Archive for the Horror-Comedies Category

Friday Night Knife Fights Presents: SHAUN OF THE DEAD vs. ZOMBIELAND – Part 3 (of 3)

Posted in 2013, Friday Night Knife Fights, Horror-Comedies, Zombie Movies, Zombies with tags , , on April 26, 2013 by knifefighter

FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS:  SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004) vs. ZOMBIELAND (2009)
PART 3 (of 3)
With Michael Arruda, L. L. Soares, Daniel Keohane, Paul McMahon, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, and Colleen Wanglund

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MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome back to Friday Night Knife Fights.  Tonight it’s Part 3 of our battle of the zombie comedies, SHAUN OF THE DEAD vs. ZOMBIELAND.

So far, SHAUN OF THE DEAD has opened up a very wide lead, as it’s ahead of ZOMBIELAND by a score of 4 rounds to 1.

PAUL MCMAHON:  As it should be.  SHAUN OF THE DEAD is a much better movie than ZOMBIELAND.

ARRUDA:  Says you.  But that’s what we’re here to decide.

Once again, L.L. Soares and I are joined by Dan Keohane, ZOMBIELAND hater Paul McMahon, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, and Colleen Wanglund.  Thank you all for joining us tonight.  We’ve got a great panel, and tonight’s the night that we conclude the debate.  Even though SHAUN OF THE DEAD has a comfortable lead, there’s still time for ZOMBIELAND to make a comeback.

Okay, it’s on to Round 6.  

Which movie has the better screenplay?  Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick for ZOMBIELAND, or Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright for SHAUN OF THE DEAD?

SHERI SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL: ZOMBIELAND has a better screenplay, I would say.

The plot is less predictable than that of SHAUN OF THE DEAD. As I mentioned, I like SHAUN, but ZOMBIELAND is written better and executed more effectively.

The ending of SHAUN seemed a little odd. Life kind of goes back to normal. It doesn’t really ring true. At the end of ZOMBIELAND, the characters are changed, but there’s no illusion that things go back to “normal.”

MCMAHON:  This is so obviously SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

If you take the zombies away, Shaun was the story of a man whose life was crumbling under his own complacency. He embarked on a journey to win back his girl, distance himself from his mooch of a best friend, make amends with his mom and stepdad and generally “sort his life out.” The zombies made the film awesome, but they weren’t the main focus.

ARRUDA:  Come on!  Do you really think without zombies SHAUN OF THE DEAD would stand as having a decent story?  I don’t think so.  Take away the zombies and you’re left with a bunch of losers fighting over pub food.

MCMAHON:  It’s a better story than ZOMBIELAND.

In ZOMBIELAND, you had one putz following the standard zombie movie plot by searching for his family, you had two brainless putzettes who believed zombies wouldn’t enter amusement parks, and then you had the biggest putz of all on a nationwide hunt for Twinkies snack cakes. Take the zombies out and you’ve got squat.

ARRUDA:  I wouldn’t want to take the zombies out of either movie, actually.  But I think the characters in ZOMBIELAND are just as satisfying as the characters in SHAUN, perhaps more so since they’re so over the top.

MCMAHON:  Nah.  SHAUN OF THE DEAD by a landslide.

ARRUDA:  Well, I think both screenplays work.  Both are hilariously funny, and both manage to be excellent zombie movies to boot. 

How to choose?  While this one may seem too close to call at first, after thinking about it— now don’t fall out of your chair, Paul— but I give the edge to Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright for SHAUN OF THE DEAD.  Their screenplay works from beginning to end. 

MCMAHON:  I told you.

ARRUDA:  While I enjoy Reese and Wernick’s ZOMBIELAND screenplay, their story runs out of steam somewhat as the movie approaches its final act at the amusement park.  And the Bill Murray scenes, while funny the first time, didn’t hold up as well upon further viewing.

L.L. SOARES:  I think both scripts are good. But I think SHAUN is a little smarter.

ARRUDA:  SHAUN OF THE DEAD wins Round 6.  Our updated score is SHAUN 5, ZOMBIELAND 1.

It’s time now for the seventh and final round.

And since ZOMBIELAND is so far behind, the only way now that it could win this contest would be by a knockout.  A knockout occurs when one movie sweeps the round, meaning all the panel members vote for the same movie.  Something tells me, though (looks at Paul McMahon) that that’s not going to happen today.

