Posts Tagged ‘undead

05
Apr
09

Dead Snow: The Next Great Zombie Film

The Next big thing in Undead Cinema.

The Next big thing in Undead Cinema.

For those of you who may not know, I have a serious love for anything involving the use of zombies or the undead.  From movies to video games to literature, I am fascinated by how versatile they are in any storytelling medium.  So imagine how excited I was when I first heard about a foreign zombie flick, taking place in the snowy mountains, that feature…(drum roll please)…Nazi Zombies.

Oh yes kids, it’s true.  And you know what is even better?  It is a superb horror flick.

Now, a little history.  There have been some exploitation style movies, back in the 60’s, 70’s and I think even up until the 80’s, that have tackled the idea of having undead nazi soldiers, but most were completely and utterly terrible.  I’m not talking “funny Ha-Ha get drunk with your friends and watch it” terrible.  I’m talking bad to the point of nausea.  For evidence of this, please see (read: download illegally for free) Zombie Lake. /End history lesson.

But enough wasted time establishing the immense uphill battle that Dead Snow faced, and let’s get on with the review.  The plot of Dead snow is a simple one, but simple doesn’t imply that it isn’t well utilized and perfectly solid.  Some 20 somethings are going on vacation, and decide to go up to a cabin in the snowy mountain woods.  The “old crazy story teller guy” warns them of some old wives tale about soldiers who died in these woods surrounding the cabin.  Of course, our 20 somethings, including a great “movie geek guy”, cast him off as a crazy local, and shortly there after, all hell breaks lose in the form, you guessed it, Nazi Zombies.

Fantastic make up on the Nazi Zombies

Fantastic make up on the Nazi Zombies

The magic of Dead Snow isn’t it’s plot though, it’s in the characters and the fantastically rewarding pace.  The group of friends aren’t typical zombie fodder, there isn’t a clear cut stereotypical “slut”, nor is there the guy who is hopelessly in love with a girl he can never get, and there isn’t a clear “dick” character, who is rude and crass but painfully funny and accurate in his social observations.  Instead, everyone character feels a bit more three-dimensional, they all seem to have a good, general sense of wit, and while they each have unique personality traits, like a knack for humor or a knowledge of movies, they come on as more than just TV sitcom characters who are helping to strengthen rigid stereotyping.  Also, characters evolve, something rarely seen in horror today.

The pace is the second most important piece to the Dead Snow puzzle.  From the opening scene, we are treated to classical music as a Jane Doe gets hunted down by our ruthless zombies at night.  This is a great way to introduce people to the movie antagonists without spoiling there appearance, and combining it with a classic misdirection “boo” scare makes it all the more fun.  There is no notion that in order to create good characters, that we the audience can relate to and invest in, we have to stare at them doing mundane things for 45 minutes.  Dead Snow introduces everyone quickly, letting you adapt to their personal behavior and traits on the fly, all the while keeping the tension high by inventing some new and resurrecting some old classic boo scares.  And when the well dries up on tension and suspense, the movie goes into absolute overdrive, providing the kind of kick ass orgy of violence only true horror can deliver.

Sometimes, you just gotta fight back the undead horde with garden tools.

Sometimes, you just gotta fight back the undead horde with garden tools.

The last thing I would like to touch on is the special effects.  Minimal CGI means that lots of fake blood, limbs, and intestines get strewn all over the place, and the choreographing of the fight scenes is so tight and visceral, that it really helps bring you into the struggle.  It’s a scrappy, survivor type of fighting, nothing fancy or cool about it.  It’s a nice contrast to the modern day practice  of ridiculously complicated and illogical battles between good and evil in horror movies, when instead you would just be reduced to dirty tactics and savagery in the case you were ever attacked by the undead.

So, in the interest of keeping this one short and sweet (just how I like my women) I will wrap this up by saying that Dead Snow has all the earmarks of the next big independent horror film, especially in the flooded sub-division of Zombie films.  It shows an intimate knowledge and respect of its’ ancestors, most notably Raimi and Romero, but it also comes packing a slew of original ideas, as well as innovative implementations of standard tricks of the horror movie trade.   It is  unpredictable, direct, funny, unapologetic, and wholly satisfying.

