Sunday, August 30, 2009

Movie Review - Rob Zombie's Halloween 2 (2009)

Really, Rob. Really?

Look, I gave you the benefit of the doubt when you re-did the original Halloween. I expected that I found it so underwhelming because you tried too hard to please too many people. Whether it was the fans, or the producers, or the MPAA, or your own vision; the simple truth is that you couldn't please everyone.

And the fact is - you've shown some actual aptitude and some truly unique talent in your earlier movies. As I wrote a week or so ago, I had my concerns about your second visit to Haddonfield, and I hoped that my trepidation was unfounded.

I now see that I was deluding myself.

Halloween 2 is a terrible, terrible movie and you've squandered any goodwill I might have felt for the brilliance of House of a 1000 Corpses or The Devil's Rejects.

This movie was just awful. It was disjointed and had very little continuity. Which is laughable when one considers that most slasher flicks - the original Halloweens included - had plot holes you could drive trucks through.

All this movie was was a vehicle for Zombie to, once again, showcase the easy-on-the-eyes, but unable-to-act, Sherri Moon Zombie. It was exactly what I feared.

The story, of course, takes place one year after the events of the first film. It starts out promising enough... but quickly devolves into a blurred and indistinct mess punctuated by images of Sherri Zombie in a white dress, or talking in her stupid baby voice, or wandering around with a white horse and surrounded by an eerie and ethereal light.

Scout Taylor-Compton resumes her role as Laurie Strode and now lives with Sheriff Brackett and his daughter Annie (the only other survivor of Michael Meyers first attack). She's now living in a room decorated in a style that can only be described as nouveau crack house. She's changed from the preppy, cute, fashioable teen she was in the first movie to a stringy haired, white trash pastiche wearing clothes that one would see on a homeless bag lady. She is haunted by nightmares of Michael Meyers and, of course, is plagued by the feeling that he just might be alive.

And of course Michael is.

He has been apparently living as a hobo and has gone unnoticed in Illinois. Funny really, considering every law enforcement agent in the state has been looking for him. Right. That makes sense... because seven foot tall, massive, psychotic hobos blend in to the scenery in your average, local farm community.


It's not a spoiler to say that Michael returns, causes havoc, and kills a lot of people. What's missing is a good story line or an attempt to make it engaging.

Sherri Zombie returns as Michael's mother, but is now a ghostly apparition that encourages Michael to kill lots of people and find his younger sister. And this is the part that makes me the most angry about wasting my time on this movie. The story line with the ghostly Momma Meyers did not, in any way, add to the film. You could have just as easily left it out and, in fact, it may have helped to do so. But we can't do that because, you know, then Sherrie Zombie wouldn't have had a job and wouldn't have felt like she contributed to the family finances. It must be hard living off of all Rob's record, movie, and art money. Poor Sherri! Hell, this was like charity.

Too bad I hate charity.

And the Mamma Meyers story made less sense in the grand scheme of things because - in addition to Michael seeing her - so does Laurie. Which makes no sense. The only way I could see explaining it is that Rob is alluding to the supposed psychic link that existed between Michael Meyers and his niece Jamie in Halloween 4 and 5. Cool points if he did, and nice allusion to Danielle Harris' role in the earlier films -- but I truthfully don't think Rob intended to do that. I may just be giving him too much credit.

Additionally, there were some small cameos that did little to add to the film. Malcolm McDowell's Dr. Loomis is wandering around doing a book tour and only comes to Haddonfield in the last 5 minutes of the film. The only bright spots were Danielle Harris and the incomparable Brad Dourif... but neither of them could do much with the shit they were given.

Overlooking the glaringly awful story and nepotism that gave Sherri Zombie another shot at movie money -- the actual horror was minimal at best. Instead of giving a moody, dark, horror film (which Rob has shown he can do)... we're left with a movie that assaults the senses with violence that has little to no value in the overall story. And - in contrast to the puerile story and writing - this is the only area in which Zombie excels. I've said before that Rob has a way of filming death that makes it seem real and visceral, and that's still true. There is a brutality and veracity to the murders that Zombie captures, and it makes this a movie not for the squeamish. For gore-hounds like Doctor Z, though, it's like mana from heaven. Too bad it doesn't redeem the other inadequacies. When you look at the excellent carnage when compared to the myriad other deficencies,it's just not enough. You are left with brutal scenes that I would normally love, if I weren't so angry about the poor story and acting.

