Thursday, September 24, 2015
Legendary operative Doron (Liron Levo) is called back from his honeymoon by the shady, one-eyed Gideon (Amit Leor) to lead a special mission into Lebanon to extract a scientist who created a virus (supposedly at the behest of a terrorist group). What Gideon forgot to mention to Doron is that this bug transforms folks into zombies and that the bug has a toehold in Israel. Doron is teamed up with three soldiers. I'll just call them the geeky one, the black one, and the asshole. Once they reach the scientist's compound, they discover in a big damn hurry how screwed they are. The only survivor is the scientist's daughter Noelle (Yafit Shalev) who explains it was actually Gideon who forced her father to create the biological weapon. So now the five of them must not only dodge hordes of ravenous and speedy zombies but also obtain a sample of the scientist's blood as he is patient zero. Things don't go very well for three of them. In the end, they reach the seaside and by some crazy coincidence, the only yacht in the harbor happens to be that of Doron's new bride. Even more unbelievable is that the evil Gideon somehow escaped from a zombie-overrun Tel Aviv, knew where to find the boat, and also knew Doron would find it, too. This is the definition of "contrived." All just to set up the final confrontation that, if I'm honest, doesn't pay off.
Complaints? The opening credits and the closing credits. In the opening, they play music that's goofy and inappropriate for the montage of somber images shown. The closing is a panel discussion TV show that is so badly written and acted that it's jarring. Be like showing a Tom and Jerry cartoon at the end of Shindler's List. I think someone in post-production was either drunk or had a grudge against the writer and director. Nothing else makes sense.
Acting: Levo is above average, Leor below, and the rest somewhere in between.
Story: Military missions and zombies isn't a new idea, but making it intimate and personal was clever (and probably cheaper).
Direction: A bit of floundering around, like a teenage boy fumbling with a bra clasp.
Production Values: I have no budget data, yet I'd wager it was well under a million. Just has that feel. Lots of exteriors. And whether the film stock or via technical manipulation, there's a high contrast grittiness. See this a lot in foreign horror.
Gore/FX: Blood a'plenty, to be sure. The gore, however, was pervasive and at times quite icky. The CGI could have been better.
Scares: There are, actually. Don't see this a lot in zombie flicks.
Ending: Closing credits aside, the final confrontation on the yacht is short and not terribly satisfying.
Verdict: Should you see Battle of the Undead/Cannon Fodder? There are worse ways to spend 93 minutes. And it's always interesting to see how other countries and cultures do zombies. It's not always awesome, but it's at least interesting.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Posted by Nate Dean at 12:24 PM
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
In the remote Four Corners region of the U.S., something awoke from a very long nap and is not only cranky but a bit peckish. An unlikely series of events begins when a tanker truck clips it on the road, flips over, and effectively barricades the highway...which just happens to be the only route to civilization. Also, and for reasons I can't quite work out, the accident cut power to everyone in the county. Alcoholic sheriff Annie Flynn (Emmanuelle Vaugier), alcoholic because of some vague on-the-job trauma, investigates the accident and takes a piece of the critter to an amateur botanist who lives with her grandfather (Russell Means) and is a descendant of the Anasazi. Four stranded travelers (fodder) have taken advantage of Grandpa's hospitality and unfortunately are in attendance with Sheriff Annie when the creature attacks. Annie escapes with a few others, and she takes them to the camp of rogue archaeologist Kale (Luke Goss), a man who's slightly nuts but knows exactly what's going on and, apparently, how to kill it. Anasazi pottery inscriptions detail the recipe of a potion of sorts. He tries it. Doesn't work. The granddaughter figures out the missing ingredient is uranium. No, really. Then it's lots of running and fighting and dying until in the end, Annie squares off with the marauding ET and chooses a surprising yet effective course of action.
The filmmakers overly complicated things at nearly every turn. Unimportant characters are given unnecessary backstories while important characters aren't given adequate ones. The reason the creature wiped out the Anasazi is totally glossed over as is why bullets won't kill it but tiny amounts of uranium will. Not the first time common sense is sacrificed for the sake of action. And there are a number of...irritants. The power is out, but when Annie opens her fridge door, the light comes on. Annie's driving a truck while shooting a shotgun. Possible, sure; however, her left hand is on the steering wheel, the shotgun in her right when we hear the pump shotgun getting pumped. How? In her position, it's simply not possible. Actually, the only one-handed pumping of a shotgun that I can recall is Arnold in Terminator 2. I'm the last person on earth to say anything disparaging about women, but Annie is no Arnie.