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Anyway, on to Round 7.  Which one is the better movie?

COLLEEN WANGLUND:  They may both be horror comedies, but the movies are very different from one another. 

I did like ZOMBIELAND, overall, enjoying immensely the title sequence using Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

I thoroughly enjoyed both movies and would watch either one again.  The acting and directing were superb in both.  I will give SHAUN OF THE DEAD a slight edge here, however because the characters just feel more real to me.  I do appreciate the fact that it doesn’t go full-on apocalypse, so it’s a bit different than most zombie films. 

So my pick for which one of the two is the better film goes to SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

DAN KEOHANESHAUN OF THE DEAD is a quieter, more subtle film that builds the laugh, and tension, as it goes along, and breaks as many of the zombie “rules” as it celebrates. It’s a British film, so the humor and social references are, well, British. If you’ve never been able to get into their sense of humor, you’d probably say ZOMBIELAND was better, especially as an American film – jumps right into the action, with in your face jokes and humor (and American cultural references – “Twinkies” versus “crisps” for example).

I love British humor as much as American. So my pick would probably depend on my mood at the time.  Yes, this is a long-winded, borderline pompous way of saying, “Neither, they’re just as funny in their own way.”

My final pick:  I call it a draw.  It’s a tie.

SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL:  I think ZOMBIELAND is an overall better film. The plot works better for me.

SHAUN OF THE DEAD suffers, I think, because the first half of the film is largely expositional. Sure, in ZOMBIELAND, we have “the Rules,” which are expositional, but it’s done in such a funny way that we hardly notice.

SOARES: Yeah, “the Rules” were clever.

SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL: In ZOMBIELAND, we don’t know much about the characters, and we learn about them as they learn about each other. The problem with SHAUN OF THE DEAD is that by the end we can kind of figure out what’s going to happen because it’s all been set up for us.

My choice for the better film is ZOMBIELAND.

ARRUDA:  This one is a very difficult question to answer.  I tend to prefer ZOMBIELAND because I prefer its in-your-face zombie style to the more reserved British humor of SHAUN OF THE DEAD, but does that make it a better movie?

I’m not sure.

I think the acting in both movies is equally as good, although I prefer the cast in ZOMBIELAND, so I give a slight acting edge to ZOMBIELAND.  Both directors do phenomenal jobs, but I think Ruben Fleischer is a bit more creative with his style, so again I give the edge to ZOMBIELAND.  I give a slight writing edge to SHAUN, but again the scripts are both terrific.

Based on this model, ZOMBIELAND wins two of the three rounds, so heck, I’m going with ZOMBIELAND.  I choose ZOMBIELAND as the better movie.

MCMAHON (to Michael and Sheri):  Poor misguided souls, the both of you.

Do I have to say this yet again?

SHAUN OF THE DEAD. I’ve seen it twelve times at least.

ARRUDA:  I’m so very happy for you.  What do you want? A medal?

SOARES:  Hey, don’t be rude to our guests!  That’s my department! 

MCMAHON:  In all the time since I watched ZOMBIELAND, I have not once wanted to go back and see it again. The only reason I did was to refresh my memory of it for these answers. I’m still underwhelmed. Without George A. Romero, SHAUN OF THE DEAD wouldn’t exist. Without SHAUN OF THE DEAD, ZOMBIELAND wouldn’t exist. Winner: SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

Can you tell I hated ZOMBIELAND?

SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL:  I’m beginning to see that, yes.

WANGLUND:  You’ve made it loud and clear.

KEOHANE:  And yet there’s still a modicum of obscurity, a morsel of doubt.  I’m not sure.

MCMAHON:  Very funny.

SOARES:  So it’s my turn, huh? What’s the best movie? Well, that’s very subjective, isn’t it? I would say, from a quality standpoint, SHAUN OF THE DEAD has the edge. But as to “What movie did I enjoy more?” Which movie do I personally like better, that’s more neck and neck.

I guess a good yardstick is which one would you watch again, and my answer this time around is neither. I like both of these movies, but I don’t love them. If I was channel surfing and found one of them, I might watch it, but I wouldn’t consciously sit down and watch one of them from start to finish again. I’m just not that big a fan of most zombie movies.

If I was going to rewatch any zombie flick, it would be either one of Romero’s classics or an especially good episode of THE WALKING DEAD. That’s about it.