It is at this point in time where you should be googling your ass off trying to find this flick.

BRAINS!!!!!!!!!!

BRAINS!!!!!!!!!!

11
Feb
09

Internet Oddities – Feburary Edition

While I put the finishing touches on my Friday the 13th retrospective in anticipation of what be the most hyped up and possible disastrous remake of all time, I will share with you my recent Internet video findings.  This will be a mix of both upcoming horror trailers, along with some funny stuff.  Enjoy!

YEAH I KNOW YOU ALL HAVE SEEN THIS TRAILER BUT I DON’T CARE.  I CAN’T FUCKING WAIT FOR WATCHMEN!

GET PUMPED KIDS.  FRIDAY THE 13TH IN 2 DAYS, QUICKLY FOLLOWED BY THE WATCHMEN MARCH 6TH!


09
Jan
09

Internet Oddities January 2009

It may be a new year, but there is no shortage of viral lunacy circulating the Internet.  So, while we cook up some new original material behind the scenes, have a gander and kill some brain cells from this garbage, and I mean that in the most flattering way possible.


P.S. I also included some trailers for upcoming flicks I think we should have on our collective radar.




21
Nov
08

Dead Set: A Reality TV Show Zombie Mini-Series

Big Brother is watching...you get eaten by Zombies!

Big Brother is watching...you get eaten by Zombies!

Dead Set is a thrilling mini-series that combines two of the most popular things going in TV and movies today, the reality TV show (in this case Big Brother) and zombies.  The style in which this 5 part story is told is similar to Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later series, complete with shaky camera-work and ravenous, feral running zombies.  Personally, I have found the “28” series of zombie movies very underwhelming, and I also haven’t been too big a fan of the idea of  running zombies.  Dead Set, however similar to the aforementioned films it may be, sets itself apart, and is, as far as I can tell, a hidden gem of a horror genre, at least among American audiences.

Dead Set starts off showing the inner workings of reality television.  It’s sort of a nice behind the scenes look which I’m sure has been slightly exaggerated for dramatic effect, but still feels very genuine.  We are introduced to a gaggle of characters, some more important than others.  You’ll immediately begin playing the “Who’s gonna survive game” in your head, which is always a good thing, because it means the actors and the director have already made empathetic characters early on, which winds up being one of the main reasons this series had me in the clutches of suspense for almost 3 hours.

After we get a look at “Eviction Night”, where one of the house guests is sent home, no longer eligible for the prize that awaits the final contestant, we are plunged into a crisis happening right outside the studio, which is an apparent (and unexplained, a classy touch.  No need to always explain why there is zombies) zombie apocalypse.  Chaos ensues, and different sets of the relatively large cast get separated and wind up having to find ways of surviving in and around the studio.

Seeing as house this is a 5 part mini-series, I was slightly skeptical going in how the director and writers were gonna keep up the frenetic pace they started off with.  Fortunately, a combination of clever nods to classic zombie flicks, interesting scenarios and obstacles, and the rule of “anyone can die at any time” meant that I was fully engaged, and holding my hand over my mouth at the conclusion of each episode that always seemed to be a cliffhanger.

Special effects also helps elevate this to near legendary status, with a COMPLETE ABSENCE OF CGI (FUCK YES) and awesome practical gore such as this incredible exploding head.

BOOM! Headshot.

BOOM! Headshot.

There are other surprises as well, all of them really bloody and particularly brutal.  I won’t ruin them for you, but they rival some of the best kills I’ve ever seen in the genre and really stand out.  Make no mistake, just because this is “made for TV” doesn’t mean it wimps out on the hardcore stuff.   its R-Rated goodness should put smiles on the faces of even some hardened horror fans.

Solid, if not a little trendy, directing, good acting, and a storyline that doesn’t wear out it’s welcome while also exploring many possibilities a shorter, 90 minute zombie flick wouldn’t have time to touch on make Dead Set a solid recommendation for someone wanting zombie goodness, with a European flair.  For zombie fans, this is a must see.

