Toronto After Dark 2014 Review: Dead Snow 2

 

 

It must’ve been the easiest elevator pitch ever…

 

“Nazi zombies…[pause for effect]…in the snow.”

 

The film I’m referring to, of course, was Dead Snow and it delivered on its premise…A field full of dead German WW II soldiers are awakened and then begin to spill the blood of a group of young adults all over fresh pristine snow. It was funny, gory and even a little bit scary. With an audience, it was a thing of beauty from the first zombie hand breaking through the cold white crust to the last open-ended moments where the sole-survivor realizes he may not yet be out of the woods. Which brings us to the sequel…

Though I guess they didn’t have to do an elevator pitch this time around (since the first film was somewhat successful), I suspect it would have gone something like this:

 

“More Nazi zombies plus Russian zombies plus more zombies, more offensive humour, more gore, more outlandish situations, more, more, more.”

 

Note there were no pauses for effect there. As a matter of fact, to give the same sensation as watching the movie, you shouldn’t have any pauses at all while you say that sentence (preferably delivering the entire pitch all in one fell swoop without taking a breath). Dead Snow 2 (subtitled “Red vs. Dead”) piles ridiculous onto ridiculous onto a mound of bodies and doesn’t wait for you to catch up with the story. It’s a pretty straightforward tale anyway: the Nazi zombies want revenge on the town that killed them and now that they have a purpose (and a tank), the only way to stop them is through a rival army of zombies. The chosen horde here is a set of Russian soldiers that had been put to death by these very same Nazis now laying waste to small Norwegian towns.

Would you like to know more…?

Toronto After Dark 2014 Review: Zombeavers

 

The best thing about Zombeavers is that it isn’t much more than its title implies. It creates a toxic spill in a remote area then plops a bunch of college kids in a cabin right next to it. Voila – zombie beavers attacking young co-eds. It also stays true to its 80s horror antecedents by making most of the gore and effects practical. CGI beavers would have ruined the film entirely, whereas these stuffed critters with partial animatronic characteristics and clunky tails do the trick nicely. When they come crashing through floor boards, they almost feel like they could chew your foot off. Of course, they are also just slightly ridiculous enough to laugh at when they suddenly show up in a bathtub or at the front door. Especially with their light blue glowing eyes…

The worst thing about Zombeavers is, well, that it isn’t much more than its title implies. Now that shouldn’t be taken necessarily as a criticism…It’s just that when the film works, it works so very well. So when it doesn’t, it’s somewhat disappointing. The film handles its action sequences very well and has moments of pretty inspired humour & gore, but then there are several scenes of bland, lengthy or even pointless chatter between the characters. Given the funny outtakes at the end of the film (some of which felt a bit like those line-o-rama special features many comedies have these days) and considering Judd Apatow, David Wain and others are thanked, I couldn’t help but want a bit more ooomph to the script. In fairness, my complaints are along the lines of wanting more than I’m really entitled to or should in any way expect. But it’s to the film’s credit that at some point – I did expect more.

Another thing about Zombeavers is that it sometimes is actually a bit more than its title implies. Think you know who’s going to get it next? Think the kills will all be based on levels of morality? Think you know how the beaver bite transforms its victim? Probably not…Not that the movie rolls out loads of surprises, but just enough so you aren’t completely sure of what the next scene may bring. One might even say that there’s just enough subversion of this type of genre to raise the eyebrows of those looking for simply a genre-throwback. On top of that, the cast does quite well with the material and only falter during some of those slower spots (though those moments could easily be “blamed” on pacing issues or editing). All three of the leading ladies (Cortney Palm, Rachel Melvin & Lexi Atkins) acquit themselves quite nicely through tears, screams, laughs and loads of prosthetics.

In the end, it’s a movie about beavers who become zombies. That alone should be enough, but you get more (including a great final “stinger”). So go enjoy Zombeavers.

A Month of Horror 2014 – Chapter 3

OctoberMonsterClub14

.
Let’s dig into a few more tasty horror treats…In this post: Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, Monster Club, The Town That Dreaded Sundown and Gurozuka.

 

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (Bob Clark – 1973)
I’m not sure how this “let’s get our friends together and make a movie” movie didn’t completely collapse into itself, but it somehow stayed afloat even if about 70% of the frame at any given time seems to be complete blackness. Fortunately director Bob Clark (Black Christmas and a c.v. of films almost as diverse as Robert Wise) wisely decided to clad his group of friends in brightly coloured clothing for their night time adventure through an island cemetery for fun & games and inspiration for their play. None of them seem to like each other, so calling them “friends” might be a stretch, but they all seem to follow the egotistical and nasty director who performs a number of rituals over the graveyard. Without really meaning to, he ends up accidentally waking a whole assortment of dead folks. The last 20 minutes of the movie actually work quite decently with the troupe trying to battle and escape the zombies, but it’s a bit of a challenge to get there.

OctoberChildrenShouldntPlayWithDeadThings4

OctoberChildrenShouldntPlayWithDeadThings6

Would you like to know more…?

