Plenty of monstrous mayhem in my latest marathon of horror flicks on a variety of streaming services, so let’s get into them.
Pull is a little odd, a little disjointed, a little amateur feeling at times, and runs a little too long, but I have to admit I was quite satisfied with all the horror it delivered by the time the final credits rolled.
It’s sort of a case of me liking many of its scenes better than the film as a whole, right from the very intense opener, which has a guy dragged into a hole by the chain attached to him…internally. Eek!
We then meet a small group of agents working on missing persons cases. They track down one young woman at…um…Christmas dinner, and the truth of what’s actually going on is worse than they could imagine.
Yes, this is a Christmas horror movie, with gloomy renditions of carols often playing as victims are tortured in a dungeon lair. So of course it goes on the holiday horror page.
And the “serial killer” they’re hunting is less than human…and more than one. There are some gnarly looking creatures in this hybrid horror flick, so our team of agents battles it out with a grisly gaggle of hideous horrors before the final act.
It really is a load of fun with good makeup effects and gore if you can stick with it through some of the slower sections.
If you just need a fix of teens being terrorized by a monster, Shortcut is the way to go.
The journey of a small group of kids on a bus takes an unexpected detour when a creep with a gun hijacks the bus, and one of the kids recognizes the him as “the tongue eater”. EEK!
But the hijacker is just the start of their problems. When the bus stops in a dark tunnel, the group trapped on the bus soon finds out there’s something lurking in the dark. I feared an early dream sequence might be a bad sign that the pacing was desperate for filler scares, but it wasn’t necessary at all because the film takes off once the creature action kicks in. And while this initially feels like it’s going to turn into Jeepers Creepers 2, the creators make the smart move of getting the group off the bus rather quickly…and into the maze of tunnels.
This isn’t a gory flick, so it does have more of a PG-13 suspense vibe, with a likable group of kids you can root for and a cool looking monster. It deviates oddly from its momentum at one point for a backstory totally unrelated to the cast of characters, but it gets back on track for a pretty cool final escape effort.
ARMY OF THE DEAD (2021)
Supposedly director Zack Snyder wanted to make a follow-up to the Dawn of the Dead 2004 remake (one of my faves) ages ago. If this film is any indication of his initial vision, everything that was original when he thought of it came to fruition in a myriad of zombie movies and television shows he didn’t make over the last 17 years, because there simply isn’t a moment of this film that isn’t derivative.
I can’t fathom why he thought it was worth telling this story at this point. Are even the most diehard zombie fans (I was once one of them) craving these same clichés again? Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of fun zombie moments. They simply would have been better if at least 45 minutes had been cut from this bloated, 150-minute film, especially considering the most satisfying clichés are packed into the last 40 minutes.
Honestly, any zombie film aficionado could sit through Army of the Dead and literally identify which zombie movies from the last two decades each scene and plot point appears to be mimicking, from the Resident Evil series right down to the zombie tiger from the SyFy original Zombie Apocalypse with Ving Rhames.
A cool opener lets us know there are strong, fast zombies creating a zombie army, but doesn’t in any way imply that this is connected to Dawn of the Dead (sorry, not an official sequel). A cool intro credits sequence catches us up quickly on how we got where we are in the zombie apocalypse, and since much of this film features CGI footage and effects, the action has a video game look and feel.
Next we meet our main man, played by Dave Bautista. Dave was in the military. Dave had to kill his zombie wife. Dave now works in a diner. Dave is hired to go into a quarantine zone to retrieve a load of money. This is the plot of Train to Busan 2. Dave assembles a team to help him. Dave meets them one at a time to establish each character for us. This part of the film goes on forever.
There are several hot and hunky guys, all the usual character stereotypes, including a sort of gay guy never fully realized as gay so we don’t know if he’s really gay even if he does seem to be hot for a couple of the other guys, characters looking for redemption, characters with no redeeming qualities, occasional light humor, exciting but typical zombie fight sequences, and even a song choice with a title so obvious no other director ever even bothered considering it: “Zombie” by The Cranberries.
And like I said, the last forty minutes deliver all the zombie fun. Of course it is also the part that feels exactly like you’re playing a Resident Evil game straight through to the final cutscene of the escape in a helicopter as the quarantine zone is nuked.
And if you watch this film and aren’t convinced that horror needs about a twenty-year break from zombies, you’re in luck. It appears this may be the launch of a series called Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas. And shut the fuck up. Of course I’m going to watch the hell out of it.
PSYCHO GOREMAN (2020)
Director Steven Kostanski (Leprechaun Returns, Manborg, The Void, Father’s Day) of the Astron-6 team is back and brings his buddy Adam Brooks along to play the father in this film that could be a 1980s family sci-fi movie…if it wasn’t also a gory horror comedy.
A brother and sister are playing in their yard when they dig up a glowing gem. Messing around with it, they accidentally release a violent, hateful alien creature from another planet that quickly shows how brutal he is by tearing up a bunch of lowlifes in a mess of practical effects.
But there’s a catch. Because the kids have the gem, they totally control this evil creature, so he has to obey their orders despite his loathing of them, which makes for a hilarious dynamic made even better thanks to great performances by the kids and the monster.
In a way, this is like a much darker and more gruesome version of the hilarious SyFy series Resident Alien. And the great thing about director Steven Kostanski is that he doesn’t try to emulate 80s horror—he just nails it. I can only assume he grew up on films from the decade.
The highlight for me is a montage featuring the kids rockin’ out in their garage (with Psycho Goreman on drums) as clips flash by of them having fun with him all over town…including the obligatory fashion show. There’s also a funny little moment where they bring up porn and unintentionally make Psycho question his sexuality.
The final act gets a bit hokey and is where the movie really goes into “family fun” territory as the family has to pick sides when Psycho is hunted down by his enemies—which kind of steps visually into Star Wars cantina territory.