Anna – Zombie Short Film

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Anna – Zombie short film

This short is just five minutes long, so why not have a quick look before reading the review.

Click here in case the embed doesn’t work.

The Good
Recently I posted an image of a vegan zombie. It’s an example of zombies that tend to maintain something of their original personalities. We’ve seen this in movies like Land of the Dead, Return of the Living Dead, and a number of other films. It’s a way of making the creatures deeper characters or at least to use them for some sort of social commentary.

This movie took that idea and extended it in an interesting way. The main character was suffering from anorexia causing her to binge and purge. It’s an interesting take on the zombie genre in that the zombie is typically a binger, gobbling up as much material as possible to feed an insatiable hunger. This, despite the ingested material doing them no real good. After all they don’t process food or need it for energy.

The film attempts to shine a light on a very serious issue, in this case a real life horror, through the lens of the horror genre. At just five minutes long, it was a nice sketch for what could be a longer, better story.

The Bad
It suffers from the same sort of things that hold back most student films. Shots are not particularly well composed. Staging is often clunky and acting a bit forced. There’s an over reliance on showing everything graphically justified by the level of horror meant to be imbued that could actually be conveyed more effectively through more suggestive imagery that lets the user’s imagination come into play.

The Ugly
There’s a temptation or a habit to aggrandize small productions to make them seem bigger and better than they are. When Matthew Forte, one of the creators messaged me about this movie he described he and his brother as: “one of the most exciting filmmaking forces to recently emerge in the world of indie horror.”
And the film as, “gripping and horrific from the first frame to the last.”

Honestly, I like the movie and Matt seems like a good guy.  I mention this because I’ve fallen into the same trap. I’m terrible at self promotion and often try to write short, descriptive lines about my projects that convey how great they are. It’s sort of the nature of trying to have your project stand out amid all the noise. I mean how many zombie shorts are out there now? The novelty has seriously worn off. This seems more a comment about the things creators have to do to get notices than about the way we perceive our own work.

 

 

The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods is an amazing movie that I kept putting off watching because the plot got spoiled for me. You know how it is, you keep hoping you’ll forget so you can watch it feeling fresh?

Yeah. You never forget.

So, if you haven’t seen it yet, don’t read past the poster.

It’s an amazing horror comedy that takes a deep look at the entire horror genre.

cabin-in-the-woods

The Poster
I love the simplicity of the poster design. It illustrates the title clearly and gives us the understanding that there is something seriously wrong with that cabin. The sheer size of the cabin depicted makes me really think of a three-story home but it’s clearly, stylistically a cabin and you’d be lead to believe there are probably all sorts of labyrinthine twists and turns, within its walls.

And you’d be right.

The Good
I don’t really want to say too much about this because I’ll end up sounding like a drooling fanboy. Too late!

The soundtrack is fantastic, the casting is great, the makeup and special effects for the zombies and most of the other creatures are amazing. (Love that merman.) Plus to top it all off we have Sigourney Weaver’s cameo which is perfection!

The story plays on all the classic tropes and cliche’s of the horror genre. It drops them in a blender and throws them back at you in a way that’s not particularly surprising but a hell of a lot of fun. It’s very much like a combination of the Truman show and every horror movie I’ve ever watched.

The number of references to the horror genre are legion and as much fun as it would be to write them all here, the good folks at GoodBadFlicks have already done that for us and I defer to them. Except the one thing I don’t think they mentioned was how the “elder gods” in the movie is a clear reference to H. P. Lovecraft and Cthulu.

The Bad
The copy of the movie I saw had one major flaw. It’s way too dark. At some point the release was delayed for a number of reasons, one of which was to convert it to 3D. Unfortunately the 3D conversion process can often screw up the way a movie looks if it wasn’t actually filmed in 3D. So in many scenes, most noticeably the night scenes, (which is like a third of the movie,) it’s actually pretty hard to get a look at anything clearly.

