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.

Z Nation Season 2 Review

Before reading this you might want to check out my review of season one.

z-nation-2

I’ve said this before but, take all my bitching and complaints with a grain of salt.

As cheap and as goofy as the show is, it’s fun. It’s an over-the-top romp that neither tears at the heartstrings nor fails to entertain. So leave your brains at the door, grab a beer and enjoy
Z Nation season 2

The Good
Season 2 continues the great road trip across the continental US. This time focussing more on the midwest and southwest. As such, we get a answers to some of the most obvious questions most of us would ask: Left unchecked are there giant herds of zombies roaming the plains? Where are the native Americans and  farm communities like the mennonites? What happened to the religious extremists out west? What ever happened to Area 51 and what’s happening along the border with all those bad ass Mexican gangs?

It’s a great ride and there’s plenty of fun along the way.

  • Just like in season one, there are tons of pop culture references.
    The evil Kurian jumping into an old school refrigerator and getting thrown around in the nuclear blast was a clear nod to Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull’s highly unpopular opening. Seeing the door blow off and Kurian burning played to the fans very well.

My particular favorite was a nod to the X-Files in an episode dealing with aliens, (yes really,) which even included a character name Scully. There’s also a great Steve Urkle reference when Muphy mimics his voice saying “Did I do thaaat?”

Out of the whole season though the coup de grace had to be the episode titled “The Collector,” in which Murphy is captured by a guy who’s totally out of his mind trying to create a zombie museum of sorts. He has posters and memorabilia related to zombies and zombie movies and they start talking about some of the old school classic zombie flicks like White Zombie the very first zombie movie. And there he is, a celebrity zombie in the form of George R. R. Martin. The night’s watch would be proud.

  • Not being afraid to play around and try some crazy ideas when it comes to zombies is a definite plus. The show doesn’t have the effects team or budget like other shows so they need to get creative with their zombies. This really means they are basically just making monsters half the time, not really zombies, but it’s fun none the less.

Blasters: Zombies who were people killed by the nuclear blast at the end of season one. Now incredibly powerful powder-white nasties. Why? Why not.

Phytozombies: Zombie / plant hybrids. (Ridiculous but fun.)

Mennonite zombies: They’re really just regular zombies that happen to be Mennonites . . . and explode with anthrax spores.

Baby zombie (AKA Lucy): Ten times better than the baby in season one, Lucy is the daughter of Murphy and his girlfriend from season one.

Goat zombie: So apparently animals can be zombies too?

Aliens: Sure, they aren’t really aliens but that’s a good thing. If they were, the show would have gone into even campier territory tipping the scales to the totally ridiculous and not just the very ridiculous. These Zs are just humans in pilot uniforms.

Where have I seen this before? Doctor Who? Star Trek? I’m sure I’ve seen this somewhere. But where? The X-Files? Help!

Blends: One of Muphy’s newfound powers is the ability to make people who aren’t exactly zombies but aren’t exactly alive. It was his bite that turned Casandra into what she became and as the season progresses we see him getting more adept at turning people.

The Bad

  • The HUGE cliffhanger ending of season one left me thinking that the show might actually not be coming back for a second season. However the way those cliffhanger events were rapidly solved seemed a little too easy. The tension of that cliffhanger just evaporated in seconds. But then so did half the US.

The nuclear bombs that went off at the end of season one apparently killed millions more people according to Warren who confronts Murphy about it in the season opener. Millions? Really? The numbers seem a bit high for the number of survivors out there. That being said, millions of people being killed off in a heartbeat just doesn’t seem to cary any weight at all on this show even though it should be horrifying.

  • Anthrax zombies.
    Some mennonite zombies started bursting white powder all over the place when killed and there’s a lot wrong with this scenario. First of all it’s unlikely that the Mennonites were just standing around in a field waiting for someone to save them. Mennonites are farmers, hard working, manual laborers. These aren’t meek people. These are people who birth horses, bale hay, till crops and live off the land. The idea that they are weak as we see them portrayed on the show is laughable.