So that means I’m the tie-breaker here. Colleen and Paul went with SHAUN. While Michael and Sheri went with ZOMBIELAND. And while I am sort on the fence, I refuse to take the easy way out like Keohane did and call it a tie.

I would say that, as far as pure enjoyment, and both of these films are meant to be entertaining above all else, I would have to go with ZOMBIELAND.

ARRUDA: Oh my God, I think it’s an upset! That means three votes ZOMBIELAND,  two votes SHAUN OF THE DEAD and one tie for Round 7 – which is the Knockout Round.

MCMAHON (to SOARES): I don’t believe you just did that, you bastard.

SOARES: Blame Keohane. He couldn’t make up his mind.

****

ARRUDA (reads the rule book): Errr.. not so fast. I just read the rules. The final knock-out round has to be unanimous. So ZOMBIELAND didn’t win after all.

SOARES: Dammit! I thought it was just whatever won the final round wins by TKO. That’s a stupid rule! If one movie is ahead all the way through, the chances of everyone unanimously agreeing to the other movie in the final round is pretty much impossible.

(Takes rule book from ARRUDA and rips out that page)

ARRUDA: Actually, you’re right, that probably is never going to happen. I guess it is a stupid rule. But, we can’t just change the rules at the last minute.

So here’s the solution. From this point on, the Knockout Round does not have to be unanimous. If a movie is ahead, but the other one wins the final round, then it wins by TKO, unanimous or not. That will make things more interesting.

But for this contest, we really should stick with the original rules.

MCMAHON (jumping up and down): So that means….SHAUN OF THE DEAD WINS!

ARRUDA: It sure looks that way.

MCMAHON: Yay! Now I don’t have to hang myself.

ARRUDA: Which movie is the zombie comedy champion of the world?  Well, tonight, it’s SHAUN OF THE DEAD!

On behalf of L.L. Soares, Dan Keohane, Paul McMahon, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, Colleen Wanglund, I’m Michael Arruda saying so long and thanks for joining us on Friday Night Knife Fights.  We’ll see you again next time.

(In the background, PAUL MCMAHON is chasing L.L. SOARES around with an axe)

MCMAHON: How dare you scare the bejeesus out of me like that!

ARRUDA: Good night everybody!

-END-

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Daniel G. Keohane, Paul McMahon, Sheri-Sebastian-Gabriel and Colleen Wanglund

Friday Night Knife Fights: SHAUN OF THE DEAD vs. ZOMBIELAND – PART 2 (OF 3)

Posted in 2013, All-Star Casts, Friday Night Knife Fights, Horror, Horror-Comedies, Spoofs, Zombie Movies with tags , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2013 by knifefighter

FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS:
SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004) vs. ZOMBIELAND (2009) – PART 2 (of 3)
With Michael Arruda, L. L. Soares, Daniel Keohane, Paul McMahon, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, and Colleen Wanglund

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MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome back to Friday Night Knife Fights. Tonight it’s Part 2 of the great zombie comedy debate, as our panel of Cinema Knife Fighters takes on the daunting task of pitting SHAUN OF THE DEAD vs. ZOMBIELAND. Once again, L.L. Soares and I are joined by Dan Keohane, Paul McMahon, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, and Colleen Wanglund. Thanks all for being here, and thank you readers for joining us tonight.

Last Friday, in Part 1 of this debate, Rounds 1 and 2 went to SHAUN OF THE DEAD, which now leads ZOMBIELAND by a score of 2-0. This bout has a total of seven rounds, and by the end of those rounds, we hope to declare a winner and be able to choose which one of these zombie comedies is the better movie.

On to Round 3. Which movie treats the horror genre with more respect? 

Okay, Paul, since we already know which movie you’ll be picking, since you’ve made it clear that you hate ZOMBIELAND, we’ll start with you.

MCMAHON:  Definitely SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

ARRUDA:  What a surprise!

MCMAHON:  Aside from it being its own story, there were plenty of homages to George A. Romero’s DEAD movies. From ‘Foree Electronics’ to Ed’s line “We’re coming to get you, Barbara!,” to the argument between Tim and Ed about whether it’s okay to say the ‘Zed’ word.

Reuben Fleischer saw SHAUN OF THE DEAD and decided he could make a zombie comedy, too. That makes ZOMBIELAND  nothing more than a SHAUN knock-off. A top-shelf knock-off, but still a knock-off. Fleischer’s movie rewards ignorance and stupidity, just like we do in this country these days.

