Masked bitches, zombies, and mutants

If you stream a lot of horror, chances are the name Uncork’d has become a pretty familiar sight at the beginning of a film. It’s another 21st century company keeping the horror genre alive by releasing numerous indie films. Here’s a look at three of the latest films I’ve check out from Uncork’d.

BAD APPLES (2017)

bad apples cover

You’re starting off with a huge advantage if you set your film on Halloween night. Even better if you have brats in masks going around violently killing people. But narrative thread matters. It really does. Especially if you actually try to have one, seem to know you failed, and then literally slap on a “coda” in which obnoxious characters painstakingly explain to the audience what that narrative thread was.

I can’t tell you how disappointed I was when this Halloween film with artwork proved to be a chore to get through. First off, it is so darkly lit (including daytime scenes) that you can’t see ANYTHING (I’ve lightened the stills from the film for this post). Next, the “plot” simply drops in plot points and then never ties them together.

A couple moves to a small town. He’s a doctor, she’s a teacher. The school principal rides her about her religious affiliation. The exchange proves to be irrelevant.

bad apples pumpklin carve

Two girls in school are wearing Halloween masks that they never take off, which ends them in the principal’s office. Guess who dies first. There goes horror, punishing the righteous. Okay, I’ll give the film a star for that.

bad apples killers

At least the girls had an excuse for being pissed at the principal. From that point on, they seem to just go around killing random people, very few that are actually introduced to the audience.

bad apples neighbor

I was liking the girls’ modus operandi, though. They show up at your door, say “trick or treat” in a creepy voice, and when you don’t answer, they somehow get into your house and kill you.

bad apples kitchen

There’s no sense of exactly what time of night it is as the movie progresses because we see no trick-or-treaters and no one answers when there’s a knock on their door even though it’s Halloween, so the film ends up losing its holiday spirit as it progresses.

And eventually, simply because it has been established that she’s the lead, the teacher is terrorized by them. Meanwhile, at the hospital, there’s this last minute ditch effort to have her husband create some (irrelevant) character development by telling his coworker about their past. Meanwhile, his coworker explains in detail to him, a doctor, what a life alert bracelet is after a patient uses one. I guess it’s meant to let the audience know what a life alert bracelet is, which begs the question, how uninformed do you think your audience is?

bad apples kill

The Halloween spirit returns for one final kill which involves the carving of a jack-o’-lantern. And then we get that coda. WTF? It goes on forever and just gets worse and worse as the dialogue between three annoying girls attempts to explain the plot of the film because the script was incapable of doing so. And don’t expect one last awesome jump scare because it doesn’t happen.

DAWNING OF THE DEAD (2017)

dawning of the dead cover

Brace yourself for one of those moments when I’m a defiant horror asshole. British zombie film Dawning of the Dead seems to be getting trashed around the Internet, with folks especially crying blasphemy over the title cashing in on a George A. Romero classic. To that I say I’d watch this awesome flick over the one crappy flick from Romero’s original trilogy any day. See a thoroughly detailed breakdown of why it’s so crappy here.

Speaking of Dawn of the Dead, if you ask me, Dawning of the Dead could be considered an alternate reality version of that movie. What if the characters in the film had never left the news station building to head to the mall? Why, they would have been trapped inside the building while hordes of zombies tried to get in, of course! Awesome.

dawning of the dead zombies

I mean, you can’t complain about the basic face paint and eye contacts of the zombies here if you think the Romero film with the Smurf-faced zombies is a masterpiece of horror. Dawning’s hardcore zombies have no interest in shopping at the mall—they just relentlessly want to feed. And man, do they ever, in numerous scenes of super gory gut munching.

dawning of the dead eat

Our main girl is a news reporter with a very crucial piece of information about the truth behind the outbreak. Little does she know there’s an agent on his way to the building to make sure she stays quiet (and they’re not even in Trump’s America). Also on the way is her adorable man and his brother, whose fight to get to the station to rescue her provides much of the film’s comic moments.

dawning of the dead boyfriend

That’s right. While there’s a lot of serious stuff going on, this film is also intentionally comic, not like that laughable Romero mess. At first it’s a little jarring that the film feels cheesy—sort of like watching a dubbed 80s Euro horror film—but after a while, you begin to realize the film actually has a sly sense of humor about it between all the blood and guts moments, so that inital b-movie feel actually makes sense.

dawning of the dead face to face

The zombie attack scenes totally kick ass, and there are tons of them. Plus, there’s a group of people in the news station that clashes constantly while trying to survive, and what seem like the usual suspects have some surprises in store as they break the mold of predictable character behaviors.

dawning of the dead cast

On top of that, the main girl slowly develops into a strong, lovable hero as she finds herself and becomes the leader of the survivors during the course of the movie. And the character standing alongside her that she can most depend on is a fellow newscaster—an openly gay man who isn’t “in your face.” He just is. And he is showcased as one of the noblest characters by the end of the film. Yeah, definitely not Trump’s America.

The awesome track “When Death Comes to Town” by Faster Than Bullets closes the movie, and even has a zombie video.

 

THE RIZEN (2017)

rizen cover

I’m a big fan of director Matt Mitchell’s action comedy zombie flick Gangsters, Guns & Zombies. Therefore, I was pretty psyched to discover he was responsible for The Rizen, especially since the artwork looks pretty dang ominous.

Alas, the film is actually about post-World War II military plots and experiments. Period piece and military. Blech. But still, I thought there might be hope for it to hold my interest. It focuses on our female hero and a goofy scientist who are trapped in a secret bunker with no memory of how they got there. As they try to find their way out, they meet other characters that also don’t remember how they got there…and usually end up dead, for there are some sort of mutant savages, which I call “bandage heads,” roaming the halls.

rizen fight

Like Alice from Resident Evil, our main girl kicks monster ass…over and over and over again. It’s quite repetitive, so don’t expect any sense of suspense or fear. There’s a lighthearted, humorous tone to the characters’ interactions with each other and during their battles with the monsters that definitely fits the style I’d expect from the guy behind Gangsters, Guns & Zombies.

rizen leads

However, it doesn’t fit with the more complex plot trying to poke its way through. There are flashbacks as the characters piece together what’s going on, but just when it turn into something bigger, the movie comes to an end. But, if you are getting sucked into the emerging plot, fear not—The Rizen 2 is coming!

rizen gore

As for The Rizen, to me it feels like a hack n’ slash video game. You get an occasional cut scene that strings the action together with a thin storyline, but really the whole point is to continuously kill onslaughts of monsters. Problem is, you don’t get to play here. You just have to watch. And that’s no fun after the novelty of the cool monsters and cool kill sequences wears off.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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