I don’t hate 3D, but I’m not a fan of it either and I’m definitely not a fan of damaging a films integrity just for a gimmick.

The Ugly
Due to MGM filing for chapter eleven, a tie in with the game “Left for Dead” fell through. This caused the movie to be released several years after it was shot but the tie-in characters from Left for Dead can still be seen in the Cube-like elevator cages.

Nights of Terror

This movie title could be misleading as it has apparently been released under a number of different titles including Zombi 3, Burial Ground, Nights of Terror, Zombi Horror, The Zombie Dead and its original Italian title Le Notti Del Terrore which seems closest to Nights of Terror.

burial-ground
The Poster
The imagery is pretty classic, shadowing figures menacing the viewer, a stark wasteland and a glowing red moon in the sky. We have the classic hand of the dead bursting through the ground and there staring us down is the face of horror. Bits of flesh still cling to its face, muscle and bone exposed in other places. It’s gleaming skull looking metallic, unbreakable and unstoppable.

Without a closer look it’s a great work of horror art but I wonder why all the figures are simply standing still. Not one of them is making a move to come at us. And for me the moon? is a little too much like the sun, or possibly a very juicy orange. Still, if I were looking for a horror flick to pick up in a 1980’s video store, this would probably get my attention. And after all, that’s what the art was made for, to stand out among the other firms on the shelves of whatever video rental shop you happened to be at.

The Good
The plot revolves around a family in a mansion where a scientist had been working. His research unwittingly unleashed the dead who promptly consumed him and then decided to dine on everyone else.

The villa the movie was shot in has the classic feel of a lot of horror films and games. I’m reminded of the mansion from Resident Evil.

The Bad
There are some seriously terrible transitions and shots in this movie.
Early in the movie the mother of the boy Michael pokes her head into his room to see if he’s ok. He’s covered entirely by blankets except for his head. The mother ducks back out of the room and the camera returns to Michael’s face. His eyes bulge open and suddenly the film cuts to the scantily clad ass of another character doing a sexy dance for her man.

I almost snorted my coffee through my nose when I saw this. The “kid” is actually a twenty-five year old who was cast in order for the film makers to avoid some of the rules regarding the use of children in scenes of violence and sexuality. Fair enough, but that hair cut is ridiculous.

He looks like the guy from the Starburst Berries and Cream ad.

Can hardly tell the difference. Amiright?

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There’s a seriously weird incestuous thing about this kid where he starts feeling up his mother and you have the feeling she’s half into it before finally pushing him away.

The Ugly
Some of the shots of zombies look well enough in certain shots. There are real maggots being used on the creature’s faces. But for the most part they don’t do much to terrify. They seem more like Halloween decorations than anything else.

It’s notable that there are plenty of shots of the dead walking around in broad daylight or in well-lit rooms. Where this helps us see them more clearly it also means we can see the makeup for what it is more clearly as well.

As with many of the Italian zombie flicks, these zombies are not simply dead things running around eating people. They reason, use weapons, even set traps to kill the people in the house.
The movie ends.

That’s it. Everyone gets eaten and the movie is over with no real understanding of why these things were up and about doing their thing and no real message or metaphor. The movie is literally just some mild sex and violence and not much else.

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue

This movie has also been called Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. The copy I found via YouTube was titled The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue. Internationally over the course of several years, the film was released under fifteen different titles.

Sheesh!

If you haven’t seen it yet beware the spoilers below and I’ll save you a bit of time by saying, yes, it’s worth watching; not a bad piece of horror at all.

Do_Not_Speak_Ill_of_the_Dead_poster274full-let-sleeping-corpses-lie-(the-living-dead-at-manchester-morgue)-posterThe Poster
These two posters are perhaps my favorites. The one on the left is the original theatrical release poster and reads: No Profanar El Sueno De Los Muertos or Don’t Speak Ill of the Dead.

Very cool.