ARRUDA:  Ouch!  No need to get political now.

MCMAHON:  I think that inclusion was accidental rather than a considered, purposeful Romero-esque social commentary of our time.

By far, SHAUN OF THE DEAD is more respectful of the horror genre.

ARRUDA:  Well, it’s more respectful of the Romero zombie movies, anyway.

SOARES: Let’s face it, Romero zombie movies – especially the first three –  are the gold standard for zombie horror movies. So it’s pretty much the same thing.

MA: Dan, what about you?

KEOHANE:  They’re both spoofs, of course, but—.

SOARES:  Did you watch the movie this time, Dan?  Do you know it has zombies in it?

KEOHANE (puts on his dark sunglasses):  I see dead people.

Anyway, overall, I think SHAUN has a level up on the horror scale, since you have more of a threat to characters, more a sense of danger especially in the pub scene, than in the chaotic, silly world of ZOMBIELAND’s amusement park.

ARRUDA:  Funny, though, when I re-watched ZOMBIELAND for purposes of this column, I found it less silly than I remembered it. I mean, it has its goofy bits of course, like the whole Twinkie thing, but I found it edgier than I remember.

SOARES:  Dan, give those glasses to Michael. ZOMBIELAND, edgy?  It’s about as edgy as a Twinkie!

(KEOHANE hands dark glasses to ARRUDA who promptly puts them away.)

SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL:  Would you like the walking stick, too?

ARRUDA:  No, I think I’m good. Actually, on second thought, I will take the walking stick. (SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL hands ARRUDA the walking stick.)  This might come in handy later. (Waves it at SOARES.) 

So, Sheri, what are your thoughts on which one is more respectful of the genre?

SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL:    Both films do the horror genre proud, I think. They both poke just a bit of fun at the genre without showing any disrespect.

WANGLUND:  Ditto.

SOARES:  You two need to be more disagreeable.

Anyway, I don’t think either one is disrespectful. But I think it’s pretty obvious that SHAUN OF THE DEAD is the one that has more affection and respect for the genre.

ARRUDA:  I think both films treat the genre with respect, and I don’t see either one as dissing horror films. But I give the edge to ZOMBIELAND because at times it worked more as a straight horror film. I empathized with the characters more in ZOMBIELAND, and I was concerned for their safety, even during the silly amusement part scene. I didn’t really feel this way watching SHAUN OF THE DEAD, because I was too busy laughing. I find this amusing because it’s the SHAUN OF THE DEAD characters who die, while the ZOMBIELAND characters survive. SHAUN did such a good job building its comedic world, I never took it seriously.

So, the Round 3 tallies are in, and SHAUN OF THE DEAD wins 3-1, with two abstentions.

Which means SHAUN wins Round 3.

Okay, after three rounds it’s SHAUN OF THE DEAD 3 and  ZOMBIELAND  0 so far.

****

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg in SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg in SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

ARRUDA: On to Round 4.- Which movie has the better cast?   I’ll answer this one first.

I prefer the ZOMBIELAND cast. I like the four principal leads, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin. This quartet is more effective than Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield and friends.

Plus ZOMBIELAND has Bill Murray playing himself in one of the movie’s goofier segments. Even though I agree with Paul that this sequence is overrated, it’s still fun to see Murray.

I like Simon Pegg A LOT in SHAUN as the normal guy caught up in the zombie apocalypse, but I like Jesse Eisenberg almost as much in the same type of role. But in addition to Eisenberg, ZOMBIELAND also has tough guy Woody Harrelson, tough babe Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin. While I like the supporting cast of SHAUN, they’re not quite as good as the Fab Four from ZOMBIELAND.

SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL:  I agree with Michael.

I like Simon Pegg and his gang, but you can’t beat Woody Harrelson’s Tallahassee for sheer bad-assery. Harrelson brings a touch of carefree sexiness to the film that SHAUN just doesn’t have. I can certainly appreciate that Shaun manages to overcome his hopelessness and pull himself out of his rut, but having two pathetic guys in one zombie battle is a little redundant.

MCMAHON:  You’re both wrong.

Simon Pegg and crew had some difficult scenes, and they did a fantastic job nailing every emotion called for. The standoff between Shaun and David toward the end was particularly intense.

