B-Movie

April Apocalypse

I don’t know what it is about zombie romance films that I love so much. The idea of love being able to survive even in a world bleak as one as a zombie apocalypse seems like a good contender. But my gut tells me that isn’t the right answer, so I’m left enjoying a strange niche of the horror genre. Strangely I’m not the only one that loves these movies, because there’s more than a few of them. April Apocalypse would be on the better end of the spectrum. But by no means my favorite, that would probably belong to Warm Bodies. While not the best at what it does April Apocalypse is certainly worth watching. As its full of fun acting and memorable moments.

April Apocalypse follows Artie (Reece Thompson), a love struck awkward teenager, who’s been in love with his next door neighbor April (Rebekah Brandes) since they were three. He confesses his love one night and April makes it clear she feels the same. The bad thing is her family is moving… tomorrow. They promise to stay in touch and after initially trying, the two drift apart. Artie falls into a depression and runs an evening radio show as an outlet for his depression, often pinning away for April. His depression worsens to the point where his family intervene and send him to psychologist, Dr. Lyle (George Lopez). Who prescribes him with a new form of Prozac to treat his depression. One that has none of old side effects, but has the new side effects of ambition, euphoria and an increase immune system. After starting he starts taking the new medication he, with help of his grandpa Pops (William Morgan Sheppard) to go to April. So he packs his car and leaves, to do just that. On the way he wrecks his car due to dodging a zombie in the road. When he comes to, the world is in the grip of a zombie apocalypse. He quickly returns home to check on his family. While in his home he set upon by a number of zombies, which Artie is able to kill. But not without getting bite. He quickly disinfects the wound with rubbing alcohol. Artie only manages to find Pops, who is dead. Leaving him wondering about the his parents and brother. But April is first priority, so Artie arms up and heads across the country to find her. Encounter other survivors along the way.

I found the acting to be great. I loved Reece Thompson. Though it did take me a good amount of time to warm up to him. But the best goes to Brent Tarnol as Stevenson and Todd Stashwick as the Priest. Though these just shine the brightest, because I cant think of single performance that I didn’t like.

Not that I liked all the characters. April and Regan played by Stephanie Hunt both bothered me. As both characters are never really expired. Regan happens into Artie and the two never seem to do much. She’s just the hot girl. Even when Artie meets up with Stevenson. That’s her characters whole deal. Which is sad as Stephanie Hunt did a good job with the role she was given. But I see Regan as a real missed opportunity as a character. The same goes for April, we get far more character with her. But she’s still and object in the film. Something for Artie to strive after and obtain. Not a fleshed out person with her own goals and ideas. Rebekah Brandes does a great job, making a character that is fairly shallowly written like-able.

The zombies are fairly stand fair. Nothing to noteworthy as April Apocalypse sticks to the standard fast zombie mythos. Get bitten or scratched you turn. After you turn you go cannibalistic and violent towards the uninfected. While the transformation window being fairly slim. It’s nice to see a zombie film that keeps the monster familiar while still delivering a new story.

Final thoughts, April Apocalypse certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel here. But it doesn’t need to. The standard zombie tropes and moments are here. But they’re done tongue in cheek. This is where the films comedy shines, as it will both acknowledge the trope and play off it at the same time. April Apocalypse is pretty good zombie film, with more than a dash of romance that I would recommend. 8/10

Beyond the Gates

It was the 80’s retro throwback feel that initially drew me to Beyond the Gates. Well that and Brea Grant, who I have been having a bit of video love affair with and is once again delightful. Beyond Brea Grant, Beyond the Gates also features famous scream queen Barbara Crampton in a different kind of role for her. Which is a refreshing change, it’s nice to see director Jackson Stewart placing her in the strange role of the video host. Though Beyond the Gates isn’t all roses, as it takes a while for the retro feel to start going and the film’s bare bones, low-budget quality of the film at times feels like it’s holding the film back.

