Wednesday, August 24, 2011

This is Getting Ridiculous!

So - back in March, I released my Kindle-only collection of short horror stories, Disturbed Graves: Tales of Terror and the Undead. I designed the cover myself because... well, because I'm a cheap bastard.

I used an online photo provider that I also use for work, and paid for the pictures so that nobody can bust my balls later on. Here's what the cover looks like:

Anyway that was March. In May, I started to see all kinds of press about how the CDC, to make emergency preparedness cool (and to get lots of free internet buzz), put together a Zombie Apocalypse plan. It was basically what we've been doing over at Zombie Squad for years.

Here's their artwork:

And then, just yesterday, I was surfing one of my favorite horror news sites - There I saw the ad for a new movie that came out earlier this week on DVD called, get this, House of Fallen. As an editor and writer, that movie title's an offense against my grammatical sensibilities. Also, since it stars C. Thomas Howell and Corbin Bernsen, it will undoubtedly suck; but that's not the point... the point is, here's the poster and DVD art:

That's right. All three of us used the same imagery, the same model, and photos from the same shoot and same website.

It's really funny to me that government agencies and movie studios (albeit b-grade, schlocky movie studios) use the same resources I do. It's also important that I show my vast superiority and let everyone know (because I have a brilliant intellect, keen design skills, and a gargantuan ego) that I DID IT FIRST!

I'd also love to put links to the CDC, and Phase 4 films; but I'm sure you can do a Google search for that yourself. I will, however, provide a link to my Amazon author page where you can purchase a copy of my short story collection because I am - indeed - a self promoting douchebag who has no qualms about luring you in with the promise of a well thought out blog post (which this is not) and the shiny jewel-like glitter of wit (which I lack).

You should know that by now. Dr. Z's Theater of Terror is really about fart jokes and self promotion.

Don't say I never warned you!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Movie Review - Fright Night (2011)

So, I just returned from the theater through an incredible lightning and thunderstorm. It was a good night. I managed to score some advance screener passes for the new Fright Night 3D remake, and Mrs. Zombie and I made the trip out to Richmond Hts. to see it.

When this remake was originally announced, I did what I normally did when I hear that one of my favorite, beloved horror movies is getting a remake treatment. I snorted in disgust, shook my fist at the heavens, and snuck into the darkened bedrooms of several studio executives in the middle of the night to stand over their bed... just watching them sleep. It's not as creepy as it sounds because I'm not killing them or anything. I'm just standing there. Standing and thinking murderous, rage-filled thoughts.

Eventually I calmed down, and I truthfully kind of forgot about it. At least I forgot about it until the trailers started showing up online. Even then, I was still all, "Meh."

And then they released the identity and photos of the actor playing Peter Vincent -- and I squealed in geekish delight.

It was none other than David Tennant, the 10th Doctor.

All right... so I was wooed. I'll admit it. It looked OK.

And then I scored the passes and was fully in. What can I say... Doctor Zombie's a whore who can be bought relatively cheaply. Ply me with horror movie tickets and some imported beer, and you too can have your way with your own dear, undead mad scientist.

So - you may be asking - how was it?

It was actually really good. The story was close enough to the original to pay due respect, and original enough to make an old gorehound like Dr. Z enjoy it.

You know the story - a boy named Charlie Brewster tries to have sex with his girlfriend, Amy, he realizes a vampire has moved in next door, recruits Peter Vincent (VAMPIRE HUNTER!), does battle with the vampire, almost loses girl, and eventually vanquishes the vampire.

For an 80's movie, it was gold. The characters and actors were memorable, and it was the perfect mix of horror, humor, and gore.

The remake is a modern take on this classic, and the characters do justice to the original. There are some differences. Colin Farrell imbues Jerry the Vampire with a much more brutal, creepy, twist than Chris Sarandon did. (Chris Sarandon, by the way, makes a great cameo) Sarandon's Jerry Dandridge was cool, suave, and had a sophistication that all but screamed that he was hundreds of years old and knew chicks dug him. Colin Farrel's Jerry is all rugged good looks, but there's more of a Ted Bundy kind of charm. His is less a vampire who, at one time, undoubtedly hung with the ruling class; and is more like the player on a reality show who knows with certainty that woman get wet when he rolls into the room.

Charlie(played by Anton Yelchen), on the other hand, is just as nebbish as the original Charlie Brewster, but there's a stronger hero component to this character. He's more controlled, but takes bigger chances. Anton Yelchen did a great job and made this incarnation of Charlie believable and likeable.

