Movies

IMDB, Rammbock“Rammbock” on IMDB

Horror/Thriller – 2010 – 63 Minutes

This film was a selection for BEBE 2016.

This was something of a compromise. We know that some great horror comes from abroad,  yet we still have trouble getting the children to suffer through subtitles. How could they possibly pull themselves away from their phones long enough to read a movie? It was also very highly recommended, but subtitled. It was also very short: just over an hour.

Michael has made the bad decision to head into Berlin to return a key to Gabi, the girlfriend that dumped him. He’s convinced that he can win her back, but when he gets there, she’s not home. He lets himself in to find a kid, Harper, working on her plumbing. Before he can decide how to proceed, all hell breaks loose: an infection is sweeping the city. People turn feral and attack each other. Michael and Harper are able to barricade themselves in the apartment as the rest of the building is overrun.

The story revolves around the few survivors of the building.  They communicate quietly across the common courtyard (noise attracts the infected) and try to work out a plan. How do you get to another apartment? How can you trade resources? Who can you trust? Michael, of course, remains focused on finding Gabi; often to the frustration of his allies. Motivations are clear but, more importantly, the characters act realistically. They earn our sympathy.

The filmmakers use the limited budget very well. The action sequences are well done and, thankfully, not over-done. They’ll remind genre fans of those from “28 Days Later”. The movie could, in fact, easily be considered part of that franchise. The story and character development suffers slightly from the short length, but leaving the audience wanting more is always preferable to boring them.

Even the kids enjoyed this, sub-titles and all. It’s a solid, if not wholly original, story with an interesting slant. Fans of more modern “fast zombie” stories should feel right at home.

IMDB, Bigfoot vs Zombies“Bigfoot vs. Zombies” on IMDB

Horror/Comedy – 2016 – 75 Minutes

This film was a selection for BEBE 2016.

We always try to start our Easter marathon with something less, um… let’s say “intellectual”. We’ve just woken up and are still bleary-eyed, the kids are grumpy and we’re cobbling together a breakfast leftovers, dyed-eggs, pop-tarts and chocolate. Something that we don’t have to pay the strictest attention too is generally best.

This definitely fits that bill.

Ed and Andy are delivering cadavers to a “body farm”, where fresh corpses are left in natural, but controlled, conditions to benefit forensic science. The facility itself has a skeleton crew: there’s a single (mad) scientist, a cute peer/assistant/receptionist/something, the dumbass handyman and the slimy security guard. Oh yeah, there’s Bigfoot too. Bigfoot’s in this. He’s short, weird and looks like he’s covered in partially skinned dogs, but he’s Big “B” Bigfoot, dammit!

The (mad) scientist has been soaking the bodies with something designed to make them… something, and now they’re zombies. Really crappy ones. There’s just no effort made. The zombies are people with loose-fitting masks and what appear to be wigs stolen from old women. At one point the script calls for our heroes to bribe the slimy security guard with pornography. They stacked a bunch of copy paper together and – quite literally – printed out the words “Jugs and Thugz” in black and white. Mormon children could make a more convincing prop.

There’s a fine line between “fun no budget” and “sad no budget” and this shambles around it, but lands definitively on the “sad” side of the line. It’s slow and sloppy and Bigfoot is a complete non-starter. There’s no joy here at all.

 

IMDB, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse“Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse” on IMDB

Horror/Comedy – 2015 – 93 Minutes

We must admit, despite all sense, we were actually excited for this movie when it was announced. The premise was promising: how would a troop of scouts – and be clear: not trademarked and copyright protected “Boy Scouts“, just “scouts” – handle the zombie apocalypse? How would these legendarily prepared youths fare against the truly unexpected?

We never find out. The “troop” in this film is made up exactly three kids, all in their late teens. The characters are poster-board thin and they fall into their slots easily and without complaint. We have the everyman, Ben (Tye Sheridan), who pines for a girl, makes the best peace among his friends and always does the right thing. We have the fool, Carter (Logan Miller), who’s more interested in sex than woodcraft and screams every damn line. Both of them are still in scouts to spare the feelings of Augie (Joey Morgan), the overweight doofus, who hides untapped strength under his lovable naivete.

They have planned their last camping trip together to coincide both with the massive, but secret, senior rave that Carter and Ben are desperate to attend and the zombie plague that an inept janitor releases in a horrifically unfunny, drawn out sequence. When they discover the zombie problem, they join forces with Denise (Sarah Dumont), a cocktail waitress at the strip club that Carter insists they seek shelter in. Together, the group becomes determined to discover the location of the rave and warn their classmates.

The movie does as little as possible with its main premise. Ben whittles a spear at one point and Augie, in a cliche-ridden climax, redeems himself by starting a fire. The rest is a trite teen romp lightly drizzled in blood. It was promising to see a rated “R” zombie movie, for once, but it resulted in was gratuitous zombie nudity and an extended, graphic dick joke that stopped being funny long before it ended.

