Black Comedy

Warm Bodies

How have I not talked about this movie yet? I love this movie. Love it. I’m a fan of romantic horror films, a fact that is well documented. Warm Bodies is among my top five favorites. Hell, it’s in my top 25 movies off all time. Though objectively it’s not the best. But I’m not here to be objective. I’m here to give my honest opinion. Warm Bodies is far and away more Romance and Comedy than Horror. Horror is the back drop, occasionally its brought up and that really works for here. I love the pairing of Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer. But I’ll get to praising them in a moment.

Warm Bodies opens with R (Nicholas Hoult), a zombie who spends his days suffering around an airport. He spends his days trying to remember what it used to be like before he became a zombie.  His only kind of friend is M (Rob Corddry), who he stands near and they almost start conversations. The only time they speak is when to signify hunger and the need to hunt. Which they do, heading into the city. Leader of potentially last human settlement Grigio (John Malkovich), sends out a group of young survivors to scavenge in the city for supplies that are needed by the settlement, like medicine. Among them are Grigio’s daughter Julie (), her boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco), and her best friend Nora (Analeigh Tipton). R’s and Julies groups encounter on another and a fight ensues. During which R falls in love with Julie at first sight. He then kills Perry and eats his brains. Which allows him to live Perry’s memories. Including the ones of him and Julie falling in love. R manages to save Julie from the zombies as the her group is killed except for Nora. R takes Julie back to the airport where he keeps her in the plane he lives in. Filled with stuff that he likes. The two get to know one another and start to fall in love over the days that R keeps Julie there. But she has no desire to stay and after being found by the zombies, including the more dangerous Bonies. But with the aid of M, Julie and R manage to escape. After helping Julie and R escape the zombies start to come back alive. Something that upsets the Bonies who chase them out. Julie and R take refuge in an old house and spend the night. During which he reveals that hes the one who killed Perry. R then falls asleep, some that the dead don’t do and wakes up to Julie gone. R starts to head back when he runs in M, who’s leading a band of like-hearted zombies to find R. He tells him of the Bonies and how they are hunting for him, and Julie. R, M, and the other zombies head to find Julie to warn her of the Bonies coming attack.

The romantic elements work really well for me and I love the chemistry between the leads. Being based on a novel that is blatantly retelling Romeo and Juliet, the chemistry is important. Both deliver solid performances and come of as light in what is a very down atmosphere. The rest does a great job, with Rob Corddry being hilarious, and heart warming at times.

The zombie effects are pretty good, but the Bonies don’t look as good. While by no means do they look bad. I just would have preferred if they had been approached via practical effects instead of CGI. Which is my only gripe about this film.

The sound track also needs to be brought up. Because it’s outstanding. The film makes great use of some very recognizable songs such as Shelter from the Storm by Bob Dylan, Patience by Guns and Roses and Missing You by John Waite to name a few.

Final thoughts, I do love this movie. Its cute, fun and light with a healthy dose of zombie violence. It takes the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet and twists it into some new. Which is harder to pull of then it might sound. 9/10

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

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

The Windmill

The Windmill or The Windmill Massacre is 2016 Dutch supernatural horror film with a body count. I went into this film due to its apparent slasher qualities, qualities that were vast and valuable. Though honestly beyond group of people being stalked and killed by a supernatural force is all I knew. But for me that was enough. The Windmill didn’t surprise me as much as I was hoping it would and has a couple of issues that did get under my skin.

The Windmill opens with Jennifer Harris (Charlotte Beaumont) being confronted by her boss about the fact she lied about who she is. He tries to keep her detained until the police arrive, but she escapes by smashing a vase into his head and running away. She wanders the streets of Amsterdam until the next morning when she comes across a Happy Holland tour bus, owned and operated by Abe (Bart Klever). Also on the bus is father and son, Douglas (Patrick Baladi) and Curt (Adam Thomas Wright), photographer Ruby (Fiona Hampton), royal marine Jackson (Ben Batt), Dr. Nicholas Cooper (Noah Taylor) and Japanese tourist Takashi (Tanroh Ishida). The bus breaks down after Jennifer freaks thinking she say her father walk into the road, which would be hard she she touched him alive back in Australia. Broke down with no cell service to call for help, Jennifer and Jackson head to a near by windmill that isn’t on the map to ask for help. On the way through the woods to get there Jackson has a hallucination about the prostitute he killed in Amsterdam the night before, before he’s killed by a strange figure with a scythe. Jennifer runs back to the bus, but no one believes her, a steady theme since the doctor outs shes on anti-psychotics. Soon the bus tips over into the pond it was parked by forcing the group as a whole to walk to the windmill. Along the way they loose Takashi who follows his own vision his wrong doings deeper into the woods. One by one the tourists are forced to confront their sins before being killed by the ghost of Miller Hendrik (Kenan Raven), for devil worshiper now gate man for hell…