The white powder anthrax also shows a serious lack of thought. White powder containing anthrax was mailed to a number of public officials as a form of terrorist attack. But anthrax doesn’t just exist out in the world as a white powder.

Anthrax is spread by contact with the spores of the bacteria, which are often from infectious animal products. Contact is by breathing, eating, or through an area of broken skin. It does not typically spread directly between people. Risk factors include people who work with animals or animal products, travelers, postal workers, and military personnel. Diagnosis can be confirmed based on finding antibodies or the toxin in the blood or by culture of a sample from the infected site.”

I’m not a stickler about science in TV shows or movies most of the time. But when it’s this blatantly horrible it’s hard to ignore.

The Ugly

  • The effects …
    … aren’t so bad this season but one thing that stands out is the way zombie characters suddenly stand stock still or pause their action as they are moving so that effects can be slotted in around them. The effects just seem much more amateurish when these sorts of odd pauses for the shot occur.

One effect in particular that throws me off is the constant use of filters. I don’t particularly like them on photographs and like them even less in movies and TV shows. It makes the imagery more consistent if you’re shooting at different times and locations and want to maintain that look and feel when the images are cut together but it also makes everything look less realistic and more forced if it’s not done very carefully. Not a plus in this case.

Although the zombies are fun, the look and feel of them is pretty uninteresting. Occasionally we get a great effects shot like a Z getting crushed or churned up in a truck’s wheels but for the most part they all just look like people with makeup on their faces which makes the other effects shots stand out even more as effects. The Zs are all basically at the same level of rot regardless of when and where they died during the apocalypse.

  • Lucy
    When Serena shows up heavily pregnant with Murphy’s love? child I don’t think anyone knew where it was going to go. Was it a Z? Was it a normal baby? Was it going to kill it’s mom? What a creepy character in every way. And it looks like she’s growing up . . . scary.
    lucy

Look at those smiles! I love these guys.

  • The worlds largest cheese wheel. Wow. Just wow.
    If anything symbolizes the silly, cartoony nature of the fun on the show it’s definitely this. This is also where my cynicism breaks down. These guys are having fun, making an entertaining show that gets a few laughs and isn’t too hard to watch. In fact when it comes up they make it a point to reference the Liberty Bell scene from season one where they unleashed the bell at a group of zombies to great effect.big-cheese
  • Zeros  This season dealt a lot with the gangs along the boarder towns of Mexico but in Z Nation they take it up a notch with the Zeros being lead by a queen whose minion are often made up to look like  sugar skulls.zero-queen-z-nationThe Zeros are total badasses but also tend to fall for the typical TV bad guy clashes. There’s an evil doctor or mad scientist working for them, (Kurian,) They to do monologue all the time and they have an endless supply of minions protecting their incredible evil lair.

    Some notable deaths:

mackMack’s death at the start of the season was a kick in the pants. The strong love affair he had with Annie was a nice bit of hope running through season one.

 

 

casandraCasandra’s death seemed like a smart idea for the actress Pisay Pao. The character had been reduced from a complex interesting contribution to the show to a trashy chick that grunted all the time. The entire season up to the point she was killed I just thought I wouldn’t want that if I were the actor.

saracoatsSerena . . . I just loved this character and this actress. She’s strong, ballsy, fun and I got the feeling she was really fun to have on set. Her energy just came through and she stole the show in her episodes. I was sorry to see her go.

kurians-headI’m not sure Kurian is really dead but he’s close enough.

After developing a serum the zeros think is a cure for zombies but which will actually just make it possible for Murphy to control people, Kurian finds himself beheaded.

But having also been injected with the syrup he can’t die and so his severed head lives on in a box. Sheesh.

THE CDC
So the season ends with the group getting to the CDC lab and after a few tense moments they get inside and all seems well. Until it doesn’t, because the happy ending you may have been hoping for just isn’t. Things aren’t all what they seem and the CDC isn’t what it used to be.

Citizen Z catches on to this when he realizes his system has been hacked and seems out to walk south. Unable to warn anyone with his systems down it means the team walks right in to the CDC trap and the shit hits the fan.

Sound familiar? 

