Review: Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis

return of hte living dead 4.jpgA group of teens fight zombies… with dirt bikes!   (The teens have the dirt bikes,  not the zombies).

This is the fourth film in the Return of the Living Dead series, the first of which is a modern day classic.  This one, by contrast, is at best ‘uninspired.’

It feels like an ’80s kids movie.  There’s this group of teens, a jock, a nerd, a computer guy, a hot girl, and some more who are all inexplicably friends (really, these people would never associate with each other in high school).  And they all ride dirt bikes!  Why? Cause dirt bikes are cool, dude!

There’s a medical research facility in town, whom we discover is using Trioxin (the gaseous toxin that makes the dead walk in the Return of the Living Dead universe) to create super-zombie-soldiers.  We’ve seen this concept in a few other films, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Zombies can take more hits to the body, but they’ll still drop with a single headshot; and given that they’re so much slower that a living person, a headshot isn’t hard to achieve.  And that’s not even touching the fact that the dead are stupid and can’t strategize or adapt.

Anyway, one of the teens gets in an accident.  The doctors tell the other teens that  he died; but one of the teens, the hot girl, sees the supposedly dead teen being wheeled into the medical research facility.  By the way, hot girl has a part time job as a security guard at the facility; cause who better than a high school student to guard your dangerous super-soldier research program?

The teens mount a rescue, on dirt bikes, and in the ensuing chaos, an army of walking dead are released.

There’s nothing that needs to be said about the characters.  They’re all base stereotypes with shallow motivation.  The acting was competent, with no one standing out for either positive or negative reasons.

This was a made-for-TV production with a modest budget, so the makeup and gore effects are neither graphic nor particularly well-done; but they’re passable, and they aren’t bad enough to detract from the film.

It’s strange.  I can’t point to any one thing in the movie that’s unforgivably bad; but nothing is good, either.  It’s like the makers of this film managed to reach a perfect balance of minimally acceptable quality.

Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis is a huge let down for fans of the franchise.  Judged on it’s own merits, it’s merely completely forgettable.

Review: Grave Mistake

Produced, Written, and Directed by Shawn Darling.  Starring Shawn Darling.  Editing, Makeup, and Soundtrack by Shawn Darling.

Grave Mistake opens with a drunken fat man dumping chemicals on a few graves, which were placed in the middle of the desert for some reason.  The drunk man then goes home to abuse his child, Alex (Seth Darling), at least physically; though there’s an air of sexual perversion as he beats his son.  I’m not sure if that’s intentional, or just something the actor brought to the roll.

The ‘hero’ is Mike Shaw, a cowardly mechanic.  There’s a scene where he’s talking to the drunk man and mutters ‘beaten any kids lately?’ and when the drunk asks ‘what did you say?’ Shaw bravely responds, ‘nothing.  I was talking to my car.’  Yes, that’s our hero.

Mike Shaw used to be a Navy Seal or something, but he left because something happened and he now feels responsible for killing his squad; but that storyline doesn’t really go anywhere.  If my description sounds vague, just remember that I finished watching the movie five minutes ago and this is all I remember from it.

There’s not a lot of understanding of character arc or emotion.  People react in superficial ways to tragedy, but there are no lasting repressions.  For instance,  a woman’s son turns into a zombie and Mike kills him.  In the next scene, he asks her how she is, and she cries and says she’s sad because he killed her son, but she knows it had to be done.  And then the next line is, ‘so what did you do before you a mechanic?’  As if that would be the first question on her mind and not, ‘are we going to live?’ or ‘where did all these zombies come from?’ or ‘you killed my son, F$@# off!’

The makeup and special effects are actually pretty good, and satisfyingly graphic.  There are some gory scenes of people being eaten alive, and body parts being removed in a variety of ways.

As a movie, its mediocre, with a vapid story and horrendous acting.  As a show reel for someone’s makeup effect work, it’s worthy of an internship.

Hmm, this review needs a stupid, quotable pun.  I know:  Watching this movie would be a Grave Mistake!  Ha!

Review: Night of the Living Dead 3D

I have very little to say about this movie.  It starts the same as the original, with Barb and Johnny driving to a graveyard.  Upon arrival they find zombies.  Johnny flees, leaving Barb to run for her life.  Instead of going straight to the farm house, she makes a detour to a funeral home (what better place to escape the walking dead?) where she meets a grumpy Sid Haig, who tells her to piss off.

Then it’s on to the farmhouse, which now grows pot (cause this remake is like, totally edgy).  Ben, the African American protagonist of the original, is now a twenty-something white guy (because…).  You can tell that the people who made this thing were trying to ‘improve,’ or at least ‘modernize’ the original; but all they managed to do was make it dumber.

