. In fact, this film uses award-worthy practical effects that kick ass. Also, the horror setups early on when the “infected” first start creeping into the story demonstrate just how well the director knows how to create tension and atmosphere.
But at its core, Automaton Transfusion is an “all hell breaks loose” gorefest. A small group of high school teens tries to survive a night in their small town as they are relentlessly chased by fast, strong, infected humans.
What happens when a zombie catches you with your pants down…
These are not “zombies,” so there’s no monster makeup here, just a lot of bloody faces. And don’t expect any horror humor in between the gruesome gut munching scenes. This is hardcore horror that works not only because all of our main characters are likable, but because they can all act. Not to mention, leading man Garrett Jones is adorable.
For me, the only letdown is that just when the movie takes a surprise turn, well…it ends on a cliffhanger with a “To be continued….” Not even joking. Sadly, Miller never revisited his first film to make a sequel.
FLIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (2007)
Another favorite of mine, Flight of the Living Dead is purely a popcorn flick for when you just want some fast, gory, campy zombie action.
There’s this plane. There’s a load of quirky characters on it. There’s something mysterious being transported in the cargo hold. It gets out. It spawns an over-the-top zombie outbreak!
Before long, zombies are multiplying, they’re ripping through walls and floors to get at passengers, it seems there are more zombies than there were people on the plane, there are vent crawling scenes, there are jump scares, there’s action that will have you hooting out loud, and everyone you want to live seems to get eaten!