Each of the four films in my latest zombie marathon had a different effect on me…and perhaps not always the effect the filmmakers were going for.
BETTER OFF ZED (2018)
If you caught my video the other day on Boys, Bears & Scares social media, you’ll know I bought this movie because it comes with a bonus DVD that includes the long out of print 80s Halloween slasher spoof Wacko. It also includes the 2000 Full Moon flick Sideshow.
Both of those films are more worth the purchase than Better Off Zed. I imagine the reason two random bonus movies were thrown in with the ten-dollar price tag was to improve the chances of it selling.
The title and poster art make this look like some sort of zomcom. I can’t stress how not funny this film. On top of that, beyond arms reaching through a fence, there are barely any zombies for a majority of the film.
This is the story of a couple that doesn’t take advantage of rescue crews occasionally sweeping through their town, which becomes a subject of contention between the pair.
Aside from fighting about that, they spend the movie simply doing household tasks and indulging in their hobbies. He paints. She looks through shopping catalogs. He says hello to his zombified neighbors each morning, and occasionally fends one off. They fix a gas outage. They argue over whether or not to watch TV while eating dinner. They eat dinner. They have sex.
In other words, nothing interesting happens. With only two characters, it isn’t even an entertaining social commentary on the undying habitual habitation of white suburbia. If your statement on white people being so privileged they can still enjoy a perfect home life during a zombie apocalypse proves to be really boring, maybe you should find a more interesting way to deliver that message.
It’s not until only 15 minutes remain that a zombie horde breaks in. And here is where I point out how I would have rewritten the ending, with major ***SPOILERS***.
Predictably, one character gets bit, forcing the other into a mercy kill. The survivor is immediately mistaken for a zombie when a rescue team breaks into the house. This movie could have done something a little different with this Night of the Living Dead finale cliché, making an ironic social statement that would be so timely. The opportunity is virtually spelled out by what does happen. Three rescuers walk into the house, and the first one makes the kill shot. The last to walk in is a black guy. Light bulb moment. The cleanup crew in NOTLD was a bunch of white rednecks that killed a black guy like he was just another monster, Better Off Zed could have been the film in which the cleanup crew is a team of black guys that kills off the white privilege monster to save civilization.
My favorite part of the film? The rocking closing credits song “Dance of the Dead” by longtime punk band Anti-Nowhere League.
FETISH FACTORY (aka: Cabaret of the Dead) (2017)
More and more indie films seem to be made by horror fans who want to celebrate their favorite movies, right down to character dialogue specifically expounding on those movies. But a movie is more than how meta it can be. We’re living in an age of fan film fever—people who love horror movies more than they love the art of directing or writing, so they just get a camera and film their idea…without really having an idea. Just think of how much money is thrown at numerous unworthy kickstarters when it could all be directed toward projects that really deserve to be made.
Take Fetish Factory. Girls—and one guy in drag—hang out in their dressing room getting ready to perform at an underground club.
They do loads of talking that in no way creates a story or progresses a plot.
In between we are subjected to pointless, unfunny, unentertaining acts—a singer, a ventriloquist, dancers, etc. A majority of the 70-minute running time is like watching auditions at a local talent show!
Next section, individual clients go off with women to private rooms. Again, nothing funny happens, and there isn’t even sex. If you set your zombie movie in a fetish club, shouldn’t you show some edge and push boundaries? This film doesn’t get exploitative from either an erotic or humorous angle.
40 minutes in, these pale people that are supposed to be zombies start breaking in. Some have blood on them, some have white eyes for at least a little more effect.
There are goreless attacks, and the women run around the house acting halfheartedly scared of the zombies. They also make numerous references to other zombie movies, but it never feels naturally slipped into the conversation. It’s more like someone specifically forced as many mentions of horror movies into the writing as possible and called it dialogue.
Just when you think nothing else is going to happen, the focus shifts to a bunch of cowering male clients trying to escape the house. The possibilities for comic gold are infinite. Forget it. They are attacked within minutes.
Please, please, please, creators. Start either taking writing and film courses, or pay much more attention to what makes the movies you love so successful at what they achieved.
Platoon is 120 minutes long.
The Exorcist runs 122 minutes.
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is 133 minutes.
West Side Story clocks in at 153 minutes.
Your low budget zombie film should absolutely not be 132 minutes.
Now that I got that out of the way, Noxious is about a beach town filled with shirtless muscle heads that all seem to be into some sort of organized crime. I’m pretty convinced the filmmakers went to a beach town and approached every muscle head they saw and said, “Hey, wanna be in a movie?”
That’s one of the things I like most about the film.
Another thing I like about it is the leading man.
This goofy cute older guy is apparently some sort of beach patrolman assigned the massive job of solving the mystery of toxic shit dumped into the water. For a straight character interested in the main female scientist, this dude is so carefree with amazing campy gay style. He even changes the color of his white hair in like every scene. And befitting to his character, he has a theme song just like the whimsical whistling tune that plays relentlessly throughout the survival horror game Deadly Premonition.
Because of the excessive running time, Noxious suffers from huge stretches of talking. It’s not even interesting talking. It’s just talking. I’m not sure there was an actual script. It feels like they just filmed locals at a beach town…talking. There’s even a bizarre music montage on the beach, complete with a sort of wannabe Jimmy Buffett playing right on the sand.
If only they had cut all that shit out, this could have been a better paced cheesy zomcom, even if there is only one zombie, whose first kill doesn’t happen until an hour and 12 minutes into the film. Holy fuck.
Hey, he looks pretty cool, he swims in underwater scenes (impressive for a low budget film), and several of his kills are nice and bloody. There’s even a really clever jump scare on the beach.
But the ultimate moment is when the muscle bound zombie gets into a fight with every guest at a beach party at once. He really does just pick guys and girls up left and right and toss them across the sand. Hilarious. As is the moment when the muscle zombie is sprayed in the face with a killer chemical.
This little teen zombie indie started out okay…and ended up being a film I want to add to my collection if it comes to DVD. Glad there was one in this bunch.
The story is as basic as movies like Detention of the Dead and the Hulu show Freakish—kids trapped in a high school with zombies.
After an effective opener featuring a zombie attack in a house, a high school sophomore goes hunting for his girlfriend at the high school, where he meets up with a group of seniors that don’t know him but know his more popular older brother.
The first part of the film focuses more on a Breakfast Club vibe, with some humor, the group getting to know each other, talking about their sex lives, and even finding a record player just in time for a dance montage (that looks sort of like they’re reenacting “Let’s Bowl” from Grease 2).
They even run into some teachers, including Drusilla from Buffy!
Eventually the time for fun is over and the group has to find a way out of the school, with creatures baiting and luring zombies away from the hot spots.
There aren’t loads of zombies and it’s not gory, but it’s well-made with some thrills, chill, and chases. And the reference to The Blair Witch Project is the only thing I’ve ever found to like about The Blair Witch Project. Yes, it’s meta used to good effect.
And of course, the hottie is sizzling hot—played by Chris Riggi of spoof film Vampires Suck.