Monday, June 12, 2006


Look, zombie pornography
Is the next big thing.

Hardcore with a heart!
Porn passion without a pulse!
(Like, literally.)

Dead girl on a slab.
Mad scientist above her.
Will they have sex? Yes.

A new limit, breached!
Blood and arousal entwine—
Add queasiness; shake.

Distasteful? Well, yes.
Fake blood for lube is unique,
Not appetizing.

False zombies, fake breasts
La petite morte and more mort
Gentlest of snuff films.

You don’t want blood there!
I cannot watch the whole thing.
Retreat; nausea.

Capsule reviews

  • Nudist Colony of the Dead: A campy musical along the lines of Cannibal: The Musical. Literally campy, actually, since it's set at a religious summer camp built atop a former nudist colony. Attacked by the church, the nudists committed mass suicide rather than see their land taken away. Now, they rise from the grave at the touch of a zealot's foot upon their property. Naked costumes, ethnic stereotypes, unexpectedly impressive gore effects, and charming musical numbers ensue.

  • Attack of the Schoolgirl Zombies: Japanese horror American-style featuring a writhing mass of uniform-clad undead schoolgirls. Looks like a fantastic movie, but unfortunately I've only found it in Japanese. I'm sure it'll be worthy of a full review once I experience it aurally as well as visually.

  • Oasis of the Zombies: Nazi zombies lurk in a nominal oasis, enjoying their hobbies of snarling, occasional staggering, and waiting for attractive young adults to murder. Flashbacks tell the tale of wartime ambushes and star-crossed multicultural lovers. A character named Robert Blabbert elicits giggles.

  • Zombie Nightmare: This eighties clunker was immortalized on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and I urge you to uncover that version. Voodoo brings a baseball bat-wielding dude back from the dead to avenge himself on his careless teenage murderers. Adam West is a corrupt detective on the case. Mike and the bots offer much-needed levity.

  • Carnival of Souls: While not technically a zombie film, this 1962 horror film nevertheless influenced a great many movies. In particular, the famous scene of ghouls emerging from the water directly inspired a similar scene in Romero's Land of the Dead. It's a good scene in a surprisingly good movie, and brings forth some life versus death concepts that zombie movies tend to explore. A horror classic.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Hard Rock Zombies

Directed by Krishna Shah, 1984

Okay. Call your friends, get your casual drug of choice, make some food, and track down a copy of Hard Rock Zombies. I think it replaces Troll 2 as the #1 Bad Movie Night pick.

A (nameless?!) hair metal band (that actually plays corny synth-pop) is on the road trying to make it (maaaan). They're amusing enough...the drummer stands on his stool spinning his sticks most of the time, the sensitive frontman has a mullet + moustache combo to die for, and they like to spend their free time frolicking and practicing mime (really). However, after the show a young girl ominously warns them not to continue on their tour.

"The gig is waaaaack...the sound guy suuuuucks, and you won't get paiiiiid"

(not really)

In the hick town of Grand Guignol, they end up staying at a big old house with a family who is like the Addams Family meets the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. With midgets. Hijinx ensue (both funny and "funny"), but after awhile the lo-fi production and the lack of any actual zombies begin to grate. That is, until about halfway through when the movie goes COMPLETELY OFF THE RAILS.

Okay, you guys. Are you ready? You can stop reading now if you don't want me to spoil Hard Rock Zombies for you. Okay. So the band's manager is having dinner with the creepy family (the band having already been murdered at this point, if I forgot to mention it). The patriarch is a 95-year old German dude who still bumps fuzzies with his wife ("And our freakish midget grandchildren want to watch? How could I say nein?!"). In the middle of dinner, the Nazi Alarm goes off, and he rips off his face Scooby Doo-style to reveal...yes, yes, HITLER. And, OMG you guys, not only is Hitler behind everything, but he is in cahoots with WEREWOLF EVA BRAUN.

Obviously the rockers cannot let this stand, so they come back from the grave to fight back. Even better, they are not sporting zombie make-up, but KISS MAKE-UP. Really.