Furthermore, the movie commits the sin of pretending that having a single “strong” female character means its not sexist as hell. It is. Denise is a strong woman, and Dumont’s performance is as good as the material will allow. She also spends the entire film in a tank top and short-shorts and is forced to do and say ridiculous things in service of a half-assed frat mentality. The few other female characters are there to be nude or, at best, rescued.

The movie wasted, then ignored, its premise and its rating. There were a few – very few – laughs, but the few that worked initially were driven so heavily into the ground that they were ruined long before any kind of mood could be set. Zombie comedies are far from rare; you can and should avoid this one easily.

IMDB, Cooties“Cooties” on IMDB

Horror/Comedy – 2014 – 88 Minutes

Zombie movies have often used infected children or infants to increase tension and create memorable moments (we’ve featured several previously as Zombies of the Week). Movies featuring homicidal children are pretty common as well (we’ve reviewed more than a few of those on our sister site, DepressedPress.com). It’s manipulative to trot out the small versions of ourselves that our entire evolutionary history has convinced us not to kill (no matter how annoying they get) and create an “us or them” situation. It’s manipulative, but effective.

Here we start with something of an adversarial relationship to begin with: teachers and students. Our hero is, specifically, substitute elementary school teacher Clint (Elijah Wood, playing exactly the same character he perfected in Wilfred) who’s recently been forced to move back to his small home town after failing as a writer in New York City. He discovers that his high-school crush (Alison Pill, who is almost completely wasted) also works as a teacher and is dating the completely cliched, overbearing gym teacher (Rainn Wilson, playing Dwight Schrute from The Office). Jack McBrayer also plays, as always, himself.

After our intros, a troublesome morning and a lunch laden with foreshadowing, our teachers are made witness to a recess-of-bloody-death thanks to tainted chicken nuggets that turn all the children into mindless, ravenous cannibals. These scenes are played with enough humor to temper the reality, yet are still more than dark enough to amuse those with more twisted senses of humor. You may feel a little guilty about giggling when a school girl is knocked on her ass by a baseball cannon, but you’ll still giggle anyway.

Unfortunately, despite the promising premise, the actual execution is more mediocre than inspired. The characters are simple and single-dimensional and the challenges they face predictable. There is often tension between the humor and the horror. Instead of the former emerging organically from the latter, transitions seemed forced and lacking rhythm leaving the audience off-balance. The ending, especially, feels forced and loses much of the silliness and fun of the early movie. It’s first drawn-out, then truncated; as if the production just ran out of money (or interest).

It is a fun ride, despite the problems. There are definite high-points that had us laughing out loud, but the overall themes ultimately fail to gel. It has the makings of a great teen slumber party movie. It starts off very strong, but starts to slide at just about the time that the kids will start to goof off and ignore it. After that, there are enough interesting bits for them to look up from their phones for, but nothing so important that it will matter when they inevitably miss it.

IMDB, The Zombie King“The Zombie King” on IMDB

Comedy/Horror – 2013 – 85 Minutes

This British offering walks a drunken, wobbling line between decent zom-com and failure. Embarrassingly, it’s the American “marquee” actors that drag it down the worst. Former child stars Edward Furlong [IMDB] and Corey Feldman [IMDB], both now schlock movie regulars, put in sad, heartless performances.  The first, as a distraught husband seeking to raise his wife from the dead, and the other as the voodoo god he bargains with to do it. Luckily both roles, although pivotal to the story, are marginalized and get very little screen time.

The rest of the movie is rather traditional. We follow a group of survivors as they struggle to stay alive and out of the jaws of a newly arisen zombie horde. There’s a foul-mouthed milk-man who quickly becomes expert at taking out zombies with his milk bottles. There’s a meter-maid-man who styles himself “the law” but more often than not ends up climbing a tree and cowering. They are all led by a hard-nosed mailman whose route across a hoodlum-infested estate has taught him a thing or two about survival.

They eventually meet up with other small groups to discover that the army has quarantined the area and is shooting anything that moves, dead or alive. They join forces to reach the relative safety of a nearby church. There a drunken priest, who is also an expert on Voodoo, explains the situation and provides them with a plan to stop the outbreak.

There are numerous gags and genre references, but unfortunately only about half of them land and only a select few land well. The jokes may be a little trite, but aren’t necessarily bad; the actors just have trouble pulling them off. Special effects are pretty much non-existent with much of the “action” taking place off-camera. Most damning, the “zombies” spend most of their time just looking annoyed.

In contrast, any scene with Furlong or Feldman is played completely straight. Definitely not better, just straight, making these these scenes feel out of place. It’s as if two completely different movies were accidentally edited together. Furlong barely acts at all, delivering all his lines as if he’s halfway through reading a driving manual. Feldman, on the other hand takes his role to ridiculous extremes.

All that sadly said, there is… something, here. A kind of quirky charm, perhaps, or maybe just sentimentality for something that could have been.

