Capsule Reviews of Zombie Movie Night: Year 3

Oct. ’11

Days of Darkness:  There are some interesting twists and new takes on the zombie genre but not enough to make the movie itself entertaining…Characters are all over the map in terms of emotion, reactions and motivations …so much so that you can never get a good feel for what’s going on.  D

Battle Girl: The Living Dead in Tokyo Bay:  The cast includes pro wrestlers doing pro wrestler moves, a villain who uses an electric stick to shock his enemies and a team of comic relief punks and yet…I almost fell asleep…It’s amazing that a movie could take all that potential and squander it with lots and lots of nothing happening…  D

Scooby Doo on Zombie Island:  I haven’t been the target audience for Scooby and the gang for quite some time, but I’ll give them credit for getting a few laughs out of me…The zombies are real.  So are the …cat worshiping immortals…  Things get a little weird in this one…even for a cartoon.  C

Zombie Women of Satan:  …When your main character is named Pervo the Clown, plot is not really all that important…This movie obviously doesn’t take itself too seriously, is really funny and even manages to turn a few horror conventions on their head… A

Quarantine 2: Terminal:  Quarantine 2 is not bad.  It’s just kind of there.  And ultimately, with two versions of the outstanding original available out there, it was quite unnecessary and I can’t fully recommend it.  C

Die Zombiejager:  The direction is pathetic.  Pointless lingering on nothing…. Even though we’re set up with a plot, we’re never actually given any kind of narrative structure…But I was still able to find a certain amount of charm in this movie’s laughable badness…  D+

Nov. ’11

Blood Creek:  The movie navigates its way through all its trappings and failings and somehow manages to come out the other end as a solidly entertaining film.  Not saying it’s going to win any awards or be particularly memorable a year or two down the line but…it actually exceeded my expectations.  B-

Nightmare City:  There’s really only the most marginal of plots.  This movie is an hour and a half of zombie attacks, running from zombie attacks and bump scares…the lack of plot means that every fun part leads to another part that kind of drags.  We usually scoff when a movie is less than 90 minutes, but this one could have been knocked down to 75 and been better for it.  C

Dec. ’11

Silent Night, Zombie Night:  This is another sad case where most of the money was spent on creating a deceiving cover…the performances and zombie rules vary greatly…The ending is terrible…but…it’s actually a passable zombie flick compared to most of the other home video crap that’s out there.  B-

Hell’s Ground:  …It’s all fairly awesome, even if there are no real surprises or new ground to cover.  It’s like the director fell in love with American horror movies and wanted to remake all of them.   At the same time.  The only knock I have, which isn’t even a “real” knock, is that it’s not exactly a zombie movie.  A-

Jan. ’12

Primal:  The movie is pretty well-acted and thankfully doesn’t take itself too seriously.  The woman who turned into the killer primal beast seemed to be having a lot of fun with the role as she got to grunt and jump and howl an awful lot… It was a fun little monster flick that ultimately ended up in our Top 20.  B+

Wild Zero:   I really had no idea who I was supposed to be rooting for, or even what was going on…Things eventually pick up a little when all the different threads and characters start coming together, but by the time this happened, it was way too late.  I was already checked out.  C-

Feb. ’12

The Signal: The story is told from three different intertwining perspectives…The first segment is intense and well done…The second takes a radical turn and plays almost everything for laughs…The third act is a bit of a jumbled mess that doesn’t really capitalize on the intrigue the previous two acts set up.  But Part 3 doesn’t drop the ball enough to keep this from being one of the best things we’ve watched.  A+

Severed: Forest of the Dead: Had the movie ended when the final survivors made their escape, I could have recommended this as a halfway decent time-waster.  As such, the movie decides to not end but rather go off on a twenty minute side adventure…Nothing in this unnecessary segment works at all…Only to be viewed by the so-called “zombie completists”…  C-

Forest of the Dead: You can make the usual list of things that don’t work in homemade movies (dialogue, acting, editing, SFX, etc etc) but really the worst part about the movie is that pretty much nothing happens…95% percent of the run time is “meet idiots being idiotic”  and “here, meet some more idiots being even more idiotic.”  F