My issues are two fold, first is it takes forever for anyone to believe Jennifer. Like three deaths and a witness in. Which wouldn’t of been bad if the filmmakers focused on the is she isn’t she motif. But that’s never addressed, we as the audience know from the get go that she isn’t and it feels like it takes forever for the victim pool to catch up.

My next issue is also a spoiler so feel free to jump past this part. But Abe the bus driver being in league with Miller Hendrik bothers me immensely. As Abe kills the repentant, who are not killed by Hendrik to be sent to hell along with any innocents that might have been on the bus of sinners. Which feels like it defeats the whole judging people for their sins and releasing the truly repentant. Why judge people at all if you have a cohort that kills the people that make it free? Also how did Abe start serving Hendrik and the devil? The Windmill never covers that, it just gives a throw away line about how he has been working for him for many years. With all the time spent arguing if Jennifer is insane could have been used to better flesh out Abe.

The rest of the victim pool is actually okay. Nothing special, but I can be a fan of standard fare. Which here I am. The best performances come from Tanroh Ishida, Adam Thomas Wright, and Patrick Baladi. I really love Tanroh the most as it feels like he did the most with his character even though he had little time. Patrick Baladi and Adam Thomas Wright have great father son chemistry and are very believable in these roles.

Final thoughts, it was okay. But had the fixings to be really great. The Windmill need to focus more on its characters and the Miller more than anything. Most are left woefully underdeveloped and their sins never really become the focal point they should. The kills are fun, inventive and gorey. Though the CGI does look a little silly at times. 6/10

My Best Friend is a Vampire

I liked this film a lot less than I had expected I would going in. It mostly suffers from being, in my opinion not that good. I wouldn’t go as far as to call this film awful though. As it is at least entertaining. My main issue is how dated the film feels, which is strange since 80’s charm is normally a big seller for me. More it was how dated the humor was, but ill get into that more later.

My best friend is a Vampire starts with narrator Jeremy Capello (Robert Sean Lenard), a popular, or at least well regarded high school student’s dream. In the dream he’s torn between choosing the popular cheerleader Candy Andrews (LeeAnne Locken) and nerdy Darla Blake (Cheryl Pollak). While trying to decided he is seduced by a mysterious woman (Cecilia Peck). In waking life, Jeremy isn’t torn at all as he sets his eyes on Darla, while Candy sets hers on him. Darla is initially cold to Jeremy, but warms to him quickly. One night at his job delivering groceries, he delivers to Nora. Who looks just like the woman from his dreams, she makes a move on him though they lead no where since Jeremy leaves. At school Jeremy’s best friend Ralph (Evan Mirand) upon hearing his story convinces Jeremy to return to her that night. In attempt at a sexual liasion. Which actually kind of works out, though while Jeremy and Nora, the mysterious woman are get hot and heavy. As Nora bites Jeremy’s neck they are interrupted by Professor McCarthy (David Warner) and his assistant Grimsdyke (Paul Willson) break in. Jeremy flees thinking McCarthy is Nora’s husband and flees along with Ralph in Ralph’s car. The car is seen fleeing by Grimsdyke who is able to see the bumper sicker for the high school Jeremy and Ralph attend. Over the next couple days Jeremy starts noticing some changes. Changes that get even more complicated when Modoc (Rene Auberjonois), a vampire, shows up to teach him the ropes. Leaving Jeremy to balance school, is romantic life, and stopping MCCarthy, who think Ralph is the vampire.

