Cyber Monday: Project Shadowchaser Trilogy

Frank Zagarino dies hard!

Cinemasochism: Black Mangue (2008)

Braindead zombies from Brazil!

The Gweilo Dojo: Furious (1984)

Simon Rhee's bizarre kung fu epic!

Adrenaline Shot: Fire, Ice and Dynamite (1990)

Willy Bogner and Roger Moore stuntfest!

Sci-Fried Theater: Dead Mountaineer's Hotel (1979)

Surreal Russian neo-noir detective epic!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Halloween Havoc: BLEEDER (1983)

"Helvete, kan svenskarna inte vara betrodd med fasa!" That's what you would have heard me yelling... if I knew Swedish. Aside from, if I'm generous, a handful of notable exceptions, you can't trust the Swedes when it comes to horror movies. When they do hit the nail on the proverbial head it can be life-changing. Films such as LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008) and BLOOD TRACKS (1985) are classics of the genre that stand the test of time. Other than that it seems like their horror movies are made by people who have never seen one, but heard about them from a friend. A friend who was half-crocked on hard cider and distracted by the girl two seats down.

In a pre-credit sequence to convey the horror to come, a couple of tweens are slogging through the snow to get to a cottage. They have to get to the cottage soon because they are horny. Along the way they discover a bedsheet with a cross painted on it, topped by a skull with the word "death" written in the snow with black paint. The girl is totally freaked out by this (I guess she has never seen THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT) and the guy thinks it's hilarious. Upon stumbling across a large abandoned mansion, the guy decides to run around in the house and clowning about in one of the windows, his hormonal hyper-activity blunted by the opportunity to act like an 8 year old hopped up on Mountain Dew. Right before this, he tells the girl the story of the house, how a little boy was sick with a "blood disease" which drove his mother insane. She tried to drown them both, but succeeded in only killing herself. For no apparently reason, this guy's dad saved the boy from drowning. Of course, at this point we found out the house isn't actually abandoned, and the solitary resident, a guy who pushes a pram and went to the Anthropophagus School of Beauty grabs him and pulls him away from the window. Cue screams. The end.

Oh damn, that was just the pre-title sequence! We still have another hour to get through. Great. Ok, where to start? After the titles the movie picks up three months later with an all female glam-rock band called the "Rock Cats" are throwing a concert for oh, tens of people. Yeah! Rock and roll! Concerts! Fans! Tour buses! Well, a couple of gigs, a couple of fans (I counted three who cheered) and not so much a bus as a van that promptly breaks down. Sheesh, these guys make Bad News look like fucking Slayer!

Because these girls live the rock star life, they go from gig to gig through the epic, snow-covered wastes of Sweden dressed in their stage uniforms. As luck (or the producer) would have it, no one can find the keys to the trailer where the band has their street clothes, so they'll have to walk to the nearest village looking like they are ready to rock! Along the way they find an abandoned farm house with attached barn that they totally love because it would be perfect for rehearsals. I'm sure this is what every rock band begs their manager for. "Dude! We like totally need an abandoned barn with years dry, frozen animal shit, mold, rodents and plenty of dirt and straw. And none of that hay shit! I have allergies."

These girls sure know how to attract a crowd!

While investigating the house they discover a pram (dun dun duuuuuhhh) with a baby skull in it and some blood splashed on the floor. Cue freak out and the interruption of an unplugged rendition of Creedence Clearwater's "Bad Moon Rising" (I guess someone just saw AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON). This pretty much establishes the pattern of the film. The girls walk and walk and walk, and the girls talk and talk and talk ("my father was chased up a tree by a moose once") until they get to another abandoned dwelling with something creepy in it, then freak out, run away, and go back to walking and talking. At one point cast members do start getting killed off by the pram-pushing nutter who acts like he's doing a live-action rendition of Looney Tunes' Tasmanian Devil; limbs flying, tongue wagging and goofy grins a plenty. Intercut with these somnia-inducing antics is a subplot about a braided-tail haircut mink hunter in a canoe who is following the girl from our pre-title sequence, while talking to the forest ranger on a two-way radio. No good comes of that either. So dull is this outing, it makes CANNIBAL CAMPOUT (1988) seem like PHANTASM II (1988). Like real snow it'll numb you into a state of catatonia that will make anything you watch after it seem like a transcendental acid trip of intense complexity and mind-blowing action. Even the title is a misnomer as nobody does, except for I'm guessing the killer, though it's hard to tell if he's bleeding or simply misused a ketchup bottle.