Deathdream: The film doesn’t really work as a horror film for me; it’s just too distractingly a 70′s movie…What Deathdream does well is the family dynamic…This really is a better character movie than horror. B

Last of the Living:  The film’s biggest flaw is that it can’t decide what it wants to be.  It wants to be a slacker buddy comedy but often the stakes become too high for their antics.  And when it wants to start getting serious, it throws in a fart joke…The acting and direction are all above average for a zombie flick and even the soundtrack full of original music is surprisingly not annoying.  B

March ’12

Outpost:  My brother put it best when he said Outpost is a better movie than it is a zombie movie.  It really is more in line with Predator or a haunted house romp.  The Nazis fit my previously-mentioned loose definition of “zombie” but they could also very easily be called “ghosts.” …I would call it a horror movie before I called it a zombie movie.  B+ for movie, C as a zombie movie.

The Dead:  …The problem is that there’s no plot beyond “trying to survive.”…The movie never really fleshes out the ideas it has either…The Dead is a dud.  D+

April ’12

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer:  Giving the name brand actor something to do leads to some tedious scenes in the classroom (he plays Jack’s teacher) and at his home…It all looks so cheesy that my 11 year old daughter walked in and declared it not scary at all…Jack turning into a monster slaying action hero is good fun, but not enough fun for me to ever want to sit through the first half of the film again.  C+

Devil’s Playground:  …The characters are all good ideas (even if not terribly original) on paper, but it just doesn’t translate on screen.   Even with decent actors, there’s just something about the whole film that falls flat… Looks good but it’s an ultimately empty experience… C+

May ’12

Oh! My Zombie Mermaid:  I found this movie to be thoroughly entertaining… I don’t know why they threw that “zombie” in the title…OMZM qualifies as a zombie movie…but just barely…I’d recommend it as a regular movie before I would go bragging about its zomberific qualities, that’s for sure.  B

Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror:  This is your classic horror movie stuff.  Group of people arrive at a place, start fucking, start dying, make the worst possible decision at every opportunity, die some more…But when “doesn’t put you to sleep” is the best thing you can say about a film, it’s still not exactly a compliment…D+

June ’12

Helldriver:  Helldriver is a perfect blend of gory zombie action and Japanese comedy…Even the political stuff, which is handled a bit more seriously, plays pretty well and doesn’t detract…Great fun and I would put it near the top of the list if you are seeking out Japanese zombie flicks.  A

Choking Hazard:  …A solid comedy that lands almost every joke and despite its philosophical debates, never feels the least bit heavy…Simple fun and another strong recommendation… A

Descendents:  After a lot of boringness, flashbacks, flashbacks that show the same thing the last flashback showed, and a ten minute scene of children playing in a playground, the last survivors make it to their destination of “the sea.”  And then they turn into mermaids and a giant octopus destroys some helicopters…As awesome as that last part sounds, it’s way too late to save this turd.  D-

July ’12

Mutants (U.S.):   It plays like a prequel for an awesome movie that hasn’t been made yet… It’s all some fairly harmless, yet forgettable nonsense, which on Zombie Movie Night is good enough to earn middle of the road status.  C

The Terror Experiment:  Inside the building is when the action is mostly good.  Outside, the famous actors are given little to do except fret, speculate and argue about how much to cover up regarding the incident…Skip the outside scenes and watch the indoor scenes and you’ve got a decent zombie flick.  C

Aug. ’12

Exit Humanity:  Unfortunately, I can’t really go into great detail because it’s all a sleepy haze to me…I am not sure if the movie was too boring to hold my interest or if I was just so tired that a movie about exploding explosions that explode stuff would have put me out…Incomplete

The Dead and the Damned:  …It is well done for what it is and I dare say, it is exactly the kind of cheesy crap I had in my mind when Zombie Movie Night was first conceived…Credit where credit is due: there’s a scene in a dark, boarded-up house where the heroine battles a blind zombie that’s stumbling around and it is genuinely creepy.  B+