The artwork is creepy and the stripped down imagery feels modern for the time. With a line of corpses or corpselike figures coming towards the viewer in a seemingly endless stream we just know this doesn’t mean good for anyone involved.

Something about it feels a bit like a Mike Mignola illustration.

The Good 

  •  The plot revolves around a young man and woman, George and Edna, traveling through the English countryside after Edna crashes into the George’s motorcycle forcing the two together. They quickly fall foul of the police who suspect they are responsible for a series of murders which are actually being carried out by the undead who have been brought back to life accidentally as the result of an experimental machine used as an alternative to pesticide by some local farmers.

    The machine works on very basic nervous systems like those of insects and it makes them go crazy tearing each other apart. It also turns out to work on babies and the recently dead who are then somehow able to bring back the not-so-recently-deceased.

    This is a Cassandra-like tragedy where the main characters know what’s going on and try to warn people or elicit their help but no one believes them.

    I have to say that the lack of romantic connection and the incredible ending were actually two of the best choices for the film and make a fairly cliche film feel a bit more original.

  • The sound design is nicely done as well with a haunting sound track of ambient noise and music as well as some gruesome noises created when the dead are nearby. It’s a bit much to really be coming from one of them but it creates an incredible atmosphere and is used to good effect.
  •  It’s beautifully shot. Most of the setting and imagery outdoors was well framed with rich color saturation that I just fell in love with. Though the film takes place in England, most of the movie was actually shot in Italy with  just a few locations created in Britain.
  • Despite how slow and shambling the zombies are, they feel threatening in a very realistic way. It’s like being in a dream and not being able to run or run fast enough to get away from whatever is chasing you. No matter what you do, the threat slowly keeps coming at you.

The Bad

  • Like a lot of movies from the time, and let’s be honest from today as well, it relies on some funny science that’s been shoehorned around supporting the plot. Honestly it doesn’t bother me much at all as I like getting into the mindset of the time period. More often than not these kind of explanations reflect the popular science stories of the time. That’s why you always hear Bones talking about adrenaline on the original Star Trek. Adrenaline was a hot topic at the time just like DNA and cloning have been since the 90’s. The difficulty is that for modern audiences the science seems a bit silly after a certain time and ends up dating the film.
  • I’d have to look into it but I have the feeling that when bodies were transported in 1970’s England they weren’t put in mysterious silver space-boxes with windows on multiple sides as we see this morgue using. This detail jumps out at the viewer and jars the sense of realism in an unsatisfying way.
  • Although I like most of the soundtrack there are times where the dated nature of the music really interferes with my enjoyment. Instead of building tension it simply reminds me of watching educational programs from the seventies and eighties.

The Ugly

  •  Boobs. Boobs? Boobs!
    There’s this odd scene in the beginning where a young woman runs naked through traffic. I suppose it was meant to signify the culture of the town of the time with the 70’s in full swing and all but other than a quick excuse for some T&A I can’t figure out what it was even doing in the movie. Was it meant to disarm us or throw us off our guard? Did it represent the counterculture or the perception of young people as wild hedonists?
  • It doesn’t actually have anything to do with Manchester.
    It’s understandable that films like this get shopped around and have their titles changed for international audiences. In this case the British release title includes the Manchester Morgue although the story doesn’t take place in Manchester. It takes place in South Gate. This would be like an American movie being called the Boston Morgue Murders but actually never taking place in Boston. For audiences it would definitely seem a bit strange.
  • Cliche
    There are small plot points that are a bit cliche. When a person important to the plot just happens to be in the right place at the right time it’s to move the story forward and advance the plot. This can be pretty unrealistic though like when George is at the asylum. A nurse gets hurt and the doctor simply hands her off to George, a total stranger saying “Look after her.” Moments later George is there interacting with the baby that injured the nurse. It moves the story forward and informs the viewer but it doesn’t feel at all realistic.

    All in all this was a great flick to spend an hour or so with.