Estranged brothers, John (Chase Williamson) and Gordon Hardesty (Graham Skipper) reunite to clean out their alcoholic fathers video store after his latest disappearance. Which has lasted so long that he’s thought dead. While cleaning out the shop, Gordon’s girlfriend Margot (Brea Grant) comes to visit and help. They break for the day and have an awkward run in with John’s friend Hank (Justin Welborn) while at the restaurant, eventually leaving rather than get into a confrontation. While in bed that night Gordon refuses Margot’s advances as he feels awkward about having sex in his fathers bed. While turning the lights out to go to sleep Gordon finds the missing key to the office. Which he explores the next day with John, inside they find a VHS board game, Beyond the Gates. They take the game home and along with Margot start playing. The video host (Barbara Crampton) spurs on the players and the players realize that by completing the game they may find John and Gordon;s father. But fist they have to survive the game and move beyond the gates…

While the film was overall okay, I found a few aspects lacking. Mainly it was how bland and apathetic feel. From the bar confrontation, to the brothers discussions on the father, to killing people for keys for the board game. None of them feel conflicted or even bothered by events that are happening. They just all roll along with what’s happening. Which makes them feel a bit like sociopaths.

The other issue the game, which overall I really like as I’m a fan of the VHS games being introduced to them via Atmosfear by a close friend back in high school. So as far as a game goes Beyond the Gates looks fun, you know, other than it being supernatural and would likely get me killed. My issue is the lack of why with the game. It’s origins are never explored nor is the purpose that it’s suppose to serve. Other than a cryptic warning at the end of the film.

I love the visuals in the film, the neon pinks and blues give a great atmosphere. One that’s as memorable as it is engaging. It was these moments that I found to be the most interesting, both for looks as well as tone. These visual elements are perfectly paired with the synthesizer music. Which is without a doubt is my favorite element of the film. I just with that it had been used more.

Final thoughts, it’s okay. Bland at times, but visually rich at others. The characters are hard to relate to due the emotional vacancy they possess. A lot of the films themes, family, alcoholism, among others is often touched on but never truly explored. Sadly to the films determent. If you’re looking for a terrifying horror film, I wouldn’t recommend Beyond the Gates. But if you’re looking for a low budget horror film with elements of an 80’s throwback then you might just enjoy this film. 6/10

Drifter

I picked this film on a whim and was very surprised with just how much I enjoyed it. I found the visuals and music to be outstanding. Throw in the great acting and this film became a real treat. I wasn’t all that excited for the cannibals as I’ve grown used to the cliche. Which here they still are, but are also done in such a way that it becomes forgivable.

Drifter opens with Miles Pierce (Aria Emory) holding a gun to man. Who pulls a gun in turn on Miles. Miles brother Dominic (Drew Hardwood) bursts into the room the two fire. Resulting in Miles getting shot in the hand and the other man dead. The brothers then take off across the wasteland, on some vague vengeance ride. The pair get in a disagreement and Dominic storms out into the waste leaving Miles in the car. While away in the dessert having a moment to him self, Miles is beset by three highway men that proceed to beat Miles to steal the car. Dominic returns the car and kills the men saving his brother. Due the beating Miles received they stop in the small movie Demyl. They come across a man walking down the road and while asking him for directions to help he slashes one of their tires. Dominic attacks the man, who is saved by Vojah (Monique Rosario). She has the brothers follow her and gives them aid. Vojah warns them about the towns occupants, a warning the Dominic ignores going after the man again. This results in the towns cannibalistic inhabitants led by Doyle (James McCabe) killing Dominic and capturing Miles. Whom they set tormenting, torments that crescendos at a dinner where is Dominic is the main course…

What I liked most about Drifter was the visuals. As this is a very stunning film. I often found myself floored with how beautiful it was, while maintaining a heavy atmosphere. The visuals are only surpassed by the sound track, because as often I was blow away with the look and feel of the film. The music is compelling and ties in each scene together.