Acting: Vaugier, Goss, and Means are pros and do all right. The majority of supporting players, whom I lovingly refer to as fodder, do a bit less than all right.
Story: Part Alien, part Predator, and part Tremors so not remotely unique and unfortunately, not remotely interesting.
Direction: It could have used some.
Production Values: Shot on location in Utah and one of After Dark's 8 Films to Die For, it looks ok. That's not the problem. No budget data, but I'm guessing less than a million.
Gore/FX: The gross factor is shockingly high, so it does have that going for it. The CGI is on par with SyFy Channel's original movies. Yeah, pretty bad.
Scares: There were a few. Could have knocked me over with a feather.
Ending: Again with the feather. It didn't suck.
Verdict: Should you see Unearthed? Nah. Go watch the Alien, Predator, and Tremors movies again. Except for Alien 3. That one was just plain stinky.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Posted by Nate Dean at 12:21 PM
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Ben (Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim), fellow semi-pro ball players who are more acquaintances than friends, survived a zombie siege and decide to stick together. Ben's adapted to the present circumstances, taking on the role of protector and leader. Mickey...well, Mickey has yet to kill even one zombie and mostly just listens to his CD player, content to leave the heavy lifting to Ben. When Mickey overhears an errant CB conversation between a man and woman, he begins obsessing about the possibility of having a somewhat normal life...that and the woman herself. Mickey's horny.
Despite several warnings to knock it off, Mickey keeps trying to communicate with her. This, of course, leads to a confrontation in which Ben gets shot in the leg and their car keys tossed into a field. As a result, the final act of the film is Ben and Mickey trapped in an immobile vehicle that's surrounded by scores of zombies. After a couple of days, Mickey mans up and chooses to make a break for it to search for the keys. Doesn't go very well.
The Battery is less horror and more character study, which by no means makes it any less interesting. And it's one of the most realistic portrayals of post zombie apocalypse life I've ever seen. Now, of course that doesn't mean we get to know the cause or get to see how Ben and Mickey survived the siege. Weirdly, you won't care because of how well the filmmakers draw you into the present. As interesting as it is, however, my only real complaint is the lack of action. It's a tiny bit boring.
Acting: About on par with the boys from Clerks. Not awful but not exactly Oscar-worthy.
Story: Not complicated.
Direction: Really not complicated.
Production Values: Made for the shocking sum of six grand, it has the best money/quality ratio I've ever seen. Impressive.
Gore/FX: Average amount of blood. No CGI that I remember.
Scares: One or two minor jumps.
Ending: Not unexpected.
Verdict: Should you see The Battery? It's worth your while unless you need gratuitous carnage and ridiculous plot devices in your zombie flick. If you do, just go watch Wyrmwood instead.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Posted by Nate Dean at 4:49 PM
Sunday, August 30, 2015
A meteor shower of biblical proportions precipitates a mass infection that changes certain folks into flesh-eating ghouls. Why? No idea. It could be the end of the world as portended in the book of Revelation, or it could be an extraterrestrial contagion. Doesn't matter, really. The focus of the film is on three people lucky (or unlucky) enough to be immune.
Benny (Leon Burchill) is a wise-cracking Aborigine with a sawed off shotgun. Barry (Jay Gallagher) is a husband, father, and nail gun-toting mechanic. Brooke (Bianca Bradey) is Barry's ball-busting sister who ends up having a worse day than anyone. Barry escapes the city with his wife and daughter but unfortunately is forced to dispatch them both. Initially suicidal, he eventually decides to find his sister who, unfortunately, has been taken by a psychotic doctor determined to understand the illness by any and all sadistic means necessary. Barry and Benny join up with Frank (Keith Agius) and subsequently learn all fuels (gasoline, kerosene, etc.) are no longer flammable but zombie blood and zombie breath is. They construct a Mad Max-esque vehicle that runs on zombie breath and begin their journey to find Brooke. Brooke, after many hours of experimentation, discovers she has developed the ability to telepathically control zombies. As you may imagine, things don't end well for Dr. Nutjob. Once they finally meet up, Barry, Brooke, and Benny square off against the military man who ordered the experimentation, the Captain (Luke McKenzie). It's a hell of a thing, that final fight.
