Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Day Five Point Two: Night of the Creeps (1986)

Night of the Creeps is awesome.

What? You want more?

Okay. Night of the Creeps was written and directed by Fred Dekker, who would go on to write and direct another cult classic, The Monster Squad.

If you haven't seen Monster Squad, then shame on you. If you have seen it, but didn't care for it, then you must have never been a prepubescent boy who loved the Universal Pictures stable of monsters.

Sure, that lets a lot of you off the hook, I guess. But dammit! That movie is gold.

As is this one.

What we've got here is an alien invasion of sorts. An alien experiment is jettisoned from an alien spacecraft in the opening moments of the film. The experimental container lands on Earth back in 1959 and infects a college jock.

Cut to 1986 and the misadventures of two college students just trying to find nice girls and fall in love. In a misguided attempt to impress a young lady, these gentlemen decide to pledge a fraternity (one which will never actually let them join, of course), and their hazing involves stealing a corpse. The corpse, naturally, turns out to the the cryogenically frozen body with mysterious alien worms inside (the alien experiment, for those of you not keeping up).

The alien worms gestate in the brains of mammals, living or dead, causing an outbreak of zombie-ism on the college campus.

That's enough plot.

Let me just say that this is a low-budget horror film made by a man who clearly loves horror films. Nearly all the characters have names inspired by the greats in the horror film industry. There are narrative references to all sorts of horror precursors. And best of all, it doesn't suck while doing all of this.

It actually tells an entertaining story with likable characters while both advancing the genre and respecting the traditions.

This is one of the good ones, folks.

If you haven't seen it, then make some time for it. If you've already seen it, shouldn't you check it out again? How long has it been?

For me it was around fifteen years.

It doesn't take itself too seriously, but it does take itself serious enough to make it more than a shallow parody. It's a worthy entry into the pantheon of zombie film, if you ask me.

It's not Top Ten material, but it's not too far off.

Day Five: Night of the Comet (1984)

Okay. I'll admit it.

I wasn't expecting this to be good at all.

I mean, look at that tag line. "They came. They shopped. They saved the world."

Come on. Right?

I was in high school when this film was released, and thought it looked like some completely stupid shit. So I never watched it.

Never even had an urge to watch it.

Well, I was a dumbass. Night of the Comet is pretty damn entertaining.

Sure, it's hampered by an Eighties soundtrack, where they had to get someone to cover "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." Sure, it's about two teenage girls in a post-apocalyptic wasteland version of LA.

But, lo and behold, it's not just some stupid valley girl comedy with "zombies."

What we've actually got here is a story, not really a zombie story, but oh well, about the end of the world. Sure, these two sisters are California girls, but they're got an absent dad who's a Green Beret and just happened to have trained them to fight and use weapons.

That in itself adds a layer of entertainment that I would have never imagined from the reputation of the film. I mean, come on, check out the trailer.

See? They really didn't even take it seriously when they were promoting it.

But the hints are there. If you pay attention.

Again, as with most of the films we're watching, this isn't your high quality entertainment. But so far as the zombie sub-genre goes, this is not only watchable, it's downright entertaining and, dare I say it, good.

It doesn't go too far into the characters' psychological reactions to being some of the few survivors after a comet annihilates the majority of humanity, but it does pay attention to the psychological effects. These aren't just Valley Girls. There's a hint of character work going on.

Sure, in the end it's one-dimensional and cartoonish, but damn it, it's fun.

Is that too much to ask?

Oh! And Commander Chakotay (Robert Beltran) from Star Trek: Voyager is in it as Hector.

That's worth something, right?

Mondo Marvel #24 is live!

And this week sees the return of Mondo Marvel with installment #24 - April 1964!

Marvel Spotlight #5: June 2010

I also contributed to this month's Marvel Spotlight!

What Looks Good #302: Short Sharp Shock

Hey gang! I wrote this week's What Looks Good column!

I know!

When do I sleep anymore?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day Four Point Two: Sugar Hill (1974)

Tonight's second feature was much better.

Sugar Hill (also known as The Zombies of Sugar Hill) is a blackspoitation revenge film with a heavy dose of Voodoo Justice.