Overall, this movie has considerable more action and movement than the original that, with the exception of the nondescript alley where Evil Ed gets chomped, Peter Vincent's apartment, and the nightclub - - was contained mostly within the yards of Charlie and Jerry's houses. This remake, on the other hand, ranges all over the desert and city of Las Vegas and gives the film much more momentum than the original.

This was also a more brutal, violent movie then the original; but much of that violence was rendered CGI and noticeably so. I will be the first to admit that I'm a bit of a purest when it comes to visual effects. I grew up in the 80's on the wonderful animitronics and mechanical effects of Rob Bottin, as well as the incredible makeup work of such pioneers as Rick Baker and Tom Savini. To that end, I readily admit that I hate that CGI has become so much easier and cheaper to do, as well as the fact that it's grown more and more ubiquitous. CGI instead of mechanical effects loses some of the soul of the gore and slaughter. On the other hand; Fright Night 2011 was filmed in 3D, and also viewed by your inimitable host -Dr. Z - in 3D, and the scenes were well planned out. Believe it or not, every time there was a spray of blood, it looked delightfully arterial, bright red, and it jumped out of the screen at you. The 3D was well done, indeed.

And, of course, David Tennant chewed up every scene he was in. He was deliciously profane, he was laugh out loud funny, and he inhabited Peter Vincent in a way that you just knew had little to no redeeming qualities.

Amy, the sexy love interest, far surpassed her predecessor. Played by the beautiful, but unfortunately named Imogene Poots - this Amy is radiant, breathtaking, and naturally sexy. Even back in the day, the original Amy (played by Amanda Bearse), was not lust-inducing in any way. She looked uncomfortable kissing William Ragsdale, and it really came as no surprise when she came out of the closet years later at the height of Married With Children.

In fact, the rebooted Amy is hot enough and sexy enough to play herself as both sweet, virginal Amy -- and sexy, smoking hot, vampire Amy. Old Amanda had to have another actress stand in as her vampire doppleganger. In fact the new Amy is so hot, she seems too good for geeky, quiet, socially awkward Charlie. However, the directors knew this and made a point of addressing why she's attracted to Charlie. She's drawn to just those qualities. That's right.. she wants the nerdy guy.

But isn't that how it always is? They hot chicks all want the nerdy, geeks. Duh. How do you think Dr. Z managed to find a hot, smart, popular ex-college athlete?!? But I digress...

The only major disappointment of the entire film was Evil Ed. In this movie, he's less of a quirky sidekick and more of a... well... douchebag. He's annoying, mean, petty, and Charlie's and his relationship is strained for obvious reasons. The casting of Christopher Mintze-Plass was a bad call and done solely to attract fans of his character, McLovin', from Superbad. In the original Fright Night, Stephen Geoffries made Evil Ed's character odd, but poignantly human. When he's induced by the promise of immortality and the ability to 'show them all'; Geoffries made you really, really feel that Evil Ed was a misunderstand and desperately lonely young man. Not some know it all, blackmailing, annoying, douchenozzle.

GOOD Evil Ed

BAD Evil Ed

Also, Evil Ed in the original had a certain style to him. With the post-punk, Nylon Air Force jacket and his spiky Sting haircut, he was an outcast, but he had flair. The new Ed is just there. He's neither stylish, nor memorable. How unfortunate. Of all the characters in the original and remake, Ed's had the most potential to be a stand out if played by the right actor. They got it right in 1985... and failed miserably in 2011. It's too bad, really...

The other disappointment was the way they dispatched the vampire, Jerry. No spoilers here, but I'll just say that it was kind of hard to believe and stretched the bounds of credibility a little too much. I know, we're talking about a movie that asks one to suspend their disbelief enough to believe that Colin Farrell is an undead creature of the night. But that doesn't mean one can ignore the physics and physiology of human beings. Just watch it to see what I mean. I hate holes in logic. Hate them with a passion.

The high point of this film was the level of suspense and anxiety newcomer director, Craig Gillespie, built into the movie. He has the right sense of what's scary and - Dr. Z. is proud to admit that the film startled him once with a jump scare. Do you have any idea how hard that is to do to a jaded, cynical, horror fan like me?!? If you can make me jump, you get big kudos. Well played, monkey man. Well played!

So, all in all, this was a good movie. It was far superior to most of the remakes out there nowadays. This one was - fortunately - not gutted to become a PG-13 suckfest by some studio suit trying to get young butts in the theater seats. It joins the select, golden few movies that make the list of remakes that Dr. Z approves of. It goes alongside such other impressive remakes as The Crazies and The Hills Have Eyes.