The DVD was 2D, so I can’t comment on the technical merits of the 3D, though there were a number of ‘Obnoxious 3D Shots’ throughout the film.  You know, like when someone holds something out to the camera (remember that old SCTV bit?)?

The acting ranged from monotone to okay, and the makeup effects were fine…ish.  The basic plot structure rips off that of Night of the Living Dead; though it manages to strip out all the tension and tack on an awkward ending.

Perhaps if they had created an original story, I would judge it less harshly, and commend it for its effort, if not the results.  But when you choose to remake a classic, you invite comparisons, and by that criteria, this movie failed.  It takes everything that was good about Night of the Living Dead and kills it; and then it injects a bucketload of terrible new ideas.

DVD Review: Revenge of the Living Dead Girls

Revenge of the Living Dead Girls

Retromedia Entertainment

It’s an old story.  Some guy dumps chemical waste in a grave yard, causing the dead to rise and go on a killing spree.  The unique twist in this film is that all the zombies are girls, and their means of killing has a sexual edge to it.

Unfortunately (if that description appeals to you), this French zombie film is something of a mess.

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Blu Ray Review: Zombie Strippers

Zombie Strippers

Sony Pictures

Zombie Strippers is a faux-B-Movie; that is, while it puts on the guise of a low-budget exploitation film, it actually has some money behind it.

Often in such cases, the resulting film is hollow, as those backing the film financially push for a more ‘mainstream,’ and thus less risky product.

Luckily, that’s not the case here.

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DVD Review: Zombie Self-Defense Force

 

Zombie Self-Defense Force

Nihombie! Zombie Trilogy

Switchblade Pictures

 

 

 

When I was eight, I used to end every short story I wrote for school with, ‘and then the Earth blew up and everyone died.’  I wasn’t morbid, I just thought it was cool to end everything with a giant, action movie explosion.  Watching Zombie Self-Defense Force, I can’t help but think that its producers feel the same way.

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Blu Ray Review: The Return of the Living Dead

 

The Return of the Living Dead

MGM

 

 

 

 

1968’s Night of the Living Dead introduced the world to what has come to be known as the ‘zombie movie.’  It was co-written by George Romero, and John Russo, who had a falling out shortly thereafter (possibly over the screw up that resulted in them losing the copyright to the film, and the millions and millions of dollars they lost out on as a result).

Whatever the reason, while Romero proceeded to produce official sequels, like Dawn of the Dead; Russo retained the rights to the words ‘living dead,’ and in 1985 produced this sort-of quisi-official sequel.

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DVD Review: Zombie Dead

 

Zombie Dead

A.K.A. Zonbi Dead

Zen Pictures

 

 

 

Zombie Dead‘s director, Kanzo Matsuura, explains his inspiration for this film on the Zen Pictures website:

This is a series based on,aruguably, a simple concept of a beautiful woman fighting horrible monsters. A number of B-horror films using this idea have been made in the American film industry, but I think they are comparatively rare in Japan. As I really like this genre, I decided to stick to a straightforward narrative in making the film so that no details as to the terrifying zombie make-ups and the beautiful heroine should be neglected. The film’s star Miss Ai Kawanaka has cute looks and big breasts and she is perfect as a heroine of horror movie. The film’s highlight is of course the battles between the heroine and the zombies. Continue reading

DVD Review: Zombie Christ

 

Zombie Christ

Bill Zebub Productions

 

 

 

 

Zombie Christ presents a polemic against Christian dogma as a framing device for frequent, lingering shots of naked women.  The plot, such as it is, is that the corpse of Jesus (now a skeleton with bits of flesh on it) has been resurrected by some Druids, and set to the task of kill his decedents (which, according to the Da Vinci Code, he had with Mary Magdalen).

The ‘hero’ is a middle-aged overweight man named Michael, who is set to the task of protecting one of the descendants, Mary.  It’s from him that we get most of the contra-Christian talking points.  His arguments rest mostly on the fact that early Christians co-opted many of the stories in their religion from earlier ones (the movie presents the Greek god Dionysus as the source, but the Egyptian Osiris shares a lot of similarities as well).  That fact is true, as anyone with a passing familiarity with ancient religions knows, but it’s presented in the movie in a rather uninspired and messy way.

The actor playing Michael delivers his lines like a new school teacher on his first day; preachy and stilted, like he’s rehearsed it in his head a million times, but can’t keep it together in front of an audience.  It’s only made worse by the weak editing that leaves slight pauses between lines.