IMDB, Maggie“Maggie” on IMDB

Drama/Horror – 2015 – 95 Minutes

I think we can all agree that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s post-political film career has been somewhat… mundane. His several traditional, big-budget action movies have all been good; not great. More pointedly, none of them presented any real challenge or growth opportunities for the actor, although it’s difficult to fault a man in his late sixties for keeping inside his comfort zone; especially when he’s done so well in it. So, why would he choose to do a low-budget, independent drama – albeit one with a zombie twist?

Zombies remain popular, but still only rarely breakout to impact the mass market. Big name talent tends to avoid the genre and there have been only a few exceptions. (In fact, Abigail Breslin, playing the title character, is an alumnus of one them: 2009’s Zombieland.) Add to the mix that this is the first feature for director Henry Hobson and the first writing credit for writer John Scott 3 and  it becomes even less clear what attracted the king of action movies to the project.

What may be most confusing is that this may be Schwarzenegger’s best work to date.

The story, like many other post-peak zombie properties, mixes zombies into another genre – this time family drama. The backstory is told through inference and minimal flashbacks. The world is suffering from a zombie plague, but is still clinging to societal norms. There is no cure for the bitten and families are instructed to deliver them to quarantine centers before the change, which can take as long as several months, where they will be euthanized.

The never-seen centers are rumored to be over-populated, poorly managed and terrifying. The method of execution is revealed to be excruciatingly painful. When Wade’s (Schwarzenegger) daughter is bitten while on a trip he pulls some strings with his local doctor and is allowed to take her home to say goodbye. Maggie’s mother passed away years earlier and there is understandable tension with Wade’s new wife, but it never approaches the trite and lazy “wicked stepmother” vibe.

With very little change, the story could easily be that of a child dying of cancer or any degenerative disease. The zombie angle is leveraged well, but lightly and there is little to no “action” in the piece. It’s a somber exploration of a father’s devotion to his dying daughter and her ultimate acceptance of an inescapable fate. Tension is drawn out expertly from many sources, but always from human interaction and expectation.

As Maggie’s condition degrades Wade is put under pressure from multiple sources to take her to the centers or to handle the issue himself. Schwarzenegger’s performance is nuanced and surprisingly subtle as we agonize with him on the best course of action. There are still wooden moments, but the performance remains his best in decades; perhaps ever. Breslin matches him well, wavering between bravely facing her fate for her family and being naturally terrified of it. Her performance is enhanced greatly by the effective, but subtle, practical make-up effects that mark her transformation.

Unfortunately its unlikely that the movie will attract a larger audience. It’s likely be considered too slow and plodding for most genre fans and too steeped in the genre for fans of mainstream drama. The quiet, introspective story asks a lot, perhaps too much, of its audience. Those willing to put in the effort will enjoy the amazing performances and a deeply human experience.

IMDB, Dead Snow Red vs Dead“Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead” on IMDB

Horror – 2014 – 100 Minutes

The original Dead Snow, released in 2009, was one of the first movies we screened as part of the very first Boiled Eggs and Brain Eaters. In a classic set-up, a group of young friends take a beer-fueled trip into the mountains for some fun in the snow. Unfortunately, once they get there, they raise an army of pissed-off undead nazis. It became an instant household favorite, but it did have a bit of an identity crisis.

The movie begins as a straight, effective horror movie. Perhaps poking a little fun at itself via deftly applied genre cliche, but a straight take nonetheless. There’s enough jump scares, gore and bad decisions to satisfy any horror fan. That all changed in the last act. At that point the movie just goes amazingly, awesomely, absolutely insane. A darkly hilarious “gearing up” montage plays homage to “The Evil Dead” and prepares the audience for a pants-crapping crazy melee between the survivors and the Nazi dead.

The whole sequence launched the movie into a completely different class. The stark white, sun-soaked snow made for an amazing canvas for the splattering of blood and the splaying of severed limbs. The desperation of the survivors juxtaposed with the ridiculousness of the premise created one of the most darkly hilarious scenes in modern horror.

The sequel took everything that worked in that third act and cranked it straight to eleven.

It begins the moment the first film ended and continues the story of our sole survivor, Martin. He still has problems. The police have dismissed his explanation and are holding him responsible for the deaths of his friends. The Nazi zombies, led by the demonic Colonel Herzog, have decided to complete their original mission: march on and destroy a town that was a hotbed of the Norwegian resistance. Along the way he begins raising an army of the undead from his victims.

Through a ridiculous, but hilarious, circumstance Martin is now tied to the Colonel and shares some of his power. He’s the only one with any hope of stopping Herzog. He gains allies as the story progresses, including the “Zombie Squad”, a team of American zombie fans that have never seen a zombie but are absolutely positive that they exist. They’re not what you’d call “effective”, but they do have a hell of a lot of gumption.

The movie is gut-bustingly hilarious and unabashedly dark as hell. You will laugh your ass off and you will feel completely guilty for doing it. For all that, there’s not a mean bone in this movie’s shuffling, reanimated body. It’s bigger, more bombastic and more irreverent than the first in every way. It’s also gorgeously produced and artfully paced. This is the new standard for zombie party movies.