Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Zombiemania is a 2008 Starz! documentary directed by Donna Davies. Featuring interviews with many of the legends of the horror genre, Zombiemania is a great introduction to the field to non-horror fans. However, many undead enthusiasts will be puzzled by the focus on American directors, actors and authors and the total exclusion ( except for Shaun of the Dead) of Fulci or any foreign influences on the field. Additionally, Zombiemania skips entirely any mention of such great films as Return of the Living Dead or Zombie Holocaust or many others. In fact, outside of George Romero's works, not a lot of films are highlighted.
I did appreciate interviews with Max Brooks, author of World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide, and Tom Savini and Gregory Nicotero. Some great coverage of "Zombie walks" are shown and horror video games are mentioned almost in passing.
Basically, Zombiemania is about half of a fantastic documentary. Toolshed verdict: 7 out of 10 viscious vipers.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
BE WARNED! SPOILERS LURKING BELOW!
Carla Moran (Barbara Hershey) has a tough life. Poor, raising a family of three by herself and trying to put memories of abusive men (including her father) behind her, Carla finds her sanity itself being threatened by an unseen force in her home. The Entity is genuinely gripping but founders in the third act.
After telling a friend about the merits of Paranormal Activity (which I'll write about another time), he recommended The Entity, which I'd never viewed before. I can't really compare the two; they are very different films with similar subject matter. However, I couldn't help but be reminded of Speilberg's Poltergeist, filmed slightly later than The Entity.
The Entity can almost be seen as a much darker version Poltergeist. In both films, we're told the story of a family suddenly being assaulted by unseen, malavolent forces in an otherwise normal suburban setting. In The Entity, the attacks are centered on Hershey's Carla. Repeatedly raped, beaten and attacked by the evil force in her home, Carla begins to question her sanity and the nature of her reality. Eventually, she convinces a group of doctors to believe her incredible story and to help her.
Director Sidney J. Furie depicts Carla Moran as a tough, independant woman struggling to make a better life for herself and her family. Hershey's Carla is fully alive. I found myself pulling for Carla and empathizing with her bizarre plight. I enjoyed The Entity chiefly because of the caliber of the actors involved. Ron Silver (Dr. Phil Sneiderman) also turned in a noteworthy performance as Carla's psychiatrist. Sneiderman is initially torn between his earnest desire to help Carla and his knee-jerk reaction to dismiss her story. Complicating matters is his growing feelings for Carla (although that may be just my interpretation).
The Entity has the dubious distinction of it's traumatic assault scenes. These were disturbing on a visceral level and I found them almost unwatchable. Like the rape scene of Last House on the Left though, they were necessary to advance the plot. Be warned, sensitive viewers will be troubled. The "musical sting" that accompanies the entities attacks were really frightening, punctuating the terror depicted.
So, what was all that about falling apart at the end? Just that; The Entity outstays it's welcome and the scenes of the scientists attempting to trap the entity just didn't ring true. And, of course, the requisite "Hollywood" ending felt like a letdown.
Other than that, The Entity is a great film, sort of a psychological thriller with paranormal terrors.
Toolshed verdict? 8/10 mysterious noises under the house.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
They're Zombies! They're Nazis! They're Nazi-Zombies! Yes my blood-thirsty bretheren Dead Snow delivers!
I'm not really sure where I heard of Dead Snow (probably Freddy in Space) but I was hooked at once. Oh sure, there have been Nazi-Zombie movies before, i.e. Shockwaves, Night of the Zombies, Oasis of the Zombies. And there have been Nazi-Zombie books (The Night Boat-Robert R. McCammon) and even Nazi-Zombie video games (Call of Duty: World at War) but that's just not enough of a great concept, is it?
Anywho, I put Dead Snow on my Netflix list at once. I was pretty psyched over it but not quite enough to bump it to #1. And then, lo and behold, Dead Snow gets released to instant view! Thank the Maker! But, is it worth watching, once you look past the (admittedly) super-awesome-funtime Nazi Zombies?
Yup, sure is. Dead Snow is a goofy, funny,gorey, scary rush from director/writer Tommy Wirkola and writer Stig Frode Henriksen. This movie abounds in winks to the horror fan base. Everything from t-shirts, casual remarks and Evil Dead-style "arming up" is in there, kids.
The plot? Seven college kids spend the weekend at a remote, snow-bound cabin yada yada yada. You guys know the score. Anywho,a crusty, crazy mountaineer shows up to warn the victims-to-be about the legendary platoon of blood-thirsty Nazis that made life a living hell for the local Norwegians during Occupation sixty years before. Finally having enough of the beatings, torture and what not, the locals rose up and drove what few Nazis they didn't kill into the mountains. Whereupon, the Nazis(presumably) froze to death. Of course they did but of course, that's not the end of the story. The gang finds hidden loot the Nazi stole from the locals and I'm pretty sure you know what happens next.
I ususally have a tough time getting into foreign films. Sadly, I get too distracted trying to read subtitles when I should be digging the movie. However, Dead Snow was so familiar and campy, I mostly just ignored the dialogue and watched the disembowelings. And, my weren't there lotsa disembowelings? And enough blood to almost fill ten minutes worth of Brain Dead.
So, what else is there to recommend in Dead Snow? The cinematography was gorgeous; lotsa lovely shots of Norwegian fjords and mountains. A good looking cast that seemed to be having a loads of fun.
Anything wrong with Dead Snow? Well, it was just a little too derivative of Sean of the Dead. That was a small hiccup though. I can't see how anyone could write a horror-comedy featuring zombies that won't strongly remind you of Sean.
Toolshed verdict? 9/10 deomonic goosestepping Obersturmfurhers
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Ah, man, where to begin? Severed starts off promising and quickly fizzles, dragging along about 3 times longer than was welcome. Bad, just bad.
I gotta tell you, at first I was intrigued with the creative spin on the slow zombie genre. Severed is set in an isolated logging camp in the Pacific Northwest. It seems that the big bad multinational logging concern was sponsoring genetic engineering on the forest in the hope of increasing yields. Instead, the trees begin developing a mutagenic sap that turns people into mindless 28 Days Later style zombies when introduced into the blood stream. Bad news for the loggers in said camp. Bad news for the hippy protesters chaining themselves to trees. Bad news for the CEO's son, who shows up to find out why production has ceased. Initially, Severed hits the ground running.
Then the sour notes began to hit. Terrible CGI? Oh, you betcha! Gorehounds beware; the bloodsplatters are particularly unconvincing. No one expects topshelf gore effects in low budget films like this but Severed looks like they used MS Paint to draw blood flying around. Speaking of blood, when you completely coat your characters faces in blood, it's tough to tell them apart! Especially with lifeless, one-dimensional characters as presented in Severed.
Action sequences are likewise unconvincing. When battling the zombies, the actors just seemed to be attempting to avoid hurting themselves.
Corny dialogue? Hell yes, corn by the truckload. Every other line made me wince a little. I just had absolutely NO chance to immerse myself in this movie.
Well, I could go on like this for hours but I just don't have it in myself to beat this particular dead horse.
Can I say anything nice about Severed? Well, it's not the worst horror movie I've ever seen. Severed promised a neat original hook but completely choked. Look, no one expects much from a flick that was part of a $10 multipack from Best Buy. So I can't say my expectations were too high. Severed lived right down to them.
Toolshed verdict? 1/10 blood-splattered plaid shirts.