Sugar Hill's fiance is killed by gangsters because he won't sell his club (Club Haiti), so they beat him to death in his own parking lot. Sugar's related to a Voodoo Priestess who summons Baron Samedi to help her get revenge. He gives her control over a zombie army and she kills her enemies one by one.

And that's pretty much it for the story.

But it's a lot of fun getting there.

The deaths are not as gruesome as they could be, but they're working with a pretty limited budget. The most impressive effect was definitely the eyes of the zombies. They looked as though they were made of silver, or highly reflective glass. I assume they were just covers, but whatever they were, the zombies were creepy and might just show up in my nightmares tonight.

Marki Bey sells her role as Sugar as hard as she can. When she has to feel grief she shouts at the sky. When she's getting her revenge, she's hard ass. And she looks good doing it, too, with her straightened hair being replaced by an afro whenever she's in Kill Whitey mode. It was actually a subtle touch, and I liked it.

Don Pedro Colley as Baron Samedi also does a pretty good job with his role. The Baron is always around, using different accents and dialects to draw in his prey, before setting his zombie hordes on them. I'm such a Voodoo sucker, though, I enjoy just about any appearance by Baron Samedi in just about any Voodoo tinged film.

If you can track this one down, and have a few beers handy, I'd definitely recommend checking it out. It's not the best movie we've watched so far, but it's definitely not the worst.

And there really are zombies in it, so that's a plus!

Here's an added treat! The trailer!

Day Four: Vengeance of the Zombies (1973)

Ah, Paul Naschy. What would Spanish Horror Film be without you?

Don't answer that.

Vengeance of the Zombies is a film that is entertaining, but really not very good. Although, to give Naschy credit, he doesn't look like a young Dick Cheney in this one (like he did in Frankenstein's Bloody Terror), but he's still one shorty and meaty dude. And he's got his shirt off for a while in this one.

Not to give anything thing away, but Naschy plays an Indian mystic named Krisna, his hideously burnt and insane Voodoo powered brother, Kantaka, and Satan in a poorly orchestrated nightmare sequence.

It seems that Kantaka was lusting after an English girl many years ago, but she was just teasing him. So, what else could he do? He raped her. That's what.

So her parents and three other English families all got together, trapped Kantaka someplace and set it on fire. Thinking he was dead, they went on their merry way, until now, years later, each family has a daughter that dies mysteriously, only to be reborn as Kantaka's zombies.

But we don't get all that at once. Instead we get a lot of Krisna acting enlightened before bedding the only surviving daughter of one of Kantaka's targeted families. I think Kantaka was controlling Krisna with Voodoo, too, but to be honest, I kind of lost interest in this one as it went along.

Even though there were boobies.

The first boobies of the zombie fest, actually.

That's pretty much it for this one. Tedious and not titillating in the least. I think one would have to be intoxicated to really enjoy this one. It's not even a so bad it's good kind of thing. It's just blah.

In an introductory segment, Paul Naschy discusses just how crazy and scary this film is. In his words, this is the most frightening Spanish horror film of all time.

That's just sad.

Proposed Schedule (subject to change)

In case anyone's interested...

March 27
0 - Pontypool (Canada 2009) – 95 min. Streaming

March 28 – Palm Sunday
1 - Evil (Greek 2005) – 83 min. DVD
1.5 - Boy Eats Girl (2005) 80 min - streaming

March 29 – Holy Monday
2 - Isle of the Dead (USA 1945) – 75 min. DVD

March 30 – Holy Tuesday (Seventies Flashback!)
3 - Vengeance of the Zombies (Spain 1973) – 90 min. DVD
4 - Zombies of Sugar Hill (USA 1974) – 87 min. Streaming

March 31 – Holy Wednesday (Spy Wednesday) (Eighties Flashback!)
5 - Night of the Comet (USA 1984) – 95 min. DVD
6 - Night of the Creeps (USA 1986) – 90 min DVD

April 1 – Holy Thursday
7 - The Zombie Diaries (England 2006) – 80 min. DVD

April 2 – Good Friday
8 - Plaga Zombie: Mutant Zone (Argentina 1997) – 90 min. DVD

April 3 – Holy Saturday
9 - Dead Snow (Norway 2009) – 92 min. Streaming

April 4 – Easter Sunday
10 - American Zombie (USA 2007) – 91 min. DVD

Grey Knight (USA 1993) – 92 min. Streaming
[REC] (Spain 2007) – 78 min. DVD
The Signal (USA 2006) – 103 min. Streaming
Flight of the Living Dead (USA 2007) 96 min- DVD
Zombiemania (documentary 2008) 47 min – streaming

Day Three: Isle of the Dead (1945)

Day three brings us Isle of the Dead (1945), starring Boris Karloff (technical difficulties forced a scheduling switch, with The Zombie Diaries being moved to Thursday). And while there is sort of a resurrection in the film, it's really more of a psychological thriller.