[REC] 3: Genesis:  REC 3 is now the odds-on favorite to win Golden Zombie Best Picture…REC 3 has it all and I’m happy to report it is a return to form for a series that looked like it might quickly be heading downhill.  A+

ParaNorman: Unreviewed.   Grade: A

Sept. ’12

Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies:   It is an ambitious reimagining of American history…The acting is acceptable, the make-up is decent enough and the effects are mostly the computer-generated blood splatter kind that you can’t really complain about… A-

Beyond the Grave:  This is one of those films that takes place during the zombie apocalypse but is not really about the zombie apocalypse.  The undead are an afterthought…It’s not a bad movie, but I feel like I could watch it 5 more times and still not totally get it… B-

 

 

 

Zombie Movie Night- Sept. ’12

September is an exciting time in Zombie Movie Land because October is the big anniversary, which means September completes a full year and it’s time for the annual Golden Zombey Movie Awards.  That is a lot of fun and makes all the movie watching seem less like a waste of time.  But first things first…

We did not have high expectations going into Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies.  You know what, actually, we hardly ever have high expectations for anything so I should really stop bothering to say that.  Anyway, right off the bat I was relieved that this wasn’t a camcorder movie shot in someone’s backyard.  Its style is more of the direct-to-video knockoff designed to trick (dumb) people.  Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies is to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter as Snakes on a Train is to Snakes on a Plane.  Honest Abe in this film is played by Bill Oberst Jr., whose credits on imdb include 18 things in the year 2012.  Obviously, the go-to man for the Crankin’ Out the Knockoffs factory.  It’s a good choice, though, because he does a pretty solid job throughout, even bringing some pathos to Abe’s relationship with Mary Owens…and I can’t believe I just typed that.

See, this movie is not just an hour and a half of wacky president killing zombie action.  It is an ambitious reimagining of American history.  Lincoln, who as a boy was forced to murder his own zombified parents, finds himself uniquely suited to lead the charge when the zombie disease appears to have reemerged again soon after the battle at Gettysburg.  So Lincoln delays his famous address in order to lead a covert team into enemy territory and put a stop to the outbreak.  Once there, he is reunited with Mary Owens, runs into a perhaps justifiably antagonistic Stonewall Jackson, and mentors a young Teddy Roosevelt in the art of carrying a big stick and emancipating zombie heads from their torsos.  Even John Wilkes Boothe is along for the ride as the customary asshole member of the team.

Surprisingly, there is not a lot that doesn’t work.  The acting is acceptable, the make-up is decent enough and the effects are mostly the computer-generated blood splatter kind that you can’t really complain about compared to other movies with budgets of zero.  We liked this movie much more than we thought we would and even learned some things…such as the dark truth behind the president’s assassination.   They leave a lot out of the history books. Grade: A-

“Emancipate this!” (actual dialogue)

The second film of the evening was our first entry from Brazil: Porto Dos Mortos (Beyond the Grave).  This is the story of one truly dedicated cop, known in the film only as “The Officer”, but known to me as “Brazilian Mark Ruffalo.”   Our hero is not deterred by the zombie apocalypse in his quest to bring a serial killer to justice.  Unfortunately for him and his dedication, the killer is actually The Dark Rider, a supernatural force that can take possession of the nearest body as soon as it is killed.

It’s a unique premise and a pretty tense thriller, but if I’m judging it as a zombie movie, it falls a bit short.  This is one of those films that takes place during the zombie apocalypse but is not really about the zombie apocalypse.  The undead are an afterthought, used only to track the Dark Rider (as they seem to follow him around), and do not pose much of a threat.  They generally don’t attack and score only one kill.  The other problem is that the narrative gets a little confusing.  I don’t know if it’s that some things get lost in translation or if you’re really not supposed to know what’s going on, but I got kind of lost at the end there.  It’s not a bad movie, but I feel like I could watch it 5 more times and still not totally get it.  Might be more of a ME problem than a movie problem.   Grade: B-

Brazilian Mark Ruffalo