Look into the face of terror!

I have to give BLEEDER points for presumably being one of the first DTV SOV slasher films on the market. BOARDINGHOUSE (1982) pre-dated it and SLEDGEHAMMER (1983) came out the same year, so that must count for something, right? Yeah, it would if I didn't have to subtract several million points for epically failing to deliver even the most basic of cheap bloodletting. No dull knife with a blood tube along the back, no rit dye and karo syrup splashed across walls, not even the old gag where an item is cut in half and attached to a metal band so that it goes around the actors body and looks like it's impaling them. All the kills are off screen, except for old maniacs-have-super-human-strength neck-breaking bit. In one scene our AnthopoTaz chases after a girl with a knife and then tosses it away before attacking her! The bloodiest the filmmakers ever get is a shot of one of the girls lying on the ground with a trickle of blood painted on the corner of her mouth. Oh, and forget nudity, that ain't happening at all. So what is left? Well, there are plenty of shots of the girls walking away from the camera in very tight pants.

What's interesting is that this was something of a big deal when it came out, being the first of its kind. It is well remembered by Swedish junk cinema fans because of the nostalgia factor, and presumably the very tight pants. The interesting part is that it almost is a template for Mats Helge's priceless slasher film BLOOD TRACKS, which takes all of the same ingredients and produces a righteous feast of boobs, gore, rock, and general insanity where BLEEDER's writer-director Hans Hatwig gives us a wish sandwich. We get the basic idea, but wish there was something in it.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Halloween Havoc: VAMPYRE (1990)

Since I took on Dr. Frankenstein and his creation last week in a double feature review, it seems only appropriate that I tackle vampires this week.  Like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein story, Bram Stoker’s classic Gothic novel about bloodsucking has given plenty of filmmakers a launching pad over the last 100+ years of filmmaking.  They must love this set up even more because all you really need are some cheap fangs, a bottle of stage blood and a cape. Hell, sometimes we only get one of the three plus a cocked eyebrow and the director is good to go.  Today let’s examine one low budget vampire flick that was hoping to put the bite on viewers.

VAMPYRE lets you know it is serious right off the bat by opening with a quote from “A Dream Within a Dream” by Edgar Allan Poe.  These guys are scholars of horror’s written word…or they saw John Carpenter’s THE FOG (1980).  The film proper opens with a young boy wandering around the forest as a voiceover mentions his name is David Gray.  He is accosted by his vampire young sister, who he stakes, and then a vampire lady who should be working in Government as she puts the “bust” in filibuster.  He kills her with a wooden cross to the chest.  We then cut to the Village of Courtempierre, where Dr. Dreyer (John Brent) is counseling vampire queen Marguerite Chopin (Cathy Seyler) about the afterlife of vampires or something. Meanwhile, a mob of angry villagers (well, if you can call three guys a mob) are, naturally, angry because their children are missing.  They ain’t gonna take this no more and storm over to the church where the vampires are and…gently knock on the door!  The doc’s assistant Justin (James Flynn) tells them he isn’t in so they kidnap him and chop off his left leg.  Then grown up David Gray (Randy Scott Rolzer, looking and sounding like a young Mitt Romney) shows up and plants a flimsy cross in the ground to keep the vampires at bay.  Gray tells one guy he will show up when they need him most but only when it is at its worst (“Once the seed has been planted, evil must be allowed to fester and grow.  Only when it has reached its full height can it be cut down again,” he says).  What they hell is going on here?  I have no idea.

“May I tell you about The Book of Mormon?”