I will probably purchase it when it comes out on DVD and add it to the horror library, which should be considered high praise from your ghoulish guide. The original was brilliant and remains one of my favorite 80's horror films. Roddy McDowell remains one of my favorite actors, also, but I also understand that things change. If only we could convince studios to put horror fans behind the fucking camera whenever they do a horror film remake.

Stupid Hollywood.


MY! How Things Change!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Buzzing, Pollen-Covered Horror!

Very few things frighten Doctor Zombie. Consider it my classical, early childhood education in all things horror, but I'm pretty inured to fear in its many forms. The thing is -- most people have fears. Whether it's the more mundane, like a fear of rejection, or modern fears like clowns and nuclear war, or even the more primal, genetic fears that our forebears passed on to us. I'm talking about the kind of fear that found our ancestors sitting in their caves, huddled in the flickering gloom of a weak fire and shivering at the sounds of a hungry predator snuffling and grunting in the dark just outside of the wane light.

As HP Lovecraft once famously wrote, "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."

These sort of fears, the ones that we have no control over, the ones that make our lizard brains blanch and run gibbering from the object of terror, are the worst kind. They're the worst in that have no logic around them. They are uncontrollable and unexplainable. Things like the irrational fear of snakes, or heights, or large mammals that have sharp teeth and claws. These are the nightmare-inducing fears that grip many of us.

The other more mundane fears are actually pretty boring, and I'm fortunate in that I don't really have any of those. I also lack many of the more primitive fears. Heights are cool (I still want to climb mountains and try one of those kick-ass squirrel flying suits). Snakes are also really cool. I like them. There's really very little that scares the amoral sociopath that your dear, Uncle Doctor Zombie is... save one exception.


I hate and fear bugs. With a passion. With an illogical, uncontrollable, panic- inducing mania. I get the heeby-jeebys thinnking about them. There's something about the many legged, emotionless, predatory, single-mindedness of bugs that scare the crap out of me.

And there's levels to this as well. Ladybugs, potato bugs, moths, some of the more common bugs are little problem (unless they land on me and I suddenly feel them crawling - that's guaranteed to cause me to freak out a little). I can even stand them in close proximity and in goodly numbers.

It's the more evil ones, though, that skeeve me out. Bees, wasps, maggots, flies, and... worst of all... spiders, those are the things of nightmares.

Which brings me to why I'm writing this post.

You see, I had an embarrassing moment yesterday and I'm pissed because I, once again, found myself reacting illogically to my fears and - almost - getting myself arrested for public indecency.

You see, I came home from work at around 6:30 and, because the weather has taken a delightfully autumn-like turn, I decided it was cool enough to cut mine and the neighbor's lawn (I cut our elderly neighbor's lawn because she's been ill lately and I don't mind the exercise).

So, we ate dinner at the crypt we call home and, after, Mrs. Zombie and WolfGirl loaded up in the USS Nostromo (AKA, my Jeep), and headed off to Twinsburg to pick up ZombieBoy who had spent the week at my Sister-In-Law's. So, left to my own devices, I put on a pair of gym shorts, a tank top, and my lawn cutting shoes (As opposed to my working in the lab shoes - you can tell the difference by color. One pair's green with grass, the other's red with the blood of my victims) and headed out into the coolth of a Northern Ohio late afternoon.

To this point, all was going well. I began cutting lawns and was reveling in my decision to do something productive instead of some other project that, while cool and of interest to Dr. Zombie, would have undoubtedly gotten me into trouble with Mrs. Z. For instance, current projects include the construction of an adventure trailer for hunting and my upcoming trip to Alaska, the neverending planning of the horror-themed mancave, and surfing the internet for zombie porn.

Anyway, about a half hour into cutting the lawn, I suddenly felt a pinch near the waistband of my shorts. I let go of the mower with one hand and, as I reached back to scratch at the pinch, I felt another stabbing, stinging pain that made me let go of the safety bar of the mower with a curse.

The mower shut off and I twisted to look at the back of my shorts, and that was the point at which my primal fear kicked in.

Apparently, a bee had flown onto me while I was cutting the grass, crawled down into my shorts, and found itself trapped, crushed, and unable to move. It's response?

Sting me in my ass.

Or, more accurately, it stung me in the crack of my ass. Just below where the crack meets my back.