But being pretty and sounding great isn’t what its all about. Because what a film without actors and the actors here do an outstanding job. James McCabe makes an outstanding villain. One that started off feeling generic but quickly developed into a fun and devilish character. One that I simply love to hate.

Final thoughts, I enjoyed Drifter. Hell I’ll go as far as to say I loved it. Stunning through and through that suffered one from loose threads. What was the vengeance ride about? Did Miles ever get it? Does that matter? The answer is no, but what a ride. 9/10

The Devil’s Dolls

The reason I watched The Devil’s Dolls was simply because I enjoyed Brea Grant so much in Midnight Movie, even though she had such a small role, that I wanted to look into more of her films. Which lead me to the Devil’s Dolls. Though I was less impressed with The Devil’s Dolls than I was with Midnight Movie, I still enjoyed it. But it’s still flawed. Fortunately most of my issues with this film are minor, unfortunately one of them isn’t.

The Devil’s Dolls opens with a young woman barley escaping captivity from serial killer Henry (Matty Ferraro). Initially she seeks the aid of the most useless officer ever, to be finally rescued by Detective Matt (Christopher Wiehl). Who shoots and kills Henry. Matt and his partner Darcy (Kym Jackson) search Henry’s hideout and find his worry dolls. Collected with the rest of the evidence the dolls are left in the back of Matt’s car. The dolls are taken by Matt’s daughter Chloe (Kennedy Brice), which she fashions into jewelry that she sells at her mother Amy’s (Samantha Smith) shop. That night she becomes effected by the dolls, resulting in her attacking and killing the dog. Chloe then lapses into a coma. Similar things happen to those who purchased or wear the dolls. Attack and killing others, though each are killed shortly after. Including Amy’s friend Becca (Brea Grant), who is attacked and killed by her boyfriend after she gives him the doll as a gift to wear. Matt and Darcy link each of the events together eventually realizing the dolls and their connection to Henry go to see Della (Tina Lifford), the woman who raised Henry. She explains that the dolls were a gift to Henry as a child in an effort to heal is lost innocence. But the dolls became cursed by the sorrow and pain he felt, cursing those to know the levels of his pain. Though the pain they feel is entirely their own and that to save his daughter, Matt must collect all the dolls and bring them to her by sunrise…

My main issue with this film is Christopher Wiehl. He performance feels plastic. Rigged, inorganic and fake. It’s jarring against some of the other performances, mostly Kennedy Brice. Who does an admirable job, one a few in the film. Christopher Wiehl isn’t one of them.

My other issue is with the pacing. The film has a slow and arduous at times, saved only by the short moments of violence. That and the occasion moment that drives the dread forward. The Devil’s Dolls starts strong and gets progressively weaker, ending in an ending that is both flat and predictable.

Final thoughts, the mood and story are good. If not easily anticipated. The horror aspect plays on the fear of possession and of on our own fears getting the best us. The worry doll’s are only lightly explained and their ability to cleanse the soul is left mostly unexplained beyond magic tree. Which I suppose is all the film really needs, but lacks any sense of origin that made them feel real. An okay film in the end, with some memorable moments and visuals. But lacks enough strength of character to be a truly be good. 6/10

Puppet Master

I have some very fond memories of this franchise. Not this film in particular mind, but the Puppet Master series as a whole. This is the film that fostered my love for Full Moon Entertainment. Many of the puppets being as nostalgic and memorable horror creatures for me as Frankenstein or Jason. I remember renting it at the local video store and for years my only take away was the puppets. Which honestly are the best part.