An onscreen title informs us it is ten year later and we see some vampire followers holding a sacrifice to bring Marguerite back to life.  Now they chant her name and the blood from their victim raises someone from the ground and it turns out to be…a topless girl in a cape (Elizabeth Carstens).  Definitely not Marguerite. WTF!?!  Anyway, they storm the village and attack everyone.  It sounds like it is time for David Gray to live up to his promise.  Back at Chez Gray, he is lying in a field and his spirit leaves his body.  He wanders into the woods and makes out with cape girl before she kisses him, only to push a snake into his mouth. Damn, Freud would love this dream. Gray makes his way to the village and immediately decides to…rent a room at the local tavern and go to bed.  No rush, Mr. Gray.  The next day Gray is confronted by one of the fathers from the opening, who repeats “she must not die” while handing him a package that says “to be opened upon my death.”  Gee, I wonder what will happen to him.  Yep, he gets shot in the face by one-legged Justin and dies, an event which allows Gray to meet the old man’s daughters Gisele (Marilyn Semerad) and the infected Leone (Joan Kosby).  I guess Gray is supposed to save them. He opens pop’s package and it contains a book with gems like “vampires suck young blood to prolong their shadowy existence.”  Gee, thanks for the hot tip.  Anyway, Gray wanders around doing nothing (Gisele is kidnapped by vampires under his watch) while the village doctor still continues his practice (apparently his true nature is supposed to be hidden, but I can’t see how as he was the only doc in town).  Finally, a dude tells Gray that maybe killing the main vampire will break this vampire spell.  Ya think?

If the set up of VAMPYRE sounds oddly familiar to you, that is because director Bruce G. Hallenbeck is ripping off Carl Dreyer’s VAMPYR (1932).  Truth be told, this new version is almost a remake as Hallenbeck steals everything from Courtempierre to the basic plot set up. But the end result has all of the artistic impact as I would if I decided to record some covers of The Beatles.  Hallenbeck, who is well-known for his books on Hammer horror and vampires, can’t seem to muster enough of that knowledge when it comes to making a good film.  This thing is a mess from script to execution.  Viewers will be left scratching their heads as to just what the hell is going on.  It wasn’t until 15 minutes into the film that I realized this was supposed to be set during a period setting. It doesn’t help that several characters early on are wearing modern blue jeans (see pic above) and that Gray walks around dressed like a 1950s accountant.  I guess the costume designer – if there was one – called in sick.  Viewers are also left completely on their own to figure out who the characters are.  Hell, it wasn’t until an end credit that I found out the random girl in the cape is known simply as “Girl in the Cape.”

“Girl in the Cape” lives up to her billing:

The ultimate insanity though comes in Hallenbeck’s keeping track of day and night.  No joke, scenes unfold in full daylight while characters say, “Don’t retire until dawn comes.” People hold candles while looking out windows into bright sunshine. Characters enter a building in daytime, but then have it nighttime outside the windows once inside.  I’m not sure if they just never got around to filtering the day-for-night scenes, but it is insane.  Doubly insane when you realize the film is about vampires. You know, those nocturnal creatures that can’t stand daylight.  I have a feeling if asked about all of the errors Hallenbeck would simply reply that the film works with dream logic.  “Why doesn’t your film make a lick of sense,” I ask.  “Dream logic, my boy, dream logic,” he replies.  It is a shame too because the film (made for only $20,000 according to the IMDb) does have some good things going for it. It is shot on film, which is always a plus, and Hallenbeck even pulls off some artistic shots.  The film's biggest asset is the shooting location of Eastfield Village, a reconstruction of a 18th/19th century village in East Nassau, New York.  It is a very cool location worthy of a film that could have perfectly capitalized on its natural spookiness. Unfortunately, VAMPYRE isn’t that film.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Halloween Havoc: SHADOWS RUN BLACK (1986)

There is an urban myth that we humans only use 10-20% of our brains. Scientists use 65% of their brains laughing about this alleged fact, 20% being annoyed by it, while the other 15% tries to figure out why this act of hilarity would cause one's buttocks to detach (true story, I read it on the internet). There are many scientific reasons that those men and women of long beards and labcoats have given to prove how mindless this myth is, but I have my own: I forget which movies I have watched over time. Not all of them, just a lot of them.

Clearly the brain has a certain amount of cabinets in the File Room (located next to the Microfiche Oblongata). You can put whatever you want in there, but after a while, some stuff has got to be junked in whole or mostly in part. My memory of seeing NINE DEATHS OF THE NINJA (1985) in a raucous Manhattan theater takes up half a drawer, so something needed to go. The name of the first girl who allowed me to slide into home base? Not a freakin' clue.

When Will sent me an e-mail asking me if I had seen SHADOWS RUN BLACK, I was pretty sure I had seen it, twice in fact. I just couldn't remember a damn thing about it. Obviously I needed to update my files. The plot outline for that great novel I was going to write? Gone. Now I remember what I forgot about this movie: it's not very memorable.