All in all this season was just as much fun as the first season, maybe even more and I’m totally looking forward to season 3!

Night Life

There are a number of movies from around this time so I had to do a little bit of looking just to find this. I wasn’t disappointed.

Night LifeThe Poster:
Is somewhat less than inspiring by today’s standards. The lighting is pretty stock horror movie and the staging is sort of ridiculous. The zombies coming out of the morgue drawers don’t look menacing so much as silly in a Halloweeny sort of way. Then again this IS a comedy so that’s not SO bad.

The Good
This 1989 horror comedy isn’t as bad as the single review I saw on IMDB lead me to believe. It’s definitely no masterpiece either but it’s not trying to be. It’s trying to be a low-budget, kinda funny horror comedy.

The plot is pretty simple, a high school kid working at a mortuary gets picked on a lot and when the kids who are doing the bullying die in a car accident, lightning brings them back as, you guessed it, zombies! Yay! This gives them the opportunity to keep on picking on him from beyond the grave.

The Cast is pretty awesome. When I looked at the cast list I recognized a lot of names but only Sean Astin the original Gomez Adams jumped out at me. You might recognize some of the other actors from a lot of the other projects they’ve done like Mark Pellegrino who played Jacob on LOST. This is kind of like the cheap horror movie most good actors have in the deep dark depths of their resumes.

The Bad
The Jokes, the plot and the science are all pretty junior high school level but then I was in junior high when this movie came out so I can imagine this appealing to me when it came out.

The jokes bounce back and forth between a sort of dry deadpan, (forgive the pun,) and slapstick with corpses dropping off gurneys and smacking their heads. I can’t say there’s much hilarity going on here but it got a few light laughs out of me.

The plot isn’t terrible so much as it’s full of cliche’s. The dickhead jocks with the hot girlfriends pick on the nerdy kid who gets along great with the cute but tomboyish girl who likes cars. It’s all pretty typical nerdy guy wins out in the end.

The science involves electricity bringing back the teens and turning them into zombies. Wasn’t that how Jason came back in one of the Friday the 13th movies? I can’t remember which one now. Like a lot of other stories a mysterious chemical seems to be partly responsible for whatever is going on with the now living dead. So mysterious chemicals and lightning . . . it either means zombies or the Flash and this time we got zombies.  

The Ugly
I actually kind of enjoyed this movie despite not really being floored by it. Given a little more edginess in the gore or the horror or maybe a bit more in the humor section it could have been a little more successful. Horror comedies are a tricky thing. It can’t be too much of either genre or else one will overtake the other. But if it doesn’t push one hard enough it won’t be memorable. Movies like the Evil Dead (Bruce Campbell) or Dead Alive manage to push both aspects hard enough that they balance out. Others like this, seem to play it safe, not too much comedy and not too much actual horror.

Night of the Comet

Night of the Comet Poster

The Poster
Going into the movie not knowing what it was about and just seeing the poster, I might be thinking it was about some mysterious event that unites or inspires humanity like Close Encounters or E.T. Something about the poster really does that for me.  I actually really love it. It’s simple, makes perfect sense to anyone who has or hasn’t seen the movie without giving much away and creates a nice sense of mystery with the possibility of horror or happiness; who knows.

The Good
The movie follows the survivors of a world-wide catastrophe brought about by a comet that passes close to Earth killing everyone exposed to it and turning many of the few survivors into flesh-eating zombies. Although it’s a horror comedy full of inconsistencies and little movie making gaffs, it’s also become something of a cult classic with some stunning visuals and some incredibly fun bits of fiction story telling going on.

Night of the CometThe unforgettable red sky is . . . well . . . unforgettable!

Seriously this movie is a perfect example of great 80’s horror comedy. It has the look and feel of a low-budget movie made with a great cast with good chemistry and who seemed to really have a good time making the flick. It never oversteps itself and does a brilliant job of the whole story.

The Bad
It is a bit dated but I can’t say it’s so awful. You can see why it’s still so popular with fans. It’s the sort of thing I could see getting remade badly with sharp visuals and bad special effects that would overtake the cast and characters.