The film opens with Andre Toulon (William Hickey) is in hiding from the Nazis in Bodega Bay. He’s warned of his discovery by one of his living puppets Blade, as Toulon has stolen the secret of creating life. He hides Blade and his other puppets inside a chest inside the wall before committing suicide before the Nazi agents could arrive. Flash forward to 1989, a group of psychics consisting of Alex Whitaker (Paul Le Mat), Dana Hadley (Irene Miracle), Carissa Stamford (Kathryn O’Reilly) and Frank Forester (Matt Roe) are invited to go see their associate Neil Gallagher (Jimmie F. Skaggs) and his wife Megan (Robin Franks) at the Bodega Bay Inn where they live. The group thinks that Neil may have found Toulon’s secret hidden there. But when they get there, they learn from Megan that Neil has committed suicide. Even showing them his body, which is prepared for his funeral. Though things are not all well at this mysterious wake. As the psychics have visions of violence and their impending deaths. Visions that quickly become to real when they start being hunted by Toulon’s puppets…

The actual plot of this film isn’t the best. Even the characters aren’t memorable, bleeding into on another. Until they feel less than compelling. The acting is mediocre at best to lazy at worst and maybe the biggest down fall of this film is the villain. Once it’s revealed who’s reanimated the puppets and set them to kill, it’s a bit underwhelming. As are his reason.

The best part is by far the puppets, Blade, Pinhead, Tunneler and Leach Woman to name a couple. Each one is distinct both visually and by mannerism. Out of all of them my favorite is probably Blade, but Pinhead is a very strong contender.

The dread location of a old Inn works great. It always for a depth of atmosphere and plenty of crannies for the puppets to hide in. The old building gives the film an absolute ton character.

Final thoughts, not my favorite in the series. But, it’s still good and for me personally this entry is among the best. Puppete Master s its puppets, which are memorable and at times unsettling. 9/10

Re-Kill

I can honestly say I did not enjoy this movie. I like the idea behind it, but the execution was way off. The idea of reality tv in a zombie apocalypse about those that are hunting down and eliminating what’s left of the zombie threat. Though I will admit that this film isn’t completely without merit. While it was unable to capitalize on it, Re-Kill does actually have a really good concept and some of the characters are interesting. But just some of them.

Re-Kill is reality tv show that follows Division 6, a group of soldiers tasked with handling the zombie threat. The group consists of Nyguyen (Yo Santhaveesuk), Omar Hernandez (Jesse Garcia), Winston (Bruce Payne), “Grizzly” Adams (Dimiter Doichinov), Trent Parker (Scott Adkins), Tom (Layke Anderson), and Rose Mathews (Daniella Alonso), who are all led by Sarge (Roger Cross). To film and narrate the show drops in Jimmy (Aaron Jay Rome) and Bobby (Owen Davis). The show follows their exploits, which eventually leads them into a walled-off section of New York known as The Zone an a highly dangerous mission. The group responded negativity to the orders as almost no one comes back from The Zone…

My main issue with Re-Kill is that it has commercials for this zombie apocalypse during “the show”. I get that it should make it feel more immersive. But it doesn’t its jarring and ruins the films pacing and delivery. It also steals away valuable time that should be used on developing the characters. Something this film desperately needed. As a lot of the characters feel like cardboard cut outs. From the religious solider to the scared camera guys, everyone felt incredibly shallow. Which sucks because the interview parts were among the best because you get learn about the characters and this hell world they live in.

The other issues I have aren’t as major. The lack of a strong dread location being one of them. The Zone feels incredibly generic and offers nothing in the memorability. I enjoy zombies films that have solid dread locations, farm houses, shopping malls, Bill Murray’s house, ect. But here the best they got is a grey, dark, industrial complex.

The pacing is also awful. But this is related again to the commercials. As any time that Re-Kill starts to build its tension it cuts to a commercials. Which brings the movie to sudden stop, while providing little to the plot.

Final thoughts, it just wasn’t that good. Re-Kill is a bunch of standard zombie tropes and ideas thrown together with a pretty neat concept. Because like I said I do like the concept. But that alone is about the extent of what I do like. The characters are shallow, the location is boring and the zombies are never really explored beyond zombies. Not a film that I plan on watching again. 3/10

Midnight Movie

While doing some research in preparation of a second season of Slasher Series, I came across this 2008 slasher gem. Though unable to make the time to a proper video review, I decided to review it all the same. Those that read this blog should be well aware of my deep fondness for Slasher films. I can say that Midnight Movie is a decent slasher, with a large victim pool and memorable dread location. Though the killer leaves something to be desired, as do the kills.