Toronto After Dark 2013: The Battery Review

Toronto After Dark Banner White on Black 89uoi3rwef8youihk5j24twefsd98youhkj54twe

“Gone Fishing. Don’t Die.”

Companionship and camaraderie are at the heart of Jeremy Gardner’s micro-indie Zom-Dram, The Battery. What you say? Another filmmaker making a buddy zombie movie with no money and the usual tropes and jokes? Not so, with this one, that spends its time quietly, far more in the silent spaces. A character gets drunk and sings a song in an empty house as a coping mechanism for the silence. It’s not the zombies, but the lack of a purpose that might be the real killer. While there is certainly a structured narrative here, it is the character beats and ‘hanging out aspects’ of the film that drive it.

The film offers its pleasures in the lead characters of Ben and Mickey, two scavenger-survivors wandering around the leafy New England countryside, bickering like an old married couple. Their pre-apocalypse relationship was non-existent outside of playing on the same baseball team together as pitcher and catcher -I mean this un-metaphorically, it’s assuredly not that kind of film. Anyhoo, when not throwing change-ups to Ben, Mickey retreats into his headphones with old CDs found at his girlfriends house. Ben, is far more aggressive not only scolding Mickey for tuning out with music (and the film boasts a wonderful soundtrack) but also for living in the past. He insists they move forward like sharks, eating and killing if necessary, but not over-thinking the larger issues. They sing the “Show Me The Way to Go Home” song in an echo of Spielberg’s scene of semi-contented mail companionship from Spielberg’s Jaws. A big old Volvo station wagon is acquired to carry their gear and the offer of a bed in the back where they can bed down for the night. They use the pillows and sheets from the same ex-girlfriend. Later this will become a hellish domestic prison for the films third act.

Would you like to know more…?

Cinecast Episode 247 – That’s Just The Kind of Pretentious Twaddle I like!

Here we are a week before Oscars and there is so little to talk about on that front other than that there is so little to talk about. Gamble gives a run-down on the Best Animated Shorts which are always worth a look. Kurt gives a sparkling review of the latest Studio Ghibli animated feature; a Japanese spin on the classic British children’s novel The Borrowers. Re-titled The Secret World of Arrietty, the film is surprisingly adult in tone and theme and worth looking at on the big screen. We spend a tangent-driven span of time grading the homework assignments (criminal clowns) before diving into The Watch List: Wil Wheaton, Elliot Gould, Alain Delon, Brian DePalma, Michelangelo Antonioni, Billy Bob Thorton and Anna Faris! Andrew goes to town on smashing Tiny Furniture. Matt goes to town on pummeling the seven-year-delayed Margaret (and in the pejorative sense thinks Kurt and Rot will love it).

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


 
 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_12/episode_247.mp3

 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
Would you like to know more…?

Toronto After Dark 2011: Exit Humanity Review

Surviving through life’s difficulties and is the central theme of John Geddes civil war zombie drama Exit Humanity. Exit Humanity provides a fresh take on the over pushed genre of zombie films. I don’t want to take anything away from the good zombie films but it seems to me that many new film makers just rely on the zombie love to bring get an audience. Fortunately, Geddes is able to create a compelling small scale epic drama with a strong performance by it’s lead actor Mark Gibson as Edward Young. The movie starts out with a bit of a prologue and then with Edward having just killed his wife after she turned into a zombie and heading off to find his lost young son. We follow Edward through his search, his loss and eventually his recovery while meeting a few people along the way and killing off some zombies. Like most zombie flicks the conflict is only partially with zombies with the other people still alive posing as the real threat.

Exit Humanity strength is also it’s biggest weakness. It is a very slow burn movie with long quiet moments of Edward traveling across the south with him working through his rage and depression. Very little dialogue is provided during the opening half except for voice over which is provided by Brian Cox. While I enjoy Brian Cox I will never understand the need for voice over in any movie. It is pretty obvious what is going through Edward’s mind and Gibson does quite well in conveying the emotions and the voice over is somewhat superfluous an feels as if the movie is dumbing itself down. The voice over in this case is text from the story which Young is writing and it the book is the justification behind both voice over and another important aspect of the movie. Animations are used in place of the more expensive and hard to film action scenes. For some this will be a negative but I found the animated sequences to be both beautiful and compelling and drew me in.

Would you like to know more…?

Review: Rammbock: Berlin Undead

Director: Marvin Kren
Screenplay: Benjamin Hessler
Producer: Sigrid Hoerner
Starring: Michael Fuith, Anna Graczyk, and Sebastian Achilles
MPAA Rating: R for some horror violence.
Running time: 59 min


There is really something to be said for movies that know what they want to achieve and that they don’t need to be everything for everyone. Rammbock is a cool entry in the zombie genre. Unlike many zombie films out there that try to show some aspect of society Rammbock smartly chooses to simply tell a good straight forward story with some fun twists that elevate it above majority of zombie films.