Blood of Ghastly Horror

It’s been a while since I had a chance to sit down with a bad old horror movie and just fall in love with it. Being as such, I’m likely to be a bit softer on this review than I might otherwise be.

Blood-of-Ghastly-Horror
The Poster
The poster, at least this version of it, is pretty sweet. Maybe just by accident but the stripped down style is pretty direct. Three colors, black (ish), white and red. It’s like a White Stripes video!

Ok, I’m reaching. I do like it in a campily classic sort of way. The buxom blonde in her nighty threatened by the horror of the undead is an awesome staple of these kinds of flicks. We also have the mad scientist dealing with his undead creation in the background.

Can you dig the glass coffin?

Ok so the placement of the figures is a bit off. The zombie on the left isn’t actually facing the woman. Look at his feet, they aren’t pointing at her at all. Maybe it’s intentional, as if he might stumble right by her and come after the viewer instead. The zombie in the background though is definitely making eyes at her so I think maybe he’s got a shot.

The Good
This might actually be the worst movie ever made that still maintains some level of entertainment value. The badly put together flashbacks, goofy dated music and acting is so far out there this movie is PERFECT viewing when you and  your movie loving buddies are a few drinks in and ready to laugh at the first half of the movie and stop paying attention after that only to tune in occasionally and say “WTF is going on here?”

So if you lost the plot like I did I’ll fill you in at least a little bit. A Vietnam soldier was shot and left brain dead only to be reanimated by a pioneering doctor who developed a way to help the brain take over the functions of the damaged section. All well and good but the person the experiment was done on wakes up a psycho killer. Then a lot of other things happen. (Yep.)

The Bad
The acting. 
Right off the bat we get some pretty unrealistic killings by a zombie with some serious ninja skills. He sneaks up COMPLETELY silently as no-one notices him at all. He kills about five people in the space of a minute by choking them to death.

Not only does he choke them but he does it FAST! The fist pair he does at the same time; killing a john and a hooker who goes crosseyed like crazy. It’s actually pretty comical.

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Are these guys even zombies? Do they eat their victims? This isn’t the first zombie flick I’ve written about where the dead, though zombified, don’t eat the living. It actually seems to be a staple of the time and the influence of the zombie’s origin in voodoo culture which is directly referenced here.

This movie is FULL of incredible signs of the low budget poorly planned and acted schlock of the era. Plot points are jumped to with little realism or clear flow and the dialogue is often stiffer and less lifelike than the zombies.

I couldn’t help but feel there was a real parallel between Bella Lugosi appearing in Plan 9 and David Carradine appearing in this.

The Ugly
So apparently this movie got kicked around a lot in different forms. Originally shot as a crime drama called “Psycho a Go Go” in 1965 it was later recut with new footage and called “The Fiend with the Electronic Brain,” before more extra footage was added and it was released in the form we are dealing with here that includes zombies. This 1972 film is the “Blood of Ghastly Horror” whatever that means.

Looking about online I found a couple different versions of that sequence but whatever happened it’s a good example of how a lot of these low budget flicks could get kicked around, recut and reedited to make totally different movies. Since they would run with limited releases it would be unlikely people would notice or even care.

Today, we see bits lifted from other movies still happening. There was the 90’s debacle when Star Trek Generations lifted the climactic effects shots from Star Trek VI and more recently when Michael Bay lifted footage from his own movie the Island to be reused in Transformers. Perhaps the worst example of a director recutting his movie and adding extra footage is the original Star Wars movies. I finally saw the fully restored version put together by fans recently and WOW! It’s a totally different film. It’s WAY better than anything I remember from growing up.

It’s ugly but it’s part of the industry.

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Hellraiser

This Halloween I took a little time to watch this classic horror flick.

hellraiser

The Good:
Hell raiser became a classic of the horror genre for two reasons, the story is great, the special effects are amazing.