In ZOMBIELAND, the plot came to a halt for a spell while the characters revealed where they came from and what they’d been through. I saw Tallahassee’s big “reveal” coming a mile away… possibly because I’d recently watched the final M*A*S*H episode “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” which used the same narrative sleight of hand. While Harrelson did okay with the scene, it wasn’t enough to overshadow the acting in SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

SHAUN OF THE DEAD clearly has the better cast.

SOARES:  I have to go with ZOMBIELAND for this one. While I liked Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in SHAUN, I can’t name anyone else who was in it. All the major characters in ZOMBIELAND are good and memorable, and work as an ensemble. So it’s ZOMBIELAND for me.

KEOHANE:  Personally, I think they’re both top-notch. I became a Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes fan because of SHAUN OF THE DEAD and later their brilliant SPACED television series (1999-2001).

I’ve always enjoyed Eisenberg and Harrelson (and more recently Emma Stone) in anything they’ve done, or at least anything of theirs I’ve seen. They may have sucked in something I simply haven’t watched yet.

I’m calling this one even.

WANGLUND:  SHAUN OF THE DEAD was co-written by and stars Simon Pegg, a British actor who clearly brings his dry sense of humor to the film. Pegg plays a regular guy dealing with some typical issues that most people can relate to when the zombie outbreak occurs.

Most of the cast was unknown to American audiences, and I appreciated that because no one is safe.

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ZOMBIELAND has a fairly well-known cast that portrays the characters almost to the extreme of their types. Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee takes pleasure in destroying zombies while Jesse Eisenberg is like a scared little boy who you have wonder how he has survived at all (I very much like his “rules”). Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin’s con-artist sisters are believable in terms of how you may have to survive, but I think the characters aren’t as relatable as they are in SHAUN OF THE DEAD. I did like the cameo appearance by Bill Murray which was funny and sad at the same time.

But overall I’m going with the cast of SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

ARRUDA:  So, ZOMBIELAND wins Round 4 with a score of 3 -2 with one tie, which means after four rounds, our score is SHAUN OF THE DEAD 3 and ZOMBIELAND 1.

****

ARRUDA: On to Round 5.   Which director does better job, Ruben Fleischer on ZOMBIELAND or Edgar Wright on SHAUN OF THE DEAD?

SOARES:  I think they both do a fine job. I’ve liked other things Edgar Wright has done, and I noticed that one Simon Pegg/Nick Frost movie that Wright didn’t direct – PAUL (2011)– was painfully unfunny. So, because I just like Edgar Wright better overall as a director, I give the slight edge to him.

WANGLUND:  Edgar Wright, who co-wrote and directed SHAUN OF THE DEAD does a great job keeping the pace of the comedy while still keeping the zombie threat very real and very scary. The end of the film is bittersweet as so many of Shaun’s friends and family do not survive, but life has been able to continue.

I think ZOMBIELAND director Reuben Fleischer did a good job balancing the comedy with the very real horror of a zombie apocalypse.

The directing was superb in both. Even Steven again.

ARRUDA:  While I agree that both directors do a good job, I give the slight edge to Ruben Fleischer. I like the energy he brings to the pacing of ZOMBIELAND. Some scenes are downright frenetic. I also like the creative gimmick of the words superimposed on the screen where Eiesenberg’s Columbus lays out his rules to live by. Sure, this isn’t original, we’ve seen this type of thing before, but it still works here.

But Edgar Wright utilizes a lot of creative touches in SHAUN OF THE DEAD as well.

This one’s very close but I give the edge to Fleischer. Advantage, ZOMBIELAND.

MCMAHON:  From the very first shots of SHAUN OF THE DEAD, you know Edgar Wright is bringing his A-game. A seemingly intimate conversation between Tim and Liz is revealed through camera angles to be happening at a table crowded with their friends. Also, I loved the pre-zombie and post-zombie mirroring of Shaun’s trip to the corner store for a Coke and a Cornetto.

ZOMBIELAND tried to copy the sense of fun by using title cards to keep track of Columbus’s rules for survival, and that was cute, but felt heavy handed to me. Almost like Ruben Fleischer wanted to be sure we knew he was making a comedy.

Winner: SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL:  I’m siding with Colleen on this one. Superb direction by both guys.

KEOHANE (feigning ignorance):  Which movies are we discussing again?  Seriously, this one’s too close to call.

SOARES: Yeah, I notice people are saying “both” to a lot of these questions. These two movies are just too close – they’re both decent comedies about zombies. It’s just not a very exciting contest to me, because there’s no real conflict here.