I won't pore over the rest of the ridiculousness, but I can't let the ending go un-noted. How does one kill Hitler and his Nazi Zombies? YOU FUCKING GAS HIM IN HIS OWN GAS CHAMBER, THAT'S HOW. Yeah. They did it.

Zombie explanation: HITLER.

Favorite Zombie: That would have to be Phil Fondacaro's character. What's the only way to trump the zombie vs. shark scene from Zombi 2? MIDGET NAZI ZOMBIE VS. COW, THAT'S HOW.

Phil, I'm truly sorry that you had to be involved in this debacle. As Maddie put it, "I feel like this movie touched me in a bad place." Enjoy.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis

Directed by Ellory Elkayem, 2005

In a move of unprecedented economy, Ellory Elkayem (New Zealand-born director of Eight Legged Freaks) apparently added two sequels to the Return of the Living Dead series in one fell swoop. Same cast, filmed at the same time, in the same place (Romania). Different movies.

The first one, Necropolis, involves a gang of high school seniors trying to rescue their friend from an evil megacorporation that's (of course) building a zombie army to take over the world. One of the friends (of course) has a part-time job as a security guard at the corporate research facility, so a'infiltratin' we will go. Hackers meets the O.C. meets zombies, basically.

Let's not mince words -- this is a bad movie. It had so much potential: great special effects, good-looking shots, zombie bums played by Eastern Europeans, etc. However (just like the zombies themselves!) something went wrong and instead of a fun movie there is a soulless, shambling thing that takes too long to die.

My guess is that the director is trying to avoid horror movie cliches, to zag whenver you expect him to zig. Instead of creating any sort of tension, however, he sets up plot points and then tosses them away nonsensically. Pyromaniac baby brother who knows how to make bombs and then somehow infiltrates the research facility before the heroes do? Nope, he doesn't save the day, he just dies without ceremony. Orphaned kid finds out that his parents have been resurrected as Borg-like super soldiers? Nope, they don't help him out with the zombie invasion or do any super soldiering. Elkayem takes David Mamet's "if a gun is shown in the first act, it will be fired in the third" axiom and says, "What gun? There was a gun? Oh yeah, that fell out of dude's pocket in act two."

We watched this on the heels of Hood of the Dead, and the two are polar opposites. Hood has flow and tension and cares about its characters, and gets things done on a shoestring budget. This feels flat and rushed, with no stakes. I only wish that the Quiroz Bros. who did Hood had the money and cinematographic chops that went into Necropolis.

That said, we haven't tracked down the companion piece Return of the Living Dead 5: Rave To the Grave, and I'm actually interested in doing so. It sounds like a more fun plot (zombie-making drugs on a college campus!) and I hope Elkayem redeems himself.

Zombie explanation: The last few vats of Trioxin (the military-developed chemical referenced in earlier Return of the Living Dead movies), which somehow ended up at Chernobyl.

Gratuitous zombie movie in-joke: One of the girls is inexplicably nicknamed Romero. Groan.

Also, "Send more security guards!" but that one was pretty good.

Saving grace: The fake commercial that opens the movie is the best part ("Hybratech: not a single recorded zombie outbreak in ten years"). I would have ended the movie with a dude writing on a whiteboard:

"Days since a work-related zombie incident: 0"

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Hood of the Living Dead

Written and directed by Ed and Jose Quiroz, 2005

Hood of the Living Dead had a lot to live up to even before the opening credits began. First, any play on "...of the living dead" invokes His Holiness Mr. Romero and instantly sets up a high standard to which many movies cannot afford to aspire. And second, my movie-watching companion professed doubt that any urban horror film would surpass the seminal Leprechaun In the Hood. Skeptical, we settled in to watch.

We were rewarded with a surprisingly sincere and good-hearted zombie film. Oh, certainly the budget is low, and of course the directors' amateurs friends populate the cast, but Hood of the Living Dead loves zombie cinema. Cheap? Yeah. But when it’s this cheap, you can clearly ee where LOVE holds it together.