Big Brother is watching, and so should you.

What a story she would have to tell in the diary room.

What a story she would have to tell in the diary room.

26
Oct
08

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue)

Great movie poster.  Blah movie.

Great movie poster. Blah movie.

Let sleeping corpses lie also known as the living dead a the Manchester morgue is yet another fairly well known European zombie flick, no doubt created in the wake of the success of Romero’s American zombie works.  Apparently someone was sleeping (get it, sleeping) when they were studying other zombie movies, because besides a few gnarly scenes, this walking dead romp is lacking in the fundamentals.

Gore specifically.  Sure, you can make a zombie flick without heavily relying on blood and guts to keep the audience interested, but it’s kinda like ice skating uphill.  The very nature of the dead coming back to life to eat the living brings all sorts of wild images into the imagination, and unless your a master at creating atmosphere and a tight, tense story, your going to have to have some seriously gross scenes to keep people squirming, and above all keep them caring.

Acting isn’t to fault here, as you might expect with a foreign, dubbed zombie film.  Our main duo do their jobs adequately, so much so that’s there’s really nothing I can complain about.  I just wish there was more for them in terms of harrowing scenes, violence, and atmosphere to react and be a part of.  The supporting cast isn’t really too important, but I should mention the inspector, who does a great job as being the “non-believer” prick type guy throughout the whole ordeal.

The plot is more than serviceable, as a pair of “hippie” types run into each other at a gas station, then later are accused of murder, for which the real culprit is of course, zombies.  According to this mythos though, zombies don’t show up in photographs, are sometimes referred to as ghosts, can speed up their shuffle walk when need be, and their only weakness is fire.

Directing is kept pretty modest, with a few interesting POV shots and interesting angles, but nothing really pops off the screen and grabs you.  In horror, there’s a major difference between watching and experiencing, and this definitely falls into the category of just something you merely watch.

I was expecting a lot more, especially since Sleeping Corpses has a strong online reputation and following.  For the zombie enthusiast, this is somewhat recommendable, but chances are if your ga-ga about the undead, you have already seen or at least heard of this one.  To the more casual fan, this is easily overlooked, as the European theater of film has literally dozens of superior walking dead titles to choose from.

As for the Inspector I mentioned earlier.  We do get an awesome quote from him though.

“You’re all the same the lot of you, with your long hair and faggot clothes. Drugs, sex, every sort of filth!”

26
Sep
08

Undead or Alive starring Chris Kattan

Close, but no cigar.  Still worth a look for the zombie completist however.

Close, but no cigar. Still worth a look for the zombie completist however.

The combination of the undead, cowboys and indains should be a no-brainer.  I mean, the wild west was one of the most violent and turbulent places the world had ever seen.  So much so, that the legends that were created by stories of shootouts behind corrals and horseback train robbery’s have spawned countless movie interpretations and made stars out of people like Clint Eastwood and “The Duke.”  Zombies have succeeded in having good movies in almost every setting.  The jungle, the suburbs, the country-side, metropolis’s, shopping malls, and even outer space.  But as of yet,  I have not seen a good western zombie mash up.  And while Undead or Alive tries it’s hardest to be that definitive crossover, it falls short of reaching that goal in some key areas.

Let’s start with the plot.

Army deserter Elmer Winslow and local cowboy Luke Budd are on the run after robbing the evil Sheriff Claypool, stealing his money and fleeing the town, they find themselves with an angry posse on their trail. Joining Elmer and Luke is an Apache warrior, who’s out to wreak vengeance on behalf of her decimated people; her plan is to attack the U.S. Army wherever she can find it, and she takes Elmer up on his offer to go with her to the nearest Army outpost he knows. Their plans become complicated when they discover that, as a result of the great Apache Geronimo’s curse on the white man, all the people of the surrounding areas have turned into zombies. Anonymous on imdb.

I have no complaints with this.  Not over-complicated, but it has enough events to warrant the 90 minute run time.  The problems come up when we start getting subplots, like the one of the priest in the town.  So much time was taken up by his plight, and in the end, nothing really came of it.  The zombies in the town don’t factor in at all to our main trio of characters and their finale.