Back in '86 you could damn near release anything horror related on VHS. Video rental shops (remember those? I do. My brother's birthday? Nope.) couldn't jam them out fast enough and really all you needed to do was have someone vaguely menacing in the promo art and you were set! Following this train of thought, we have career editor Howard Heard's first and last directorial effort. A small town is in the midst of a rash of killings by an unknown predator who has been dubbed "The Black Angel". Legendary cop Rydell King (William J. Kulzer, who also produced) has a chip on his shoulder because years ago he tracked down his daughter's kidnapper/killer, and comes on board to help out by completely taking over the case, yelling at potential witnesses and generally flying off the handle at every opportunity.

After the killer takes out a couple up in a mountain cabin with a wrench and a car-hood (both off camera), the cops haul in a college prostitute/junkie named Lee (Terry Congie), who looks so healthy and clean-scrubbed, she'd make soccer moms envious. King is convinced that she knows who the killer is because the killer has been targeting members of her circle of college-girl hooker/druggies! After King gets through giving her the Joe Friday routine, Lee finally gets to go back home... to her birthday party! This is exactly the kind of birthday party I think of when I think "junkie/hooker", complete with magician (John "Magic" Wright) and his stand-up bass playing assistant.

Lee (who suddenly has a completely different hairstyle) helps out with a card-trick involving a deck of tarot cards. Of course the card she picks is the death card! As if that wasn't bad enough, her boyfriend Jimmy (Kevin Costner) is behaving like a drunken asshole. So much of a douchebag is Jimmy, that he actually wants to stay and watch the lamest magic show ever, rather than go skinny dipping with Lee. Naturally after stripping down and swimming around in the buff, our black clad killer shows up and strangles her to death. Now who is the number one suspect? The boyfriend of course!

The press, apparently unaware that the killer already has a nick-name, declares him the "Co-Ed Strangler", in spite of the fact that only one of his victims has been strangled and King is now so frothed up about the killings and finding Jimmy that he is in danger of mussing his hairpiece.

This sort of leads us to the main plot (30 minutes into the film), a girl named Judy who lives with her psychotically protective, older brother Morgan (Shea Porter) and his wife is being stalked by the Black Angel / Co-Ed Strangler. Clearly the killer is a fan of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), as when he calls Judy up all he can think of to say is "I'm coming to get you, Judy." In reaction to this Morgan flips out and beats up Judy's wimpy, allegedly black boyfriend because he's "dangerous". This is a fumbling attempt at making the audience think that there is another possibility for the identity of the killer, as is the scene where Morgan's wife has an affair with his co-worker. Of course, it's so clumsily done you won't even realize that it's an attempt at a red herring until it is suggested out loud at the end of the movie!

The rest of the movie is essentially scene after scene of badly acted, pointless conversations with references made to the laughably absurd prostitution/drug ring, interspersed with some of the most amazingly gratuitous nudity ever presented in a slasher film. No joke, if there was a Golden Bush Award, this movie would totally score. The killer has an amazing ability to show up as soon as one of the girls on his list has removed their clothes. Whether it's because they are about to or have finished with seemingly innocuous sex with their significant other, or just because a women steps out of the shower to go downstairs completely naked to find out why their roommate isn't answering them, he's more punctual than a Berlin train. Also, making coffee is apparently something best to be avoided while in a state of complete undress when you are trying to avoid a killer. Not that any of these girls seem in any way concerned for about the madman that is slaughtering all of their friends! There is so much full-frontal female nudity that it is rather easy to forget what exactly what kind of film you are watching. It almost feels like one of those '60s nudie thrillers like Harold Lea's THE FAT BLACK PUSSYCAT (1963), which has roughly the same plot, if you can call it that.

Made in 1981 and unreleased until 1986 when Kostner was just about to become a big Hollywood name with THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987), the murders are incredibly tame and usually off-screen and it doesn't take a lick of brainpower to figure out who the killer is well before we hit the halfway mark. It is truly amazing that this was made by someone who made their living as an editor. In addition to staggeringly wooden performances, rock-bottom production values, cinematography that makes 35mm look like Super16, the movie looks like it was cobbled together using every scrap of footage that was shot, whether it makes any sense or not. There are huge lapses of continuity, leaving us with a movie could be cut from 88 minutes down to 28 minutes and it wouldn't make any less sense. We don't even find out what the killer's motivation was! We find out who the killer is, but we are left to come up with our own explanations as to why the murders actually happened!