ARRUDA:  I disagree.  I’d much rather have a close contest like this than something like SHAUN OF THE DEAD vs. SCARY MOVIE 5.  Where would the fun be in that?  Competition is supposed to be evenly matched.  Otherwise it’s not much of a contest.

All right, then, there you have it. Round 5 goes to SHAUN OF THE DEAD, with a score of 2-1 and 3 ties. Which means our tally after 5 rounds is SHAUN OF THE DEAD 4 and ZOMBIELAND 1. But ZOMBIELAND could still pull a surprise win out of its hat in PART 3.

That’s all the time we have for PART 2. Join us next Friday night for the final two rounds, the exciting conclusion to our debate of SHAUN OF THE DEAD vs. ZOMBIELAND. Don’t forget, ZOMBIELAND still has a chance.

So long for now!

—END PART 2—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Daniel G. Keohane, Paul McMahon, Sheri-Sebastian-Gabriel and Colleen Wanglund

 

Me and Lil’ Stevie: CREEPSHOW (1982)

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2012, Anthology Films, Classic Films, Family Secrets, George Romero, Horror-Comedies, Just Plain Fun, Me and Lil' Stevie, Peter Dudar Reviews, Stephen King Movies with tags , , , , , , on January 25, 2012 by knifefighter

Me And Lil’ Stevie

Feel Right at Home at the

CREEPSHOW (1982)

EXTERIOR/NIGHT.

(Establishing shot of a lone house in Late October.  There is a Jack O’lantern burning in the front window.  From inside the house we hear the sounds of a father berating his son for reading comic book-style horror magazines.  Camera pans up at the full moon hanging directly over the house, and then pans downward again at the figure of a frightening, maniacal skeleton lurking about just outside the boy’s bedroom.   The skeleton laughs and waves at the boy in a display of intimate understanding, and then the skeleton lifts its hand and pulls off its costume, revealing underneath a man with a ventriloquist dummy in the form of Master of Horror, Stephen King.)

Lil’ Stevie:  I can’t breathe in this thing!

Peter:  Greetings, and welcome to our latest edition of Me And Lil’ Stevie.  Today we’ll be discussing the 1982 George Romero sleeper hit CREEPSHOW!

Lil’ Stevie:  It was MY hit too, ya know!

Peter: …And since most of you are fans of horror, George Romero needs no introduction, but for the rest of the uninformed heathens, Romero is the mastermind behind the LIVING DEAD zombie series as well as a multitude of other beloved horror gems.

Lil’ Stevie:  Really?  What else has he done?

Peter:  C’mon…you really need to ask?  Romero filmed THE CRAZIES (1979), MARTIN (1976), MONKEY SHINES (1988), and THE DARK HALF (1993), which is also based on a story by Stephen King.

Lil’ Stevie:  So the man’s got some taste!

Peter:  As well as talent and style.  But CREEPSHOW seems to be a stand-out favorite among us horror fans, and for good reason.  Romero and the real Stephen King teamed up specifically on this picture, with a concept for an anthology-style film that celebrated the campy fun of the old E.C. Comics of yesteryear (VAULT OF HORROR, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, etc.).  The result is five independent stories, book-ended by a story concerning the boy above and his stern, overbearing father who doesn’t want him reading trashy horror comic books.  If you didn’t know, the boy in the movie is actually played by King’s real-life son Joe!

Lil’ Stevie:  Who now goes by the name Joe Hill, and writes kick-ass horror stories just like ME!

Peter: You don’t write anything, Splinter-Chin!

Lil’ Stevie:  Do SO!

Peter:  Really?  Well maybe you could help me write up an Ebay ad for a used ventriloquist dummy…

Lil’ Stevie:  (moping) I’ll be good!

Peter:  The first story is called “Father’s Day”, and it appears to be a tongue-in-cheek nod to all the other horror films around that time that were based on some holiday or other gone horribly awry (HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13TH,  etc). The story concerns the posh, snobby heirs of Nathan Grantham (Jon Lormer, THE BOOGENS, 1981), whom congregate every Father’s Day to remember their patriarch on the anniversary of his death…murdered by dear Aunt Bedelia after the old man drove her crazy.

Lil’ Stevie:  Bashed his head in with a marble ash tray!  Of course, he had it coming after he murdered Bedelia’s suitor in cold blood.