Ricky works in a lab during the day and as a surrogate parent to his younger brother at night. He dreams of moving out of Oakland. Before this planned escape, however, his brother is shot to death in a drive-by. Ricky's keen scientific mind presents an option superior to CPR or 911: injections of his lab's experimental regenerative formula. Sadly, little bro wakes up in an ambulance as a bloodthirsty Oakland zombie! Chaos and mayhem! I think it's more economical to eat your enemies than take vengeance in a drive-by, but then again, I'm a poor judge of the complexities of urban life. (How poor a judge? In response to a gory scene involving four men, I opined "Ah-ha! White t-shirts on everyone so the blood shows up. Economical! I used the same technique in my own low-budget horror film." Jordan replied, "No, that's gang dress. White t-shirts were banned from New Orleans bars for a time as a result." Oh.)

A lot of the movie is set in someone's living room, so there's a great deal of hanging out and waiting for the zombies. But the characters are sympathetic and the movie is sincere-- it surpasses its budget in spirit.

Zombie explanation: When man plays God, zombies arise! Or, perhaps: Follow FDA-approved testing rules before human experimentation!

Contribution to the zombie canon: This is the first zombie movie I've seen with a drive-by shooting. As far as the actual zombies go, infection is spread with a bite as usual, but quite unusually head shots don't work-- it's heart shots that kill. Zombies have pulses, the absence of which proves true death. And these zombies make pretty cool jaguar-growl noises.

Gratuitous zombie movie in-joke: A mercenary named Romero. Groan.

Favorite zombie: Jaguar-noise little brother zombie, of course!

Zombie Honeymoon

Directed by David Gebroe, 2004

Zombie Honeymoon official website

Zombie Honeymoon is a surprisingly sweet love story that just happens to include a bit of zombie in it. Once the initial psychobilly furor calms down and it focuses on the young newlyweds, it's easy to overlook the husband's zombie bite and appreciate the psychology of relationships. In fact, as we watched we felt that zombies seemed inserted into the story as an analogy for something else. My theory was that the ongoing tension between a living wife and an undead husband echoed an abusive relationship. However, as bonus materials on the disc show, Zombie Honeymoon was made for the director's sister, whose husband died shortly after their wedding. This is probably why the movie captures the grieving process so uncannily. It's really touching.

Things I particularly liked:
  • The couple starts out vegetarian, which is always a nice counterpoint to cannibalism.
  • The first zombie's appearance is quite creepy. He slowly floats through the ocean waves, initially unidentifiable, finally rotten and threatening. We giggled and posited that a zombie had escaped from Shock Waves.
  • This is quite possibly the first time we've witnessed a feasting zombie protesting “it’s not what it looks like!”
  • Zombie movie shout-out: a video store clerk wears a Zombi 2 shirt.
  • The slow descent into zombification is compared to fatal illness in the film's IMDB write-up, but the inherent animosity of zombies clears the way for the survivor to wish guiltlessly for the zombie's death. It's a strange way to commemorate one's dead brother-in-law (even though his representative character is very sincere and truly wants to protect his wife from his appetite).

Zombie explanation: Just being bitten won't do it; these zombies have a specific life cycle. At the end of their feeding phase, as they start to rot beyond the ability to hunt, they vomit contagious zombie ooze into their victims' mouths. It's an odd viral tic, but after the crazed biology of the zombie-alien-things in Slither, I will never again complain about zombie biology.

Contribution to the zombie canon: The movie is an incredibly sincere and accurate depiction of zombie survivor psychology when losing a loved one, though the slow corruption differs from traditional films. This zombie knows what's happening to him and he's even able to hide it from his beloved wife for a while. Technically, there's also living-undead sex. There aren't a lot of zombie love stories (and I don't mean living love set against a backdrop of zombies as in Shaun of the Dead-- I mean the exploration of love in spite of zombiedom as in Cemetery Man, Day of the Dead 2, Night of the Living Dorks, Return of the Living Dead 2, and possibly RotLD), so I appreciate additions to the genre.

Favorite moment: Well, I got a little teary-eyed at the romantic candlelight dinner. I'm going to break my tradition of spoiling the hell out of these films because this one is worth seeing on multiple levels and I think you'd enjoy this moment unspoiled.

Favorite zombie: Why, the cute emo surfer husband zombie, of course. He loves his pretty wife and wants to make all their dreams come true. He's just so hungry.