So now you're saying "but is this movie worth my valuable time to watch?" If the screengrabs can't answer that question, I've got nothing for you.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


No, that curious creature to the left isn’t one of my ex-girlfriends.  That is cinema’s very first Frankenstein’s monster as he appeared in FRANKENSTEIN (1910) produced by Edison Studios.  Since that first appearance over a century ago, Frankenstein’s monster and Dracula have been neck-and-bloody-neck in a competition for which horror character has been portrayed more on both the big and little screen.  With its themes of life and death, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a fertile ground that draws filmmakers from all corners of the Earth.  The fact that the character is public domain might also have something to do with it. Today we’ll examine two of the lower budget attempts, both updating their variations for modern audiences by titling their films FRANKENSTEIN REBORN.

Our first entry came from Charles Band’s Full Moon studio. Much like the concurrently-shot THE WEREWOLF REBORN (1998), their stab at the Frankenstein legend was aimed more at kids as part of Band’s ambitious Filmonsters sub-label (which was a planned 12 part series, but only last for these two entries). An obvious attempt to cash in on the lucrative GOOSEBUMPS market, Band certainly had his heart in the right place; meaning, right next to his wallet.  This 45-minute flick wastes no time with the set up as recently-orphaned Anna (Haven Burton) arrives at the isolated castle of her uncle, Victor Frankenstein (Jaason Simmons; yes, with two “a”s).  Victor apparently hates being saddled with the responsibility and tells her she can’t wander around his abode while he does medical research with his assistant Ludwig (George Calin) in the basement.  Anna meets Thomas (Ben Gould), a young groundskeeper, and soon they are sneaking into Victor’s private library and peeking in on his experiments.  Before you can scream “it’s alive,” the medical deviate duo has resurrected a monster (Ethan Wilde) sewn together from various humans that bolts into the woods and starts terrorizing the villagers.

In case you ever forget your surname:

Made during the start of Full Moon’s lean period, FRANKENSTEIN REBORN! was lensed on the cheap in the Romanian countryside.  Like Jeff Burr on the werewolf picture, director David DeCoteau (under the pseudonym Julian Breen) actually turns this negative into a plus as the locations give the film a more authentic feel.  Truthfully, this looks a lot better than it has any right to and DeCoteau and his production team actually give us an impressive looking laboratory. The budget restraints do reveal themselves in the final where the castle burns down in the finale with some CGI flames rendered so terribly that the monster would probably scream, “Fire bad!”  I’d be willing to wager that DeCoteau is a fan of Hammer’s THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) as his monster resembles the Christopher Lee variation from that film with its body wraps and big overcoat.  Of course, this is still a film made for kids so don’t expect anything too challenging, graphic or subversive (hopefully no kids looked up DeCoteau’s filmography post-viewing).  It is basically a Cliffsnotes version of the story.  And by that I mean the story of James Whale’s FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and not the actual source novel.  I just find hope in the idea that some lazy kid opted to rent and watch this instead of reading this for their book report.  “What do you mean Frankenstein didn’t read children’s books,” little Timmy questions after getting an F on his essay.  In the end, this adaptation is just too innocuous to recommend, unless you are a Frankenstein or Full Moon completists (if you’re the latter, I’m sorry).  If you still have a desire to see it, you can pick up a cheap double feature DVD of this and THE WEREWOLF REBORN from the UK.

The Asylum’s FRANKENSTEIN REBORN arrived seven years later.  As you can see, this is a totally different kind of beast as the title features no exclamation point.  Believe it or not, before they took over the world with unwatchable mockbusters, The Asylum produced films that were original stories. Well, original in the sense that they retold stuff like the Frankenstein or werewolf mythos.