The “zombies” in the movie are the sort-of dead who didn’t get vaporized by the comet as it passed overhead. So this isn’t really a “zombie” flick per se but it’s just sort of fun having them in there.

Wow. I’m usually really negative in the bad section but I just can’t be with this movie.

The Ugly
The special effects in the movie are good for the time and were done by David Miller who did the effects for Freddy Kruger in the first Nightmare on Elm Street movie. Considering the budget the movie had of just seven hundred thousand dollars it’s pretty impressive.

For a LOT more about this movie in a VERY dry monotone voice check out this great review by GoodBadFlicks with LOTS more amazing facts on YouTube. (Click here if the embed doesn’t work.)

Hard Rock Zombies

hard_rock_zombiesThe Poster:
I found a few images for this but this is one is how I found out about  this movie. It looks fun but cheesy which is what I would expect from a movie with a title like this. It’s going to be a goofy 80’s romp, so I’ll be basing my comments on the whole thing from that point of view.

The premise is that Adolf Hitler is alive and well in 1980’s America where he lives with his “family” of murdering freaks. Elsa is a werewolf and their kids seem to be a beautiful but psychotic woman, a dwarf and a misshapen something or other.  Troll? It borrows heavily from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho and a lot of other classic horror movies. Actually, it seems to be drawing from EVERY horror movie. The town is so bat shit crazy about the evils of Rock N Roll that they go nuts and burn all their records and tapes etc and ban the band from performing.

Apparently the band wrote a song that brings dead things back so when they are murdered the little girl the band leader had fallen for plays the song and they all come back from the VERY shallow grave to whoop some nazi ass.

The Good:
It’s fun. It’s dumb and it makes about as much sense as a screen door on a battleship.
(Quick! What movie am I referencing there?)

A lot of the early part of the movie involves the band having fun, playing music and generally acting the way people do in 80’s music videos. So, you know, awesome.

The Bad:
– Now I love a good montage once in a while but the montages in this movie really take it to  the limit of acceptability.

– The writing is pretty bad. It’s hard to believe that anyone would really talk the way people do in the movie but it’s still not as bad as a lot of other movies I’ve seen.

The Ugly:
– Mullets, mustaches and . . . those eyebrows!

hrockzombies

– The acting is bad, but it’s a lot better than bad. It’s not bad in the sense that it’s unwatchable. It’s bad in the, “this-is-a-cheap-goofy-movie” kind of way.

– The movie really ends about fifty some minutes in but then keeps going for another half hour of gore and zombie action where everyone the good guys killed is back as a zombie to do more damage. It’s kind of like when you think the monster is dead in the horror movie only to find he’s still kicking. In this case it’s pretty much all the bad guys.  If you’re brave enough or drunk enough keep pressing on and you’ll get about thirty more ridiculous minutes out of this amazing flick.

Great Quote:
You know soon girls I’ll be a Mormon and you’ll all be my wives.

Your father’s a real mother.

I Was a Teenage Zombie

What a great title! It’s an awesome 80’s throwback to the 50’s horror schlockfests that we all sort of love and hate. If you’ve ever watched goofball horror movies on a Saturday morning you’d probably get a big kick out of this movie.

I was a teenage zombieThe Poster
I’m not actually sure if this is the poster or the VHS cover but here it is. As covers go it’s pretty cheap. A single image with some text. The makeup on the character in the photo is pretty . . . well . . . it’s cheap. And his expression is pretty . . . well . . . it’s boring.

What the hell about this poster would ever make me want to actually rent it? Nada! That’s what. Fortunately I didn’t see this cover until after I started watching the movie. (Also because it has a massive spoiler right there.)

The Good
The Premise
Having lived in New York I know how NASTY the rivers are and you may know the sort of reputation they have in pop culture. In this case, they are so bad, so horribly polluted with radiation that the water manages to bring back a murderous drug dealer from the dead. In order to stop him a group of teenage guys drops their dead buddy into the river to bring him back as a “good” zombie to fight the “bad” zombie. These are the living dead but not the flesh-eaters variety. These are the murderous kind.