Berlin under zombie attackMichael (Michael Fuith) comes to Berlin to seek out his ex-girlfriend Gabi. When he arrives at her apartment he sees a large man who appears to be doing some repairs. When he goes to introduce himself he is attacked. After surviving the attack he ends up being locked in Gabi’s apartment. Over the next 50 or so minutes Michael and the other members of the apartment fight for their survival. Everything is now in place for the standard zombie movie but I will strongly say that Rammbock stands out amongst it peers.

One of the biggest differences when compared to other films such as [REC] is that even though everyone is located in the same apartment complex they are separated for a good part of the movie by the zombies and the design of the building. Much of the short running time is spent trying to connect with the neighbors and also with Michael dealing with having lost Gabi now a second time.

As far as I know Rammbock is Germany’s first zombie movie to reach a wider audience and I have to say that I really loved it and can’t wait to see more zombie films from them. The movie doesn’t try to be something it is not but instead tries to just be a great entry in the zombie genre with some good scares with the new breed of fast zombies. Rammbock really does succeed in this. There is no bloating with unnecessary plot or characters. It is just good zombie horror.

Rammbock has been picked up for distribution in the US by the new Bloody Disgusting Selects and is currently in limited release. If you get a chance be sure to check it out, it won’t disappoint zombie fans.

Book Review: Zombies! An Illustrated History of the Undead

Are you one of those folks who complains that zombies do not speak when the increasing legions of zombie fanatics yell ‘Braaaaaiiiins!’ during festival screenings? Or perhaps you are one of those higher-on-the-geek-scale types that cites Return of the Living Dead as the origin of that particular trend? (Editors Note: Guilty!) Do you debate with your friends about the nature of running zombies vs. shambling zombies, or whether or not Danny Boyle’s 28 Weeks Later even qualifies as a zombie film? Jovanka Vuckovic, former editor of Rue Morgue Magazine, and a leading lady of the macabre, is here to make sure that we can all just get along by educating expert and novice alike in Z-lore, according to history, legend and the ever increasing swell of popular culture. The zombie movie has had a long and elastic history in literature and folklore, from The Bible (*snicker*) to Haitian Voodoo, and in past couple of years has it a kind of cultural zenith, particularly in the movies and its first blush into upscale cable TV. Thus, Zombies! An Illustrated History of the Undead arrives with some pretty impressive release timing to bring everyone up-to-speed (so to speak.)
Would you like to know more…?

5 Questions Regarding AMCs THE WALKING DEAD

I know I am late to the Walking Dead party, this is always the case with TV stuff. But with the DVD coming out today and having a chance last night to watch the entire first season in one sitting (Thanks Anchor Bay!), I can now see why all the writers of the show were summarily fired, or moved onto other projects (depending on which side of that story you accept.) I like the look of the zombies (CGI Blood is surprisingly not annoying!) and the abandoned Atlanta setpiece (not a single car on the road going into the city though? Seriously? I guess it makes the above screenshot work.) Don’t get me wrong, the production in handsome, and the acting is certainly serviceable, but here are some questions to level at the creators (or fans) of the show, that need to be addressed if the show is going to shake its Season 1 growing pains and aspire to something.

Warning *Potential Spoiler Elements to Follow*

1. What is the show about?
 
 
Survival, disease outbreak, decay of social order? Sure those are a given in any modern zombie treatment, at this point, you very likely cannot do ‘zombie’ without them. I am not asking for the levels of blunt social commentary that (ahem) plague the last three Romero-Zombie movies (and are handled pretty damn elegantly in the first three), or even implying that the series should be a concise or coherent allegory – but after 250+ minutes of show, that I cannot actually figure what the show is about is a little crazy. Family ties vs. surrogate community (the greater good)? The country vs. the city as a nurturing force? Energy Crisis? (the show begins and ends on a discussion of conserving energy.) I think solid dramatic shows like Breaking Bad, The Wire or Deadwood (even genre-shows like Battlestar Galactica) work because they ask interesting questions of our times and morals. I’ve yet to see The Walking Dead do anything interesting with its story other than fulfill the usual tropes (to again cite Romero – Night’s holing up in a house, Dawn’s entrapment in a storefront, Day’s medical science in a government/military institution. Is Season 2 going to be “The Road?”

Would you like to know more…?

Pirates Whatever Whatever… Oh! Penelope Cruz

I hate the Pirates franchise. The third one was the last straw. Not a chance in hell I’d go back and see a fourth installment. Then something odd happened on this terribly dreary, cold, depressing and crabby afternoon in Minneapolis to interest and cheer me up: the trailer for On Stranger Tides shows up. Yeah, it’s weird I feel this way and the movie will likely be terrible. But here’s a list of reasons why I’m slightly “funned up” and would consider screen hopping into this one:

1) Penélope Cruz
2) No Orloondo Bland
3) Ian McShane
4) Zombies
5) Mermaids
6) New storyline
7) Penélope Cruz