"MOTHERFUCKER!" I screamed, and descended into a panic attack more appropriate in a 7year old girl than in a 40 year old, tattooed, goatee'd, shaved-head bad ass. Through the pain, I flailed my arms as I saw that the bee was still IN MY SHORTS.

I screamed again as pain radiated throughout my fat ass and - in full view of anybody who might have been out in my neighborhood - dropped my shorts and boxers to get the evil, crawling, six-legged, invenomating, yellow and black horror away from me.

Fortunately, none of my neighbors were out, so they weren't forced to experience my dancing around in a half-naked, spastic, horrified jig as I simultaneously tried to make sure the bee was no longer on me and tried to got the stinger out of my ass crack. It was not one of my prouder moments, dear reader.

I'm just glad that there were no children out because I'm pretty sure the judge would never have bought my excuse that a rabid Africanized honey bee attack was the mitigating circumstance behind my showing the neighborhood kids the ugly, misshapen, grotesquerie that is Dr. Zombie's undead junk. He would have undoubtedly branded me a sexual predator and then I'd really be in trouble with Mrs. Zombie because they don't let sexual predators go to parent night at the middle school. I'd never hear the end of it!

So I finally calmed down enough to realize that I was jumping around - naked - in my neighbor's yard. I did a quick sweep and clear of my shorts and slipped them back on. I finished the lawns, but it wasn't easy, believe me.

You see, and this is how my life works, I'm, slightly allergic to bees. So, the whole time I'm cutting the lawns, the venom was burning my ass and my legs, making them cramp. I finally finished, staggered into the house, and took a shower. When I got out, the bee sting was as big as a tennis ball.

When I woke up this morning, it's still hard, swollen and painful. It's the size and firmness of a golf ball. It looks like I'm trying to grow a humunculus out of my ass crack, and it hurts to sit. It looks like Kuato from Total Recall, but now he's growing out of my butt.

So now I'm left with only my stinging ass crack tumor. And the shame. It seems like there's always the shame.


My only consolation is that it wasn't a fucking spider. That would have made me strip ALL my clothes off and run home crying like a little girl.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Movie Review - Hobo With a Shotgun (2011)

I can't begin to tell you how much anticipation I felt about seeing this movie. I'd stalked the film's progress on my usual haunts like Dread Central and Bloody Disgusting. I drooled over the early release photos and waited like a kid on Christmas Eve for what I was certain would be an awesome movie. How could you go wrong with the simple premise of this movie. Say it with me, "Hobo with a Shotgun".

Hobo with a Shotgun. Starring Rutger Hauer.

Even the name drips with fucking win. That's a piece of fried gold there.

And I was not disappointed!

I managed to get a copy yesterday, a mere two days after its release, and I could barely wait for the family to go to bed last night so that I could pop it into the old DVD player and bask in the warm, comforting glow of Doctor Zombie's telescopic viewer of doom.

And it was a luxuriant glow. It was a wondrous glow. It was a glow that flashed red because of all of the bright, bloody gore effects this movie was filled with.

When the credits rolled, I was a happy undead scientist. Very happy.

Hobo with a Shotgun started as one of the trailers to Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse. Several of the trailers have been made into real movies, or at least started to take the steps in that direction. Most notable of them has been Machete, starring Danny Trejo. Rob Zombie keeps teasing us about Werwolf Women of the SS, but there's been no movement or news on that for a while. No big deal there. It'd probably just be another vehicle for him to cast his wife and show the world how great her tits are, despite her utter lack of acting ability.

The thing is, the faux trailers in Grindhouse were, in all respects, better than the main films themselves. Planet Terror was great because I love me some zombie goodness, and Josh Brolin totally stole the show... but Death Proof painfully showed why someone needs to up Quentin Tarantino's ADHD meds and rein him in.

Dude needs a leash. Seriously.

But the trailers were incredible, and the movies based on them, have, to date, been pretty bad. I wasn't impressed with Machete. It became less of a grindhouse movie and more of a big budget, who's who in Hollywood film. That and I shudder to think that Jessica Alba would, in any way shape or form, kiss on Danny Trejo - much less sleep with him. Danny's fucking badass, but leading man material he's not. I've seen beef jerkey with less wrinkles. Seriously - the moon has fewer craters than his face. But I digress...

What I'm getting to here is that Grindhouse became a victim of its own hubris. The style of film, and the attempt to capitalize on it, doomed its follow up films to failure.

Hobo with a Shotgun, however, redeems it all!