The film centers on Dr. Victor Frank (Rhett Giles, aka bootleg Gerard Butler) who is currently incarcerated in a loony bin and telling his story to psychologist Dr. Robert Walton (Thomas Downey, aka bootleg Matt Damon).  The shrink is trying to determine whether Dr. Frank is mentally fit to stand trial for several murders and his outlandish stories aren’t really helping.  Dr. Frank explains that he was working on some pioneering nanotechnology and, via flashback we see how he and his assistant Hank (Jeff Denton) experiment on paraplegic Bryce (Joel Hebner).  In his downtime the good doc has S&M threesomes with his love interest Elizabeth (Eliza Swenson).  Yes, this has all the risqué sex scenes Shelley wanted to put in her book.  Anyway, with fear of losing his trustees grant, Dr. Frank also starts experimenting on himself and this causes a problem when his unsavory desires are picked up by the computer and fed into Bryce’s brain.  When their subject is killed, Dr. Frank and Hank (haha that rhymes) set about trying to resurrect him.  Naturally, they succeed and soon a hulking, killing beast with Dr. Frank’s deviant mental issues is on the loose.

Frankenstein's Monster: The Meth Years

The second FRANKENSTEIN REBORN is the complete antithesis of DeCoteau’s kiddie retelling.  Director Leigh Scott opts for a gory-as-hell reworking of the Frankenstein fable as evidenced by the opening scene where a lady is thrown onto the table by the monster and has her legs ripped off.  For a low budget Frankenstein variation, this definitely sets itself apart with that element and some occasionally decent acting.  And I have to say that I really liked their design for the monster in this one as it sets itself apart from the storied history of Frankenstein’s monsters.  Scott also makes some nice nods toward THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) and THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991).  Now don’t think I am praising this as a classic. It is definitely not.  The direction vacillates from engaging to flatter-than-days-old-soda and Scott even botches the filming of some kills.  But it slings enough grue that I was sufficiently satisfied during its 80-minute running time (the same can also be said for Scott’s THE BEAST OF BRAY ROAD from the same year).  Yes, I’m easy and it caught me at the right moment.  Sadly, The Asylum abandoned this type of film in favor of the drivel that is currently driving the cult movie hipsters crazy on SyFy.  Sad. They coulda been a contender.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Halloween Havoc: DARA'S HOME (2009) aka MACABRE

"Jakarta... shit... still in Jakarta..."
I think that was my mouth that mumbled those words. There wasn't anyone else around that I could see. I had to have been me. The air conditioner whirring, chopping the air, drying the beads of sweat that were boiling on my forehead without cooling the fever in my brain. I don't have a mirror, but if I did, it would be smashed. I knew I shouldn't have taken that Indonesian Yuzna. Two doses of tedium cut with cliche and mono-dimensions. It was some heavy shit. Put the monkey on you. A monkey that howls and bites your ears as if to annoy the very depths of your being, leaving marks that will never allow you forget. I never should have done it, but regret is like a two-bit hooker on a back-alley that I can't afford, neither by way of my wallet nor my psyche. I did it and it's done. I watched the first full-length Mo Brother's film and I can't undo that.

You may remember me babbling about TAKUT (2008) an Indonesian psuedo-anthology that contained an excellent short titled DARA by a couple of guys, Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto, who call themselves The Mo Brothers. I find filmmakers who give themselves nicknames to be more annoying than a hipster on crack, but the short was stylish, tight, and perfectly played out by the cast. A year or so later, no doubt due to the success of the short, The Mo Brothers decided that their follow up would be a... wait for it... feature film based on the short. Not a sequel, not a remake, but a sort of weird melange of the original actors and vague themes from the short inserted into what appears to be a Michael Bay screenplay. "The horror... the horror." Indeed.

A group of friends are on a roadtrip to Jakarta, from some place that is presumably not near Jakarta, and after an altercation in a restaurant, nearly run over a girl standing out in the rain. Hooboy, you know this will not en...zzzzzzzz *snork* whu-huh? Oh yeah, sorry. Yes, the girl, Maya (Imelda Therinne) is a little weird, but since Eko (Dendy Subangil) thinks she's kinda hot, the group grudgingly decides to give her a ride home. Of course home is a little out of the way and as it turns out, is a ways off the highway. Stop me if you've heard this one before. A group of tweens walk into a house... the house is decorated in animal skeleti and Maya introduces her mother, the unblinking, perpetually smiling Dara (Shareefa Daanish). Dara insists that they all stay for dinner. She has a special meal that she wants to prepare for them, in celebration of the safe return of her daughter, who was like two miles away and not even in danger of getting wet since she had an umbrella.