Speaking the of climax, it’s awful.  The movie, as least from my viewing, ends like 5 times.  So many fade to blacks and dramatic last shots make it seem like the directors and writers didn’t know if they wanted to end the film with things not working out to well for our heroes, or with an open-ended sequel ready finish, or with a happy ending.  Instead we see all those endings, and then end up with a weird combination of all of them being our true, final end.

The ever-changing ending wasn’t helped by the film’s tone.  Undead or Alive goes from serious, to satirical, to goofball “national lampoon” comedy, to…I don’t even know.  Just when your settling in, thinking the flick is going to calm down and stick to one mood, your thrown completely off by Chris Kattan (of SNL fame) doing some 3 Stooges level physical comedy.  That makes it sound like I’m bashing Kattan’s performance here, and I’m not.  Kattan and Denton actually make this movie watchable, prying every morsel of fun and charm out of their onscreen persona’s as possible.  Sheriff Claypool is a great villain, and it was a shame that we didn’t see more of him, and less of Sue, the Indian woman and token female member of the outlaw set of Elmer and Luke.

The music in Undead or Alive really is the final blow however.  It just sucks.  There’s no way I can be eloquent about this.  A combination of a soundtrack and a score, it makes my head swirl with anger that they couldn’t just decide to have a score or a soundtrack, and then when they created a hybrid, the music was so annoying it nearly makes the scenes they are played in unwatchable.  If you want a lesson in how to let the audio completely ruin pieces of your film, watch Undead or Alive.

Ironically enough, the producers money that didn’t go into having a descent set of music to accompany their film, apparently went to having amazing special f/x, gore, and make up.  Zombie design is simple yet brilliant, and some of the kills are completely new to me.  Robert Kurtzman of famed KNB effects was the special effects adviser though, which explains why the f/x were so well done.

For the zombie completist, this is worth a rental if only see something new and different.  For all other interested parties, there are much better “zombedies” out there, such as Dead and Breakfast and Shaun of the Dead that deserve your time more than Undead or Alive.  For those waiting for the successful marriage of cowboys, Indians, and the walking dead, we will just have to wait some more.

22
Sep
08

Zombie Flesh Eaters (Zombi 2) directed by Lucio Fulci

Zombi 2) by Lucio Fulci

Zombie Flesh Eaters (aka: Zombi 2) by Lucio Fulci

The story may seem to be your bog standard ‘father is missing on a tropical island, daughter and reporter head to the island to find the father, but find a ton of zombies instead’, but remember: this was made in 1979, Zombie Flesh Eaters (aka: Zombi(e) 2) is the grand-daddy of them all, superseded only by Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978, which is affectionately known as Zombi (1) in Italy).

A seemingly empty boat crawls to shore, past the Statue of Liberty, and is intercepted by the coast guard. Lurking in the boat is a zombie which attacks one of the, rather incompetent, coast guards.

Soon we see the (cute) daughter who’s father apparently owns the boat, he’s nowhere to be seen. In no time she’s teamed up with a reporter and they’re heading off to some deserted island where they meet up with a boat owner and his girlfriend who, mysteriously, likes to scuba-dive topless. Different, if nothing else. Fear not fellow pervs as there is one other scene of boobage from the very pretty (and fit, and doomed) wife of the village Doctor.

Our intrepid (yet doomed) team meet with the Doctor who explains the voodoo that’s been taking place on the island. As is the norm with zombie movies, various memebers of the team are dispatched in simple, yet grizzly, manners. I won’t go any further with the storyline, but suffice to say that there’s a nice twist to the story at the end.

And no, they DON'T say 'braaaaiinnnnsssss'

And no, they DON'T say 'braaaiiinnnssssss'.

Bearing in mind this is a low budget movie – the effects, story and scenery are all very well done for the late 70s. Some obvious dubbing has been done to the movie, but it really doesn’t affect things much. Zombie Flesh Eaters is an excellent movie and, in it’s new colourful widescreen glory, has stood the test of time quite well!