Set on a Greek island during the 1912 War, we follow a group of people quarantined there due to an outbreak of the Plague. Or some form of plague anyway. One that makes you act drunk, stumble around, and then die quietly.

But all is not right. The superstitious old Greek lady in the group thinks that young Thea (Ellen Drew) is not just young and healthy, taking care of a sickly female friend. Instead, she believes that Thea is actually a vampiric demon known as a vorvolaka.

Thematically, this is a very nice little exploration of the conflicts between beliefs in science and superstition, particularly when people are confronted with a form of death that pays no heed to either ideology. Along with this, there's a very subtle and powerful condemnation of war as we open on a Greek battlefield.

As Karloff, as General Nikolas Pherides crosses a nighttime wasteland that is literally overflowing with corpses. Corpses that must be cleared away each night to avoid the spread of disease. Ironically, then, the General is then quarantined himself later.

All in all, this is a beautifully shot film. It is not, however, a zombie film.

Karloff's performance is suitably creepy as he slowly slips from being a science-minded military man into a superstitious, plague-infested zealot. His gradual obsession with proving that Thea is a monster and then his determination to kill her accordingly is all pretty horrific. Particularly his final scene, crawling slowly across a darkened floor, dying, yet still staring upwards at Thea, wishing only to kill her before he passes.

I just gave myself a chill. Ugh.

But what about that resurrection, you ask?

That's another pretty creepy part, particularly if you're claustrophobic (which, I imagine is why Martin Scorsese puts this film in his 11 Scariest of All Time list). I'm hesitant to spoil any more of the film, but I guess as soon as one character starts mentioning their overpowering fear of being buried alive, you kind of know what's coming.

So, overall, this is a pretty good film; it's just not a zombie film.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Day Two Point Two: Boy Eats Girl (2005)

Since Dr. Girlfriend got home early from work tonight, we decided to squeeze in an extra film today. So, the Irish zombie film, Boy Eats Girl made the grade.

And did it ever!

This is three for three so far, quality-wise, as this is an entertaining, well-acted, nicely-directed, and bloody gory film.

If you're looking for a traditional zombie film, this might not be for you. However, if you're a fan of British comedy TV series The In-Betweeners, this might be right up your alley.

You see, most of the film is spent following four teens around their school. However, one of the teens, lead Nathan (David Leon) has a crush on his friend Jessica (Samantha Mumba), but won't act on it, despite it being obvious that she fancies him right back.

When his buddies set it up so that he has to confront her and tell her how he feels, she doesn't show (thanks to her overbearing father), so he goes home, gets drunk, and accidentally hangs himself. Luckily it's not auto erotic asphyxiation.

Nope, it's just a concerned mom bursting into the room while he's toying with the idea of suicide by hanging.

As luck would have it, mom works cleaning up at the local church and had just recently stumbled upon a secret basement where horrible things are kept. Horrible things like a book of voodoo, which she then steals and uses to bring her dead son back to life.

As you can probably guess, hi-jinks ensue.

This is a cleverly written film that goes way out of its way to make you like the characters before subjecting them to zombie horrors. And the script is nicely structured so that nothing just happens without being set up well in advance. Unlike Evil, this time when the heroine starts using kick-boxing skills we've already seen her practicing at the gym earlier.

And while there's not a lot of gore throughout the film, our climax of the film does a pretty good job of making up lost time in a scene that brings the end of Peter Jackson's classic Dead Alive to mind.