Midnight Movie opens with a psychiatrist, trying to help one of his patients Ted Radford (Arthur Roberts), who has suffered a mental breakdown and thinks he’s the killer from his film The Dark Beneath that he made forty years prior. The psychiatrist has Radford watch his film in hopes that it will allow him to come to terms with what ever. This decision is contested by another psychiatrist Dr. Wayne (Michael Swan), but his objections are ignored and he leaves for the night. When he returns later he finds signs of a massacre  with no bodies ever being found. Five years later, A small local theater is showing The Dark Beneath as a midnight special for the first time since the massacre at the psychiatric hospital. The manger Bridget (Rebekah Brandes) along with two employees Kenny (Shaun Ausmus) and Rachael (Brea Grant) prepare the theater and welcome the small group of attendees. Including a biker couple Harley (Stan Ellsworth) and Babe (Melissa Steach), Bridget’s boyfriend Josh (Daniel Bonjour), Josh’s friend Mario (Greg Cirulnick) and Mario’s girlfriend Samantha (Mandell Maughan). Tagging along is their awkward friend and horror buff Sully (Michael Schwartz). Also in attendance is Dr. Wayne and Detective Barrons (Jon Briddell), who both believe that Radford will make an appearance since this is first time in years that his film has been played and lastly Bridget’s little brother Timmy (Justin Baric), who sneaked in. As the film plays those attending notice strange occurrences such as the killer attacking those in the building. When they go to investigate they learn that the killer can leave the film and take his victims back with inside it with him. When the frightened survivors try to flee the theater they realize that what ever power has allowed the killer to escape his film has trapped them inside with him…

I love the set up for this film, and the split dread locations. The idea the killer can leave his film and also take others back with him is interesting to say the least. The fact that the film is Slasher adds a great element of a Slasher within a Slasher that I greatly enjoyed. I might of actually enjoyed The Dread Beneath more than Midnight Movie itself.  The old, colorful theater plays wonderfully against the black and white world of the Dread Beneath. Creating a great visual contrast.

The victim pool was less amazing. I loved a small handful of the characters, Harley and Babe mostly. But Rachael and Timmy were also fun, if short-lived in Rachael’s case. I also love how the film sets up Bridget up as more of victim-hero over the standard final girl trope by giving her a darker back story filled with abuse at the hands of her father.

Though not all of Midnight Movie was great in my opinion. It has a number of weak spots that are glaring if you watch enough Slasher films. The killer Radford’s motives are never clearly defined. He just kills for the sake of killing, which ruins the inciting incident. He has no reason to go all murder happy, he’s just evil. Much in the same vein that Michael Myers is just murder happy. But Michael Myers still had a goal, to murder his sister providing some idea of intent or design. Here he just kills.

The weapon of choice wasn’t the greatest either. A spiral knife… thing, while it looks cool is never seen in use as the most of the violence with it is hidden or happens off-screen. But most of kills are with said weapon causing a lot of kills to feel old hat and uninventive. I would have liked to see more variety and creativity in the killers methods.

Lastly the gore leaves a lot to be desired. Midnight Movie feels incredibly tame in this regard, much like a PG-13 horror film might be. Even though it’s rated R it never really uses the rating. Giving the film a bit of a soft feeling. When you do see gore it looks fake and even comical, which is fine but doesn’t fit with rest of the films tone.

Final thoughts, I liked it. It had been a while since I watched a Slasher and it was great to get back to seeing the kind of films I love to watch. But the weak kills and a slow pace also made Midnight Movie a bit of slog to get through at times and with the uninventive kills gets even a tad monotonous. If your fan of the genre I would recommend it, if you’re looking to get  into the genre there is defiantly better places to start. 7/10