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.