In the movie, the ‘Jesus’ that is resurrected as a zombie is not the ‘Jesus’ of the Bible, but instead, the real man to whom all of the magical stories were attributed after his death.

That’s all well and good, but unfortunately, the writer of this movie can’t keep even that simple a story straight.  For instance, when a part of the zombie is cut off, it turns into bread.  It’s a cute transubstantiation joke, but if the zombie isn’t supposed to be the Jesus of myth, then it makes no sense.

Aside from the confusion over whether the zombie is Jesus or not, the writer also can’t get a handle on his character.  In one scene, he attacks a priest for molesting children (implying that he is trying to protect the church), then in another he has sex with a nun, while telling her that he didn’t actually die for her sins (trying to tear down the church).

According to IMDB, this is the 21st movie written and directed by Bill Zebub, you’d think he’d have learned to create a basic character sketch by now.

But anyways, this is a movie about naked women, and there are a lot of them.  The entire film is made up of scenes of women being killed by Jesus, which generally happens after they’ve taken their clothes off.  There’s a lot of nudity, and it’s fairly graphic, but there are no scenes with them touching a man in any sexual way (unless you count the skeleton).

The women are all better actors than the men.  I’m pretty sure the entire male cast is made up of friends of the director who just wanted to be on set to leer at naked women.

The video is quite bad.  It’s a non-anamorphic widescreen presentation, and a heavily pixelated one, at that.  Really, if you’re making a movie whose sole value is in the visuals, at least present them well.

I can respect shallow exploitation films, so long as they deliver on their promise, but I’m not sure that this one did.  There are a lot of ladies, but the internet streaming quality video makes that moot, and the promise of a silly (if not offensive) story is derailed by incompetent characterization.

 

Blu Ray Review: High School Of The Dead

 

High School of the Dead

Complete Collection

Sentai Filmworks

 

 

 

No one can accuse the makers of High School of the Dead of thinking too far outside the box.  This show was clearly made by fans of classic zombie movies, but in that way, it’s kind of refreshing.  Recent zombie productions have drifted to the extremes of self parody and depressing realism.  HOTD manages to find an entertaining mix of fun and horror.

The action starts within the first few minutes.  After zombies attack his high school, Komuro and his childhood friend/love interest, Rei, pick up a group of students and the large-breasted school nurse and make a break for it.  After that, the group struggles to survive and escape the zombie-infested city.

Anyone familiar with zombie movies will recognize the steps along the way.  They hide out in places until the zombies overrun them and they have to leave, they find people driven mad from the horror, they steal cars and find/make weapons, etc. But while the plot isn’t ground breaking, it is well executed.  It’s like it takes the best of the best of what I like to see in zombie movies, and assembles it into a satisfying and atmospheric whole.  There’s something to be said for looking at what makes a genre popular, and doing more of it.

If the plot uses old zombie cliches, then the cast is a collection of anime archetypes.  The bland hero, the childhood friend, the nerd, the little girl, the traditional Japanese girl, etc.  But what’s great about this series is that the zombie outbreak effects them in significant and believable ways.

Zombie movies in general tend to get caught up on the natural aversion people have for hurting others; making it a  mental block that people have to fight past, and presenting those who lack said aversion as maniacs.  But I think part of the popularity of zombie movies is that they present a socially acceptable outlet for violent fantasies.  There’s a giant crowd of weak, slow-moving people who are already dead, and will kill you if you do nothing.  It’s the perfect opportunity for people to play out their darkest desires.

High School of the Dead plays up the fun of killing bad guys.  First with Hirano, the nerdy gun otaku.  He was bullied in school, and says at one point that he always kind of wanted to go on a bloody rampage, but didn’t because he wanted a normal life.  Now that that’s impossible, he’s able to live out his dream (and in the process, becomes the hero he never could have before).  Busujima is the female Kendo (sword fighting) expert.  She relates a story about a man who attacked her years earlier.  She was easily able to defeat him, and doing so made her feel powerful and in control.  Since then, she’s had a terrible urge to fight people to regain that feeling.  The zombie outbreak gives her that opportunity.

The combination of zombie and anime cliches play off each other to create a final product that feels a lot more original then it is.  While it doesn’t posses a strong story arc, the pacing and tension level kept me interested throughout.  The characters are likable, and convincing survivors of a zombie apocalypse.  This is the kind of show whose only goal was to be fun, and it succeeds at that.

The animation is on the higher-end of the TV-quality scale.  Music is appropriate, with some very familiar ‘zombie-movie-esque’ background pieces.

There are no real extras included but video is presented uncut, with the original Japanese credits and titles.

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