Let me take a step back and explain that this is a CHEAP horror comedy. It’s along the lines of Animal House and other similar comedies of the 80’s. If you ever liked anything by Troma you might like this. It’s the sort of thing that would have been HUGE if Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd,  Harold Ramis and all those guys had been teenagers when the movie was made and were cast in it.

The Setting:
What we have are a bunch of kids in a so-so movie with some pretty bad editing, incredibly cheap effects and goofy ass acting. The one thing I love about it is that it REALLY feels like the time it was produced. The places and people somehow remind me of people I remember from growing up and it feels genuine even when it’s so obviously staged. You can kind of feel after every take everyone just standing around laughing having fun.

The Music
The music really seemed too good to be true so I had to look this up and credit where credit is due. This comes from Wikipedia:

“The film’s title track was recorded by  The Fleshtones, and the subsequent video was given rotation on MTV. Other bands and artists appearing on the film’s soundtrack include: The Del FuegosThe dB’sDream Syndicate, the Violent FemmesThe WaitressesThe SmithereensLos LobosAlex Chilton and the Ben Vaughn Group. The original soundtrack record is out of print but used copies can be purchased online.”

That’s a pretty awesome line up of music for a movie of this scale. It goes a long way towards making me like it and helping make the “cheap” elements seem more fun. Like going to see your friend’s band or reading his zine. It’s cheap, fun, raw adventure.

The Bad
The acting is pretty subpar. As much as I like the guys in the movie, they aren’t winning any academy awards any time soon. The guy playing the evil drug dealer zombie is particularly bad. And although I love the way it’s bad, it’s still pretty horrible. It reminds me more of kids playing around on the schoolyard than real actors making a movie.

This really gets me in the fight scene at the end of the movie. Reactions, staging, everything is sooooooo badly done. It’s almost impossible to believe they were really making a movie and not just screwing around with a camera on them.

The Ugly
Seeing one kid get his face ripped off was in every way amazing. Even though it was clearly fake as hell it was still fun and it was one of the best effects of the movie particularly when compared to the straight green goblin makeup for the “zombies.”

Zombie Bloodbath

This may be the greatest movie ever made. Unearthed! Unstoppable! Undead! I could easily fit Unwatchable in there but then you’d be missing out on a lot of fun.

The Poster: (Or in this case the DVD cover)
zombie blood bathThis is a hot wet mess of bad design. It’s kind of like a lot of the local band flyers and cd covers and zines I used to see before everyone but me became a Photoshop wizard. The fonts are crappy, the photos are awful and the images are fake as hell. I love everything about it.

The Good:
This is basically the Troll 2 of zombie movies. I DARE you to watch the first minute of this movie and not laugh, cry, roll your eyes or sneer in disgust. That’s all. Just the first minute. Here. Go ahead and watch it. Click here. I’ll wait till you get back.

So keep in mind what we are talking about here. This is a goofy, cheesy, homemade disaster and that’s bound to be a hell of a lot of fun. In University my friends and I made a bunch of movies like this, though at the time we were much more into vampires and vampire hunters. Most importantly we had a fun time making some movies.

The Bad:
EVERYTHING IN THE MOVIE! But a few to mention are . . .
– The acting is maybe the worst part. You’ve got a lot of what appear to be the filmmakers’ friends and family running around pretending they know how to act, (as apposed to acting.)

– Terrible special effects like mayonnaise and ketchup or something like that being poured over a guys head to make it look like his flesh is melting off.

– Bad video quality. (This is the early 90’s after all.)

– The plot: An underground nuclear power plant built over an Indian burial ground that causes the dead to rise up and start attacking people. With the proliferation of “built on an Indian burial ground” movies I’ve seen it’s hard to imagine this movie or that plot device ever being use. Although I don’t usually like to talk politics, with the way the U.S. seems to be going these days you would think the whole country was built on an Indian burial ground or something.

Oh. . . wait. . .

The Ugly:
The awesome hangover your going to have after a night of drinking and laughing your ass off at this horrible movie with your friends.