After much akward dialogue, the group agrees to stay for dinner. Adjie (Ario Bayu) and his pregnant fiancee Astrid (Sigi Wimala) decide to relax in a room, Maya and Eko also head upstairs while the rest eat dinner, only to find out that their wine has been drugged and that they are now tied up in the basement. It's no spoiler to say that one by one the kids are killed off until the remainder can get free and fight back. Besides, a life-threatening wound and the loss of several quarts of blood doesn't stop anyone from getting back in the fight.

Firstly you'll notice that instead of the silky, stylish Argento-esque visuals of the short, we now have the faux-cinéma vérité hand-held, grainy "Texas Chainsaw Cam" mixed with Raimi-esque POV shots. Second you will notice that the whole anti-TAMPOPO food-seduction horror of the short is but a distant memory. The only lingering close-ups we get now are of screaming, crying faces and blood-gushing wounds. Not that the latter is bad for a horror movie, but after a while, it gets rather monotonous when there's nothing else to engage with.

Seasoned video veterans will no doubt identify with the experience of forgetting about seeing a movie in the past and slowly realizing that you have seen the movie before while watching it. That pretty much sums up the feeling you'll have with DARA'S HOME on your first go round. In a lot of cases, we have seen it before... only in different movies. The Mo Brother's reference to Argento is here, instead of the lush camerawork (something that I have no problem with others paying homage to), it is represented by the metal stiletto in Dara's hair that looks very similar to the iconic metal peacock feather used by Jessica Harper in SUSPIRIA (1977) and is, in fact, used to stab someone in the neck. Taking the "if we did it once and it was good, doing it two dozen times, will make it great" line of thought, Dara's little head-cock bit, stolen blatantly from Michael Meyers in HALLOWEEN (1978), and trademarked side-long look was kind of cool once, but for some reason they decided to have her do it in EVERY. SINGLE. DAMN. SCENE. The set design seems to be inspired by the TEXAS CHAINSAW remakes, people are tortured while tied to chairs, Dara's fat son slowly licks the face of his female captive, a chainsaw fight, and the list goes on.

Suddenly, near the end of the movie there is some strangely pointless references to Dara being much older than she appears (we find this out because a policeman stumbles across a film projector, already set up, containing an old home movie of Dara training her kids to kill a man tied to a chair). We also find out (*SPOILERS*) that she has been capturing and killing wayward travelers for over 100 years, selling their meat and cellphones (!), to wealthy people who wish to stay young. Apparently babies are best for this as she gives Astrid a tonic at the beginning of the film to induce premature labor, allowing for a charming scene in which Astrid's water breaks all over the floor. None of this adds anything to the film in the final act, except to make you wish that some of the non-plot about the family being older than they look had been handed out earlier in the film. At least it would give the impression that there was more going on than a by-the-numbers torture porn flick that still thinks they are doing something novel by covering a set in fake blood.

Within the past few years The Mo Brothers have contributed to V/H/S/2 (2013) and THE ABCS OF DEATH (2012) and have been hyping their perpetually "coming soon" new project KILLERS (supposedly 2013), which will be their second feature. The only real plot details that are out there are basically it's two guys who nothing alike (one a serial killer, the other a journalist) coming together and entering on a violent "journey of self-discovery". Hopefully by then, I'll have my orders and can go up river.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Halloween Havoc: ZOMBIE: THE RESURRECTION (1998)

Welcome to our fourth annual Halloween Havoc blowout.  Believe it or not, this is the longest running theme on our blog, thanks mostly to it looseness in rules.  Throughout the entire month of October we’ll set our sights on the spooky and the splatter with an emphasis on obscurity.  What the world doesn’t need is another review of HALLOWEEN (1978) or FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980); what it does need are reviews of films so incomprehensible that they make you question all of your life choices. So I’m kicking the entries off in style with something I boldly proclaim will easily be the worst thing reviewed this month.  That is, unless, Tom decides he suddenly needs to watch an Eli Roth movie.

At one point in the early 1990s, Germany seemed like it was going to be the future of horror.  Jörg Buttgereit was wowing fans with NEKROMANTIK; Andreas Schnaas was earning a reputation for his shot-on-video VIOLENT SHIT series; and Olaf Ittenbach was showing off his FX wares in stuff like BLACK PAST and THE BURNING MOON. Unfortunately, this revolution encouraged every German with access to a video camera and a gallon of fake blood to throw their Tyrolean into the ring.  The end results were something like ZOMBIE: THE RESURRECTION, a shot-on-video movie so bad that I completely blocked it from my memory.  That bad news?  Since I couldn’t remember it, I decided to watch it again. Damn you, Herr Alzheimer!