So far, this year's marathon is going much better than expected. We'll see how that holds up tomorrow, when we watch the British film, The Zombie Diaries.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Day Two: To Kako (Evil) (2005)

After the sheer joy we experienced with Pontypool, both Dr. Girlfriend and I were a little apprehensive about jumping into what is billed as "The First Greek Zombie Film!"

First tries are rarely all that, especially in the world of zombie films, but since we really want to get an international feel to this marathon, we gave this a shot.

And to our surprise, we really enjoyed it!

To Kako, or Evil as it is titled in English, isn't the best zombie film we've seen. But it has enough good stuff going for it that it's nowhere near the worst.

In stark contrast to the confined anxiety of Pontypool, Evil, once the zombies start appearing, immediately takes it to the streets.

Here's the setup. Three construction workers (or something) accidentally discover a cave during the course of their day. Naturally curious, they lower a ladder down and check it out. This exposes them to a very Evil Dead approach of some sort of bodiless EVIL. The next thing we know, our "heroes" are continuing with their day. One is home with his wife and daughter getting ready for dinner. The second fellow is at the big soccer game. And the third is out at the club with his girlfriend (who he's ready to dump).

Then, at exactly the same time, all three of them begin gagging and coughing before their eyes roll up in their heads and they leap on anyone close and begin biting them for all their worth. The bitees are instantly infected and leap on someone close to them.

As you can imagine, the attacks in the club and in the stands of the big game are bloody and violent and within minutes we have zombie hordes running through the streets. The family man kills his wife, but his teen-age daughter runs away, finding help with a neighbor lady before both of them are chased down the fire escape and are forced to hide in an alley.

I really liked the open air threat, and Evil director, Yorgos Noussias (who also wrote the screenplay), dies his best to invoke films like 28 Days Later with the emptied-out Athens that our actual heroes have to survive in.

So the set-up is well done, and once we get our main characters introduced, I actually liked them, as well. They're kind of stereotyped, but each actor does a good job at making their character believable; even the comic-relief cabbie. The weakest link in the acting is the fellow who plays the soldier they stumble across later in the film. He's just not very good at making his character seem crazy, instead he just seems like a guy "acting" crazy.

And in a lesser-quality film it wouldn't be that problematic for me.

But then again, we do really have two types of films going on here. There's a lot of pretty serious moments that play well. However, at the same time, whenever our heroes are attacked by zombies, we start getting more splatterstick humor than realistic responses.

Which isn't a bad thing, really. But I had a hard time jumping back and forth between tones. When the bitchy girlfriend suddenly starts using kung-fu on zombies, it was just kind of absurd. And not in the good, Existential way.

But with that said, this was a very well-made film. Noussias isn't afraid to have some fun with the editing, giving us a lot of shock-inducing quick cuts and a few split screen shots reminiscent of what you'd see on 24. There were a few places where it was a little too "music video" but overall, it was a fresh and exciting piece of work.

Something that isn't really commented on, but seems to be a nod to vampire classic From Dusk Til Dawn, the zombies are not what you'd call stout. Their heads can be knocked off with a punch, arms come off if you pull on them, you can punch holes in them, and they die just like ordinary living people. You don't have to have a head shot.

This provides opportunities for some funny/violent moments and also allows for some very good gore effects. There was some money spent on the gore, from old-school ripping out of intestines and throats to heads being chopped down the middle or exploding in gunfire.

So, all in all, this is one that's worth checking out. The tone is a little uneven, but if you can get past that, there's some good work going on.

And it was successful enough that a sequel is in the works: To Kako 2: Evil in the Time of Heroes, starring the ever-genre-friendly Billy Zane.


And it looks like it takes up exactly where Part One leaves off. And jumps back to Ancient Greece, as well.


Here's the trailer!

Day One: Pontypool (2009)

And away we go!

First up this week is Canadian "zombie" film, Pontypool, directed by Bruce McDonald and scripted/adapted by Tony Burgess from his novel, Pontypool Changes Everything.

We weren't really sure what to expect, having only heard that the zombie plague in this film is spread via language. It's an interesting and original concept, but how would they be able to pull it off on-screen?


The film could, with some imaginative staging, be adapted to the stage. The cast is made up of only three main characters, with a fourth showing up later in the story. Of course, by that time we're sort of back down to three characters again.

I'm trying not to spoil anything, so I'll just leave it vague like that.