On another positive note, kudos to the Foley artists. They more than earned their pay. Every kills sounded awesome -- if only it wasn't the same thing over and over again. Namely, Michael standing over the victim and stabbing them repeatedly off screen.

What other travesties does this film deliver? Oh, where to begin...

How about the fact that Michael Meyers spends most of the movie without his mask on. Or that he makes sound everytime he kills someone. We here him grunting and growling as he viciously stabs the 15 or 20 people he randomly kills. So much for the mythology, Rob. Way to go.

I am so disappointed with this movie, and on so many levels.

The sad thing is that Rob's first pass at the Halloween franchise was a better film than this... and that movie was mediocre at best.

As I told a friend earlier - watching this movie was like spending two hours having my brain stem and the ancillary reasoning centers of my brain assaulted over and over with a shit covered stick. How can someone - who is such a fan of horror and all associated spookiness - get it so wrong? I don't know which is worse... that Rob felt it was necessary to expose us once again to the sing-songy awfulness that is his wife, or that he's so sullied the legacy of what is arguably the greatest horror movie series of all time.

If I were John Carpenter, I'd sue Rob Zombie for gross negligence, total lack of respect, and general jackassery.

DOCTOR ZOMBIE'S RATING: 1 out of 5 Chomped Brains

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Movie Review - Feast (2005)

I received a copy of this film from my fellow horrorhound, Count Dante. He was surprised I hadn't seen it yet and, truthfully, I'm surprised I hadn't either. I remembered hearing good things about it when it first came out, but it somehow managed to slipped under my radar.

Boy! Was I negligent or what?!?

Feast, in a word, is fucking awesome. It is a horror movie that does what I wished so many low budget films did more often;, namely, throw the old conventions and cliches out the window...

The third and final installment in Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's Project Greenlight series, this film was directed by John Gulager. His father, famed horror and b-movie actor Clu Gulager (Burt, from Return of the Living Dead), plays one of the characters and is part of an ensemble cast that does a great job with the script and the overwhelmingly frantic pace of the film's action and terror.

The story revolves around a group of feckless losers all hanging around a desert bar on one lonely night. Their night and plans of drunken idiocy are interrupted when two characters called The Hero (Eric Dane),and the Heroine (Navi Rawat) arrive with several gruesome, filthy, ravenous monsters hot on their tails. The poor denizens of the bar spend the rest of the movie fighting to stay alive.

From the opening scene, this movie is relentless, offensive, gory, and overwhelming in its violence... and Doctor Zombie would have it no other way. This movie has everything a horror fan could dream of from gore to horror to humor to Henry Rollins. That's right... Henry Fucking Rollins. And Rollins plays one of his best roles yet... a nebbish traveling salesman who spouts self help and inspirational mantras like Al Franken's titular character, Stewart.

Also add Jason Mewes to the mix and you've got some cameo casting that can't be beat.

The writers, Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, wrote a masterpiece here. They took the tired genre staple of a group of people trapped and fighting an unknown evil, and made it fresh. They also blatantly took the conventions to task. In fact, most of th characters don't even have names. They are known simply by their archetypes. Rollins plays Coach. We have the Hero and the Heroine. We have Beer Guy, Bozo, Tuffy, Bartender, and The Veteran. It's almost as though the writers did this in order to say, "Don't even bother to learn their names, because they most likely won't be around long enough for you to attach yourself to any of them anyway."

The blood is awesome (no poorly rendered CGI here!) and there's buckets of the stuff. Barrels of the old red. Christ, there's swimming pools of it! The monsters are great and add the perfect mix of terror and humor to the situation. As I said before, no depravity is left unturned. The monsters are hungry, dangerous, insane, and remarkably lusty. One particular scene stands out - a smaller, immature monster gets into the bar and tears the face off of a patron. Not satisfied with having killed the poor person, the little filthy beast then proceeds to hump the face hole in full view of the remaining survivors.

That's the kind of dark, evil, and decidedly hilarious stuff that you won't see at a PG-13 showing of Prom Night. Hell, if some shaggy, toothy beast shagged Paris Hilton in Wax Works, I might have actually seen it. But no, it (I'll just have to settle for the poorly filmed One Night In Paris for that, talk about TRUE HORROR! But I digress...)