The “film” opens with text over a destroyed city talking about how war broke out in 2015.  A big ass bomb called “Final Destroy” was used and it somehow resurrected the dead. Nice job not living up to your name, Mr. Bomb.  We open with a guy in a green biohazard suit telling a couple to run for their lives in the woods (yes, the green trees are a flourishin’ despite nuclear war).  The biohazard guy is then bitten by a black zombie that looks like Grace Jones on a bender.  The undead eater chomps on him for a few minutes in a scene that goes on and on and on before he shoots the damn thing. We then cut to a group of folks (led by writer/producer/co-director Holger Breiner) also in bio-suits who are running around a dilapidated house looking for survivors.  They find two women and rescue them.  Naturally, someone has to get bit and a few guys go down in the ensuing chaos.  This means more scenes of screaming and blood spurting that goes on and on and on.

More onscreen text informs us that the year is now 2017 and some survivors have made it to safety in the woods.  We then meet Jill (Tanja Reiter), who is swimming nude in the lake.  I guess she was one of the rescued ladies (connecting dots isn’t the filmmakers strong suit) and we see a zombie in white boxer shorts creeping up to her.  Oh, by the way, this is when the title of the film finally comes up.  Yes, the film’s title appears at roughly the 18 and a half minute mark…in a film that runs 55 minutes.  Anyway, she apparently survives (we never see what happens to that zombie approaching her) as she is shacked up in a bunker with Steve (Oliver van Balen), Joe and Anne.  Steve, looking like a bloated Rutger Hauer, decides to head out to a nearby Air Force radio tower to see if he can contact other survivors.  We then get a scene where some random dude is attacked by five zombies and killed.  Yeah, we’ll be getting lots of RDs (random dudes) and random zombies in this one. Back at the bunker, Joe and Anne have sex. Back in the woods, two more RDs get attacked by zombies.  Back at the bunker, Joe gets a survivalist-style shower while Jill complains of their soup which contains snakes and rats. Back in the woods, Steve reaches the communications tower, but we never know what happens as we don’t see him go into it.  Back at the bunker, zombies attack and Joe is killed. Jill and Anne run off and then Anne gets killed.  Some more RDs get killed as well.  Jill gets cornered by some zombies, but is saved by Steve in the nick of zeit.  They walk off hand-in-hand but get confronted by a…wait for it…random zombie. We freeze on their shocked faces. The end!


Knowing that I own this video will give you a peek into just how bad my video habit was at one time.  Yes, there was a point in my life when I saw a listing for a SOV German zombie film that runs less than an hour with no subtitles and I immediately thought, “Gee, I should really check this out.” To add insult to injury, I purchased this from Video Search of Miami back in the day when I paid to be a member to have the “privilege” to order a VHS dupe for $25.  Now to add salt and lemon juice to that injury, the bootleg even had the VCR timer left on (see pics).  Ah, quality.  ZOMBIE: THE RESURRECTION is a torturous affair.  Officially ending at the 50 minute mark (with 5 minutes of credits to pad it to still non-feature length), it seemed like it went on for days even when using the film enhancement button (fast forward) during the laborious zombie attacks.  Co-directors Breiner and Torsten Lakomy have no idea on how to even stage a clever zombie attack.  If you should watch this (please don’t, I beg you) notice in the end attacks how the two women will run into the frame, only to be surprised by zombies popping up in front of them.  Now, I’m no Hitchcock, but wouldn’t screen logic dictate the women would see those zombies on the ground in front of them?  On a technical level, it is a nightmare with terrible camerawork and hissing audio.  Even if my German is rustier than the metal bookshelves in Hitler’s bunker, I still had trouble understanding what characters were saying due to the horrible audio on here.  Truth be told, I’m sure you and your friends have made films very similar to this where you run around the woods and have people attacked.  The only difference is you had to the good sense not to release your weekend exploits commercially.  Believe it or not, this actually got released on DVD in the last few years in an edition limited to 666 copies.  It is now out-of-print.  Consider yourself lucky.