The telepathy angle is new and interesting. So is the deal with the flammable breath and blood. It doesn't make a lick of sense, but it's fodder for some pretty groovy scenes. I think this is the first time where I wasn't annoyed with the lack of scientific explanations. Just didn't care. Why? Because the filmmakers assaulted me with wild visuals at a pace that didn't allow for a whole lot of thinking. (We eventually do find out immunity is based on blood type.) I also very much enjoyed the dry, dark humor which is made even better with the Australian accents. Example: Trapped in the truck and surrounded by zombies, Frank decides to try to sleep and tells Barry, "If they break and and kill me while I'm asleep, wake us up, will you?" My only real complaint is how they resolve (or don't resolve) Brooke's situation. Weird and a bit awkward.
Acting: There are no Hugh Jackmans or Mel Gibsons here, but they do all right.
Story: Goofy and strange and a little bit wonderful.
Direction: Frenetic camera work, almost spastic at times, keeps the action moving along. You won't be bored.
Production Values: There's a pervasive raw grittiness that really does remind one of the original Mad Max. See the movie poster? Like that.
Gore/FX: They didn't skimp on the blood, that's for damn sure. Zombie nerds won't be disappointed (I wasn't). The CGI is utilized mostly for head shots, zombie breath, and fire and isn't horrible.
Scares: One or two, which surprised me. Don't normally see them in zombie flicks.
Ending: Probably meant to be upbeat. I found myself scratching my head because of Brooke.
Verdict: Should you see Wyrmwood? Abso-freaking-lutely. It's a hell of a lot of fun from our friends Down Under.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Posted by Nate Dean at 3:33 PM
Saturday, August 22, 2015
As a small boy, Remington (Martin Escudero) had a bad habit of publicly mocking his village's gay men. He'd point and call them the Tagalog equivalent of "faggot." In a cemetery one day, he made the mistake of mocking the wrong man, who consequently placed a curse on the lad. Once the boy reached a certain age, he'd become gay himself. As a young man, Remington is a slacker who has a crush on Hannah (Lauren Young). Problem is, he's gradually changing into the stereotypical, lispy queen who now finds his best friend inexplicably attractive. At the same time, someone is killing off the town's population of gay men with a weapon originally created by a high school student to determine the sexual orientation of livestock. No, really. The gun will only fire if the target is gay. A side effect of getting zapped by the weapon (besides getting dead) is that your skin darkens and your hair changes into a big, black 'fro. A physiological explanation was not provided. Remington's mom is the cop in charge of the investigation. Meanwhile, Remington finally remembers the curse and seeks out the man who placed it on him. Now for the extra special weird part. Now that Remington is gay, the killer catches up with him and fires but hits the old guy who did the cursing instead. Properly pissed, the guy's assistant casts a spell to raise all of the killer's victims from the dead and sends them after their murderer. By the way, Remington can be straight again only if he can find someone to trade places with him. Eventually, he does. And it's, well, weird.
Silliness aside, this film manages to both demean the gay community and request tolerance at the same time. It's quite disorienting. So to speak. I should point out that the zombies don't appear until the third act. Most of the film focuses on Remington's "problem" and I will admit is pretty funny. Seeing a macho punk transform into a flamer who starts wearing his little sister's clothes...yeah. Amusing. The zombie carnage, when it comes, is mostly just goofy.
Acting: Escudero as Remington and Young as Hannah both do well. Everyone else is fair to middling.
Story: No doubt concocted after a night of heavy drinking and LSD use.
Direction: Given the disparate and, let's fact it, wacky threads of the plot, I was surprised at the ease of flow.
Production Values: I have no budget data, but I guarantee this was made on a shoestring. Location shooting keeps it from looking cheap, though.
Gore/FX: The make-up is lame and the CGI sub-par.
Scares: Not what they were going for.
Ending: Disturbingly upbeat.
Verdict: Should you see Remington and the Curse of the Zombadings? If you like bizarre, foreign horror, then go for it. If you're gay, there are worse things to do for 96 minutes than watch the very cute Escudero.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Posted by Nate Dean at 2:31 PM