This is the sort of movie that Hollywood needs to do when they're looking to add to the horror genre. Enough with the shitty remakes of classic horror films, enough PG-13 crap, and enough Japanese ghost stories that aren't scary to the average, jaded American horror fan. Of course, the nature of this film's production gave it something of an advantage, and the fact that Affleck and Damon chose it for Project Greenlight is a testament to how cool they, and the idea of Project Greenlight, truly were.

Simply put, this is the sort of movie that would send the morons who run the MPAA screaming into the night, clawing at their eyes in an attempt to punish the soft orbs for subjecting them to such depravity.

And that fucking rocks.

You must see this film! Words can't describe the awesome!

DOCTOR ZOMBIE'S RATING: 5 out of 5 Chomped Brains!!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Quick Interlude

Hello, dear readers!

Just a quick note to let you know that I haven't forgotten about you (and you can hide from me under the bed all you want, I can STILL hear your frightened, harsh breathing).

I'll be out of communication for the next few days as myself, Mrs. Zombie, WolfGirl and Zombie Boy travel to the dark and eldritch woods of northern Michigan to... camp! That's right! I'll be spending several days convalescing on the shores of beautiful Lake Huron in a pop-up. Cleveland will be murder-free as a result of my absence, but I expect Michigan is unprepared for the carnage that inevitably and inexorably follows the good Doctor.

I'm excited because the summer is drawing to a close and - soon - autumn will be here. And that means one thing... Halloween! That wonderful, dark, perfect holiday that all good evil undead scientists look forward to.

And speaking of Halloween coming soon, remember that August 29th will be bringing Rob Zombie's Halloween 2 to the movie theaters. I'm up in the air about how this film's going to go... I absolutley lurve Rob Zombie as an artist and director, but I was a bit underwhelmed by his initial pass at John Carpenter's masterpiece, Halloween. and some of the previews haven't assuaged my misgivings. The biggest problem? The return of sherry Moon Zombie as an apparent ghost who eggs Michael Meyers on.

That's right, it looks like Rob has managed to kill his wife in one movie and then resurrect her in the second. Now far be it from me to begrudge the dude getting his girl some movie parts. The dark gods know she's not getting any other offers. And I'll be the first to admit she's hot as hell. If I was Rob, I'd be showing her off like it was my job... but the sad fact is that she doesn't need to be in every one of your movies, bro. Seriously.

I'll obviously be at the theater opening weekend to see it, but my cringe meter is beeping.

We'll just need to see.

In other Rob Zombie news, it looks like there's going to be a direct to DVD release of his The Haunted World Of El Superbeasto. This animated work is based on the comic character he created with Steve Niles and looks to be fucking awesome! It even has the SS Werewolves of the Third Reich that he first brought to life in the Grindhouse trailer of the same name. Finally, he'll soon be starting on his Tyrannosaurus Rex after his next studio album. It sounds like he's going for a super-violent grindhouse style pick of his own. It looks to be interesting.

Of course it's scheduled to be released in 2011 and IMDb lists only one actor.

Sherry Moon Zombie.

Of course.

Another film I'm completely and totally excited to see is District 9. Opening this upcoming weekend, it looks to be an awesome movie. Of course, I've been suckered in by a pretty trailer before -- but this has the feel of a great idea and a great film. We'll need to see. Unfortunately, as I'll be fending off enraged, human-flesh hungry sasquatches (sasquatchi?) in the wilds of Michigan, I'll need to wait until the following weekend to sneak out and see it. Maybe I'll make a night of it and catch Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds as well...

Finally, I wanted to throw some love towards Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether from Northwestern Ohio. I've been doing movie reviews for them for some time and they're some great, groovy, kooky cats who are doing some awesome and deliciously morbid work. I haven't given them a plug in forever, and realized it was long past due. Go to Tarr and Fether's Psycho Cinema - Doctor Zombie commands it!

Also - remember to visit and heap adulation on the awesomeness of The Daily Tourniquet. The mad genius who runs things over there - Jeff Connolly - continues to provide great fiction, poetry, and general social media madness; all at the tips of your gnawed, bloody fingers.

The power of Zombie compells you! The power of Zombie compells you!

That's all for now, dear readers. If you live in the Cleveland area, I'll see you in a week or so. If you live in Michigan, hope that I don't show up at your doorstep with my bag of pointy, sharp, rusty tools and a big smile.