The story is pretty simple, someone buys a cursed item from a wise old eastern man that turns out to lead to terrible or evil problems. Sound familiar? If you’ve ever heard of the monkey paw or seen Gremlins you’ll know what I mean.

simpsons-monkey-paw2 gremlins-1984-chinatown-shop

Hellraiser gives us the puzzle box, the opening of which opens a portal to hell and incredible suffering at the hands of demons called cenobites. The word cenobite actually means a member of a monastic community, (late Middle English: from Old French cenobite or ecclesiastical Latin coenobita, via late Latin from Greek koinobion convent, from koinos common + bios life.’)

So we can think of them as a clutch of monks who worship pain. It’s stated in the movie that they are: “Explorers… in the further regions of experience. Demons to some, angels to others.” Basically huge emo kids.

So a man named Frank opens the box and is sucked into the world of the cenobites. The house where it happened is later occupied by the man’s brother and wife. When the brother cuts his hand badly and bleeding all over the place, the blood is enough to start bringing Frank back into this world.

The wife, we learn, had an intensely sexual relationship with Frank so when she finds his half formed and barely living corpse in the attic she agrees to lure men into the house and help kill them to provide blood to bring him back.

The contrast between intense pleasure and intense suffering and how both of these things can lead to completely unexpected and disastrously destructive results creates a cautionary tale that clearly warns the viewer off either extreme.  That may not have been the intention of the filmmakers but nearly every character in the movie is either driven by lust or pain except of course for the heroes of the story.

The special effects are just incredible for the time. This is a movie that survives on its effects and uses them in the right ways. The look and feel of the
cenobites was easily recognizable and instantly horrifying. Pinhead became an instant icon of the horror genre with his simple pale, grid-like face lined with think pins or nails sticking out. Their outfits and looks make them each distinct as do their smooth way of moving about.

Many of the most explicit effects are just so well lit or left in shadow as to allow our minds to fill in the gaps. Frank’s half formed face is still convincing nearly thirty years after the movie was made.

The Bad: 
It’s hard to pick out a lot of negative points about this movie especially after having just praised it so highly for it’s clear story and great effects. The one thing I would say is that it is extremely gory beyond the point it really needs to. I can’t really complain about that though. If it were less gory it would feel too pc. And this movie was out to make a statement.

Considering how strong it seems today I can only imagine how horrified audiences must have been at the time.

According to Clive Barker:
“Well, we did have a slight problem with the eroticism. I shot a much hotter flashback sequence than they would allow us to cut in…. Mine was more explicit and less violent. They wanted to substitute one kind of undertow for another. I had a much more explicit sexual encounter between Frank and Julia, but they said no, let’s take out the sodomy and put in the flick knife.”
– (I got that from the Wikipedia entry where you’ll find a few more interesting tidbits. Just click here.)

The Ugly:
Despite how good the effects are, they remain a bit dated in many shots. Many quick closeup shots of hooks digging into flesh don’t look real as the flesh just looks like rubber or plastic. A large cenobite creature that chases Kristy looks like it’s something loaded up on a cart and being wheeled down a hallway. It’s well hidden in the shadows and still isn’t SO bad but would probably look a bit better if made today.

 

Smush: Zombie Comedy

Smush is a short zombie comedy I came across this morning that you might like.

Check it out by clicking here or watch the embedded video below.

The Good:
It’s short, it’s simple and it’s pretty well shot considering it’s a low budget comedy. It’s also kind of kid friendly. (Kind of.) As a parent looking for appropriate or at least not TOO disturbing things to watch with my son this Halloween I was glad to find this though I’ll probably hold off until he’s a bit older to show him this. (There is a bit of language and gore though. SO check it out before showing it to your kids.)

The Bad:
Nothing about it is THAT bad. It’s just not stellar. It’s mildly humorous and kind of cute as opposed to uproariously amazing. I can’t say I actually laughed that much although it did get a smile.

The Ugly:
The makeup effects aren’t too bad and there’s a reason they call it Smush! So check it out.