So my first gripe is the dated humor. Well not so much the humor as a whole, but the humor in one particular scene. After Ralph learns the Jeremy is a vampire. Ralph has Jeremy go to a club with him so that Jeremy can use his mind control powers on ladies to get Ralph laid. The joke is that Jeremy isn’t any good at it and keeps messing it up. My issue is that their intention is to essentially commit rape. But the whole scene is a joke and never takes a second to think about what the characters actions say about them.

For the most part it doesn’t feel like much of anything is going on. Sure, McCarthy s there to force the plot along. But for the most part it takes it easy.

Another gripe is his the female leads. Both are interested in Jeremy and the to movie tries to play up this aspect a little, but mostly just during the beginning. Darla and Candy are both woefully underdeveloped. But so is everyone, even Jeremy. Though no character leaves me with questions or scratching my head like Modoc.

Final thoughts, over all I didn’t like it. Sure you get to see young Robert Sean Lenard, or if you like either Rene Auberjonois or David Warner. This film might be worth a watch for you. Though be warned the humor is just as dated as the hair styles. 4/10

Dance of the Dead

I went into Dance of the Dead expecting a better film. Detention of the Dead was good enough to get me looking for similar films. Which brought me to Dance of the Dead and I don’t like near as much. Mostly because I feel I was cheated on the Dance part of this film, since the majority of the film doesn’t take place at the dance. I feel bad for not liking this film, it has everything going for it. It’s a cheesy zombie flick, set at a prom, and its low budget with a focus on practical effects. I should be loving this film, but I’m not.

Dance of the Dead opens in a graveyard next to nuclear power plant. The grave keeper covers up the fact the dead are rising by removing the parts that break the surface. At the towns high school everyone is preparing for the upcoming prom. Steven (Chandler Darby) a member of the Sci-Fi club, tries to ask out cheerleader Gwen (Carissa Capobianco) after learning her date is sick. But chickens out when she shows interest in Nash Rambler (Blair Redford), the lead singer in a punk band. Meanwhile, Lindsey (Greyson Chadwick) breaks up with her long time boyfriend Jimmy Dunn (Jared Kusnitz) over his inability to take anything seriously and decides to go to the dance with Rod (Mark Lynch) instead. The night of the prom the Sci-Fi club led by Jules (Mark Lynch) goes and investigates the graveyard. At the same graveyard Rod and Lindsey park before the dance and start getting hot and heavy. When the dead rise in force, attacking the teens, killing Rod. Though Lindsey and the others manage to escape in Rod’s car. Jimmy on his way to the dance is forced to deliver a pizza for his job. When he arrives the family that ordered the pizza are now zombies and attack him. Jimmy manages to escape. He comes across an overturn truck, the only survivor is Kyle Grubbin a bully and Jimmy’s enemy. Kyle gets his gun and starts shooting zombies and nearly shoots Gwen when she’s jogging by. The three flee the zombie horde. Lindsey calls Jimmy after she and the Sci-Fi club take refuge in a house. Jimmy, Kyle and Gwen make their way to them via the sewers, which the discover is heavily polluted from the nuclear power plant. The group now formed decided to make a mad dash to try and save everyone at the prom before they become zombies.

I should love this movie, but it’s just not there for me. The acting is good enough that its not enjoyably awful, so a lot of them come off as dry or stilled.  None of the actors seem to be on the same page. Most of the performances you get the standard b zombie flick, but some of the characters are so over the top you cant tell if this film knows how to be funny. I had a real problem with the character of Coach Keel played by Mark Oliver, who is way to over the top compared to the rest of the cast.

This films tone is just as wildly inconstant, that I can only compare to the later Ernest films. One moment you go from zombie horror film to the humor with no real delineation. Just zombies, bad joke, oh more zombies, bad joke, zombies again over and over.

Though the film isn’t without it merits. It really shows what you can do with a small budget. Even if I don’t like the over out come and I have to respect it for that. The effects are gory and well done with the zombies looking the range of laughable to pretty alright. The transformations were handled better than I expected.  The music is often spot on for the moment and complements the scenes well.

Final thoughts, I you really like zombie films check it out. If on the other hand you’re only passingly a fan or not a fan of them at all, I’d say skip  it. There’s better teen zombie horror films out there. I really wish I could recommend this film but I just can’t. 4/10