Saturday, August 08, 2009

Movie Review - Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

It has been said that - for the true horror film devotee - all paths eventually and inexorably lead downward to the depravity that is Cannibal Holocaust. For my part, I had been trying in vain to get a decent enough copy of it for the last couple years. Finally, I managed to snag an uncut Director's version of the film and it is every bit as disturbing and deliciously depraved as they said.

Italian Director Ruggerio Deodata's classic splatterfest is a must see. There's no arguing that. It is to this movie that the recent spate of cinema verite-style horror can trace its roots. Taking the idea of reality based film making to an extreme still unmatched, Deodata gave us a film so disturbing that it is still banned in a significant majority of countries, including Great Britain, and has the distinction of being the most banned movie of all time.

When it first came out - much like the uproar that The Blair Witch Project engendered - there was some confusion about whether or not it was a true film or an artistic film of questionable taste. In fact, many of the bans of this film were because it was believed to actually be a snuff film. The director and producers in fact had to answer to the law, faced arrested, and were made to produce the still alive - and not actually cannibalized - actors as proof that it was not a document of murder.

The film tells the story of the recovered footage of a group of documentary film makers who attempt to film previously undiscovered native people in the Amazon rain forest. They disappear into the vast jungle never to be seen or heard of again. The film is told from the perspective of an anthropologist who tries to track down the original filmmakers and fails, but recovers the footage from a tribe of aboriginal natives.

Approached by the same network that financed the original trip, the professor films his odyssey as well and - once he returns to New York - begins to piece the lost footage together. What he finds is horrifying and - ultimately - unusable for its sheer brutality.

Looking at this film from the perspective of a jaded horror fan, the actual gore and violence of this movie does look contrived. The makeup effects and alleged violation of the corpses throughout are obviously faked - but I watched this movie some thirty years after it was made. In 1980 - when it came out - it must have been grotesquely horrifying. I fully see how this could be seen as a snuff film and, while I don't agree with the banning of it, I understand the reaction by the more conservative members of society who first behold the film in all of its cannibalistic, murderous, rape-filled glory.

This film has everything. As I just mentioned, there's murder, rape, cannibalism, and gore galore. But, at its heart - and this is the part that those who would rather make it illegal miss - it shows that we and our so-called civilized morality are the true horrors in a primitive world. It's an indictment of the press and documentary film-makers who will do anything to tell a compelling story. And the missing filmmakers turn out to be far greater monsters than the cannibals they encounter in the bush.

When taken in its entirety, this film is a valuable part of horror film history in that it breaks boundaries never before crossed and does so unabashedly. Interestingly enough, the murders and mutilations shown are gruesome and undoubtedly disturbing to more sensitive viewers - but they are not the most disturbing aspects of this film. In fact, there's a genital mutilation scene that's actually really well done, as is the iconic scene of the woman impaled on the log. But, the scenes that cause the most discomfort and outcry from the non-horror fans who watch it are undoubtedly those were they actually show the killing and gutting of real animals.

The director himself has disavowed his use of animal slaughter in the movie. He said if he could do anything differently, it would have been to remove those scenes. In fact, many later versions have deleted these scenes. Thankfully, the version I saw retained these images. I understand the squeamishness casual viewers might feel when watching the death of the animals, but I myself had no problem with it. Most likely, it is because I grew up hunting and have done similar acts while gutting a deer or skinning and gutting a rabbit.

All in all, this is a great movie that, like I said in the beginning, should be viewed by all horror fans who consider themselves true horror denizens. It is a film that pushes all boundaries and is de rigeur viewing for all gorehounds like the good Doctor hisself! One could look upon it as apex where splatter and grindhouse meets the excess of 1980's slasher films. It mixes shocking images of gore and violence with biting social commentary of Romero-like proportion. See this movie if you can! Doctor Zombie commands it!


Monday, August 03, 2009

Movie Review - I Am Omega (2007)

Sci-Fi Channel (or SyFy - whatever) is trying to kill me. Seriously - is SyFy, or Chiller for that matter, the mucky, fly covered, smelly bottom of the port-o-john as far as cable movie stations go? It is a source of constant amazement and never ending bewilderment to me as to where and why they get so many truly awful movies. AMC does a great job of showing great and classic horror on Friday nights and at Halloween time. USA and Spike get first rate horror and sci-fi movies that are sometimes mere months out of the movieplexes.

And SyFy gets crap like I Am Omega.