The story is set in a small radio station, headquartered in the basement of an old church in the small town of Pontypool, Ontario. Our main character, DJ Grant Mazzy, is a grizzled talk-radio host who has just fired his manager for getting him this nowhere job in this nowhere town. His producer, Sydney Briar, just wants him to do his job (school closing announcements, obits, weather, etc.) without too much drama. At least at this early stage in their employment relationship. Their assistant, handling the phones and feeding Mazzy info and news, is a hometown hero, Laurel-Ann Drummond, recently-returned from Afghanistan.

After a strange start to the day, on his way in to work, Mazzy sees a woman by the road muttering strange things and then disappearing into the darkness, we spend the rest of the film in the radio station as riots begin breaking out across town. And this is where the film really starts to shine.

Stephen McHattie, as Mazzy, does a great job as the crotchety and cantankerous DJ and it his and Lisa Houle's (Sydney Briar) chemistry that really make the film work. McDonald also sidesteps the budgetary demands of filming a widespread zombie outbreak by having callers describe what's happening rather than showing it.

I wasn't sure if this would really work, but it does. It works very well.

And when there is a chance for gore, the film doesn't disappoint there, either.

It was really the novelty of the way the infection is spread through language that really won me over, though. It seems that the English language has become infected. Not entirely, you see, but only certain words. Once you say or hear these words, they start to get a grip inside of you and take you over.

It's a very English Major kind of zombie film, which is why I suppose Dr. Girlfriend and I both enjoyed it so much.

This one is highly recommended!

My only concern is that the first film of the week was so good it may make the rest of the films pale in comparison. Hopefully not.

Next up: The first Greek zombie film! It's called To Kako! Or, in English, Evil!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

And So It Begins...

The 2010 Easter/Zombie Marathon has begun!


It took us by surprise, too.

Once Dr. Girlfriend returned home after doing her nightly duties making sure that the day's news was properly grammar'd up and formatted for the masses, we settled in to catch up on our recorded TV viewing for the week, beginning with this week's Mid-Season Finale of Caprica and ending with the glorious return of Supernatural.

Then, lo and behold! We realized that both shows were focused on the resurrection theme of our planned week of undead goodies, and before we'd realized it, the Marathon had begun.

Caprica's "End of Line" featured, without too many spoilers, the return of the Virtual Undead Tamara, and lots of dramatic twists and turns and possibly the deaths of a couple of characters.

It all felt a little rushed, with scenes being cut quickly rather than being allowed to breathe. And by the end of the hour we were surprised by just how much plot had been crammed in. There were cliffhangers galore, and who knows when we'll be seeing the show again.

No, seriously. When is it coming back? Is there a date set, yet?

So visions of the dead, confrontations with the dead, and one dead girl walking the earth later, Caprica wrapped up a pretty successful opening half of a season. If it was too slow for you, then watch Survivor. I'm sure someone's eating a rat or betraying someone over there.

Leave the thinking, and the amazing acting, to us.

Supernatural jumped right into the Resurrection Theme with this week's episode, "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid." Borrowing a note from the French return of the dead film Les Revenants (They Came Back) (you can check out my comments about it here), the dead are returning not as horrible flesh-eaters, but just as they were when they died. Except paler.

Of course, being Supernatural, things don't stay that way, but it's yet another very nicely done episode of a series that is having its best season yet. It has a lot of good character work with Bobby (Jim Beaver, of Deadwood fame) and lots of head shots for you old-schoolers out there.

Seriously. If you've ever enjoyed fun horror/action shows on TV, Supernatural is one you should try to catch up with. They've recently announced that there will be a sixth season, so if the Apocalypse isn't as final as it looks like it's going to be, we'll still have loads more fun on the way.

And with that, The 2010 Easter/Zombie Marathon is off and, er, shambling.

Tonight, we'll be checking out the Canadian film, Pontypool. More on that, tomorrow.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mondo Marvel #23 is live!

Here we go again! Mondo Marvel #23 - March 1964 is up and running!

This time out we see the return of Captain America (for real this time) and the introduction of The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Also, a lot of crap.

What Looks Good #299 - Obsession Overload

I took the reins of What Looks Good again this week. And wrote way too much!

You know. For your health!