Fully capturing the essence of those classic grindhouse films and exploitive action flicks of the 70's and 80's that Doctor Zombie loves so dearly, Hobo with a Shotgun tells the story of, well, a hobo (played by Rutger Hauer), who comes to a new town and runs afoul of the pervasive criminal elements there.

And that, dear reader, is too succint a summary to fully explain the plot. It's simple really. Let me try again. Hobo comes to town. Hobo meets crazy over the top, impossible to believe bad guys. Hobo is smitten with a beautiful prostitute. Hobo gets involved where hobo shouldn't. Hobo gets 'scum' carved into his chest. Hobo loses his mind. Hobo goes crazy with a shotgun.

This movie works on so many levels. It fully embraces the grindhouse ethos and never breaks from it. The director, Jason Eisner, has said in interviews that he was going for a comic book feel; but the look of this film is so much more. The colors are bright, garish and give it the authenticity of an 80's film where such visual excess was de rigeur. And, the slavish dedication to this aesthetic makes the cheer-inducing visual effects (no fucking CGI here! wOOt!) even better. The blood and gore is bright, vibrant, and pleased Doctor Z. to no end!

And this movie's got gore galore! Whther its decapitations, or gratuitous spraying founts of blood, or unrealistic but oh-so-awesome exploding heads, this movie has everything a panting gorehound could want.

The true strength, however, is in the acting and interplay between Rutger Hauer and the main female character, prostitute Abby. Played by the beautiful (too beautiful to be a whore, at least) Molly Dunsworth, Abby takes a stereotype(the hooker with a heart of gold) and makes it somehow believable again. And she gets bonus points for being on the receiving end of some great mechanical effects and wading unashamedly though the knee deep fake blood that soaks the landscape of the film. She's smart, sassy, and loyal to a fault.

Rutger Hauer on the other hand, is the true force behind the success of Hobo with a Shotgun.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a HUGE Rutger Hauer fan. Always have been. Going back to the 80's, I've loved him as Nick in Blind Fury, and Ettienne in Lady Hawke. From his thrilling turn as the homicidal yet tragic android, Roy Batty, in Blade Runner to his psychotic turn in The Hitcher; from his 'I-need-a-job-i-don't care' low budget forays, to his big budget normal roles like his corporate scumbag in Batman Begins... Rutger never fails to deliver. And don't forget his role in Surviving the Game! I can't help but think of that movie EVERYTIME I go hunting! I love him in everything I've seen him in.

And he's done more of the regular straight roles lately. Which I get. We're all getting older.

His character, The Hobo, though? It's a throwback to the 80's Rutger Hauer that was so fucking cool. Once again he's that crazy, irrascible, incredible actor I love so dearly.

And, the best part is that this role, while it's a nutty, over the top, caricture of classic grindhouse characters, is made better by Rutger's ability to act.

You find yourself caring about The Hobo and his relationship with Abby. Hauer imbues the character with so much emotion and pathos you honestly ache at his predicament. That's the shit, right there. Rutger looks every bit as old as his 67 years, so much so that you forget the once tall, chiseled, smooth faced Dutch actor he was and he becomes the character of The Hobo.

But enough about the acting and the monumental geek win that Rutger Hauer is surely made of... the true star of this movie is the gore and the over the top script. Form lines like "I'm going to sleep in your carcass tonight" to "Put the knife away, kid... or I'll use it to cut welfare checks from your rotten skin!" and "You and me are goin' on a car-ride to hell... and you're riding shotgun!" this is a true homage to the many exploitive grindhouse films that played in drive-ins and old movie theaters throught the 70's and 80's.

Finally - the bad guys are absolutely crazy... as they should be. Led by character actor Brian Downey (he was on Lexx on SyFy years and years ago. Lexx is otherwise known as 'That show that came on after Farscape that nobody watched. Ever.')Played with glee and obviously decadent relish by Downey, every other character in this movie, besides The Hobo and Abby, are bad guys. I mean, why else would The Hobo need a shotgun to clean up the streets?!? Duh!

The excess of this film is fantastic. Whether someone's having their entrails pulled out, or someone's - seriously - taking a flamethrower to a school bus full of kids, the bad guys are a wonder to behold.

So, if you're a fan of crazy, over the top, corny, gory, fun to watch movies... this is the film you've been waiting for. Warning: It's gory, uses language that would make your mother blush, and holds true to the spirit of that bygone era... which is reason enough to watch it despite all the other cool things I've told you about it! So go get yourself a copy!

Best film of the year? I don't think so. But in the realm of exploitation and horror movies that just kick ass, it's close, dear reader. Very, very close!