I do need to be honest in that I am a huge fan of the source material for this film. Richard Matheson's I Am Legend is probably one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time and is quite probably THE singular piece of survival horror fiction that all modern apocalyptic fiction can trace its roots to. Indeed, until Cormac McCarthy's brilliant, poignant, and bleak The Road came out - I'd argue that no book has come so close to capturing the horror and loneliness of being the only survivor in a world that's moved on. Sadly, it is against this backdrop that the movie adaptations of this novel continue to disappoint.

The best version - so far - was the first attempt back in 1964. Vincent Price's The Last Man on Earth was a brillinat masterpiece. Charlton Heston did a decent job in The Omega Man, but the story was damaged by his ego, his overacting, and the poor script quality. I Am Legend, with Will Smith, was decent - but the poorly rendered CGI and lame ass ending ruined an otherwise cool film.

And then we have I Am Omega. A typical film from the low budget film distributer, The Asylum, it attempts to make money off of the release of a better known film (in this case, the aforementioned I Am Legend). The Asylum's business plan involves your going to the local video store and discovering that the new release of the coolest sci-fi or horror movie is all out. This will force you to maybe take a chance on the similarly named, similarly themed film that is alphabetically close to the movie you came for. Essentially, The Asylum is the equivalent of the generic version of your favorite vegetable at the grocery store. But, instead of a black and white label, they spend an assload of money on really cool DVD cover art that has nothing to do with the enclosed film, but is designed to lure you in.

And I'm cool with that, to an extent. I won't begrudge companies making low budget, indie horror or sci-fi films. In fact, if we didn't have low budget horror films, many great classic films would have never been made. Where I have an issue is when the films are just horrible and are put together purely for the money they can make. If you don't have a love for the genre, don't get into it. That's all I'm saying.

Enter I Am Omega. Mark Dacascos plays Renchard, the last man left alive after a plague hits the earth and turns the rest of the population into zombies. But he's not the last guy. There's some other military guys who show up to bully him into helping them rescue a woman trapped in the local city. The woman, by the way, may have the cure. Or something like that. I really reached the point of not caring about 20 minutes into it and watching it became less about enjoying a zombie movie as it was a stubborn refusal to turn it off - a test of wills, really. An endurance contest between myself and the mental anguish and pain this movie induced in me. I felt the need to see who who would blink first because I NEEDED some horror that night. Something, anything was better than reruns of Dog the Bounty Hunter. The thing is, I'm not really sure who won... but I suspect that I am now somehow dumber for having watched this movie.

I wanted to like this movie. Really. Like I said, I am a fan of the source material. And changing the monsters in it from vampires to zombies had the potential to be good. And I even kind of like Mark Dacascos (He practically channeled Brandon Lee in the TV series version of The Crow). But the effects, production, makeup, and dialogue were so bad as to be almost painful. This movie is a prime example of why non-fans shouldn't be allowed to make or produce horror films.

What else sucked? Oh let me count the suck...

The direction. Mark Dacascos did his noble best with what he had, and I'm sure he needed the money to make a condo payment, but the direction was just atrocious. I don't know if the director went to film school, and neither did I for that matter, but I'm pretty sure there MUST be a rule that says if you use repeated 360 degree camera whip pans, there needs to be some pay off to them. They are great at building tension, but it jangles the nerves in the back of my undead skull to see them repeatedly and then have NOTHING happen. The beginning had potential as it showed how the the character of Renchard was losing his mind, but any meaningful character develoment was thrown out the window as soon as the opportunity for karate kicks, explosions, car chases, and an endless slew of action movie cliches presented themselves.

And I am so goddamned sick of seeing zombies in movies who are little more than guys in jumpsuits, with some black makeup and karo syrup blood smeared on their face. Running around shrieking does not a zombie make. Especially when the main character can defeat them with a well placed over-exaggerated karate kick.

And don't even get me started on the racist, stereotypical military characters. They were, for all intents and purposes, walking bags of cliche with lines that nobody would ever say in real life. And if they did, they most likely would deserve a garrotting.

The saddest part is that the only truly redeeming thing about this film was the very small chuckle I emitted when I saw that the main character was driving around town in a ...wait for it... Olds Omega.

So - the final verdict? Bad story, stupid script, criminally negligent direction, painful acting, and a complete and utter waste of time. Yes it had zombies, but even that could not bring redemption. The very valuable life lesson learned here? Stay away from late night movies on SyFy. In the name of all that is holy, stay away!

DOCTOR Z'S RATING: 1 out of 5 Chomped Brains