Peter:  Grantham had made the family fortune by bootlegging whiskey.  So when Bedelia visits his graveside with a bottle of booze and accidentally spills some on his tomb, the old man comes back from the dead to extract vengeance.  There seems to be a lot of extracting vengeance in this pic…but I think that mirrors the style of the old pulp comics.  There’s a moral code in their somewhere, and it’s delivered in all its bloody tongue-in-cheek fun.

Lil’ Stevie:  Leave it to Romero to lead off with a zombie story first!  I wanted to lead off with “Jordy Verrill”…

Peter: …Which leads us to the second story, “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill”.  This story is one of the two in this movie that are based on pre-existing Stephen King stories.  This particular story is based on “Weeds”, which was published in Cavalier magazine in May, 1976 (and remains unavailable in any subsequent King story collection).  It is a retooling of the story, “The Colour Out Of Space” by H.P. Lovecraft, and concerns Jordy Verrill, a rube farmer who finds a meteor on his land.  Verrill is played by none other than…

Lil’ StevieMEME!  I played Jordy Verrill!  Wasn’t I stupendous?

Peter: ….the real Stephen King. Not you! Verrill finds the meteor, and dreams of selling it to the local university (to the Department of Meteors, to be specific) and pay off his outstanding bank loan.  When Verrill douses the meteor with water to cool it off, the meteor breaks in two, killing his plans immediately.  Of course, Verrill has already touched the meteor and been infected by whatever alien growth it contains.

Lil’ Stevie:  “Meteor shit!”

Peter:  You can’t swear like that.  L.L. will censor us again!

Lil’ Stevie:  “That’s the Verrill luck for ya!  Always in…Always bad!”

Peter:  (Sighing) Anyway, the rest of the story is Verrill’s downward spiral as the alien plant growth slowly consumes him.

Lil’ Stevie:  Easily the best story in the movie!

Peter:  The third tale is called “Something To Tide You Over”, and with the title alone we see more of that ironic, tongue-in-cheek wordplay that makes this movie such fun.  This is another vengeance tale, concerning crazed millionaire Richard Vickers (Leslie Nielson, AIRPLANE, 1980), who is bent on murdering his adulterous wife, Becky (Gaylen Ross, DAWN OF THE DEAD, 1978), and her lover, Harry Wentworth (Ted Danson, who played Sam Malone on the hit television show CHEERS, ’82-’93).  Richard shows up at Harry’s house and informs him that he knows what’s been going on.  Harry tries to play it cool, but when Richard informs him that Becky is in peril and that if he wants to see her alive again, he’d better do as he says, Harry allows himself to be led out to Richard’s beachfront property.  There is a hole in the sand waiting for him there, and Richard (while holding him at gunpoint), tells him to get in and start burying himself.

Lil’ Stevie: Of course, the tide is just starting to come in…

Peter:  Once Harry is buried up to his neck, Richard sets up a television and video player, right there in front of him, so that Harry can watch how Becky drowned, just as he is about to, with the return of the tide.  Of course, the two dead lovers are reunited by the sea, and come back from the dead to extract further vengeance on Richard.

Lil’ Stevie:  Not as compelling as “Jordy Verrill”.

Peter:  Or sandpaper!

Lil’ Stevie:  You’re so mean to me!

Peter:  The fourth story is “The Crate,” and it is the other piece that is a pre-existing Stephen King tale (and like “Weeds”, it doesn’t appear in any subsequent King collection.  You can find it, however, in the Arbor House Treasury of Horror & The Supernatural, 1980 or Great Tales of Horror & The Supernatural, 1981.)  The story concerns Henry Northrup (Hal Holbrook, THE FOG, 1980), a college professor who is forever cowed and browbeaten by his obnoxious, overbearing wife, Wilma (Adrienne Barbeau, also in THE FOG).

Lil’ Stevie:  Adrienne Barbeau!  Rowwwrrrr!

Peter:  Um, yeah…not in this picture.  In this story, Wilma (“Just call me Billie…everyone else does!”) appears to be the consummate pain-in-the-ass significant other; drinking, complaining, and verbally emasculating Henry at every opportunity.  So when Henry’s colleague and best friend Dexter Stanley (Fritz Weaver, MARATHON MAN, 1976) shows up at his home rambling incoherently about a crate that has been found at the university, and the monster inside that devoured the janitor who found it (as well as one of the school’s brightest students), Henry begins hatching a scheme to murder his ball-and-chain and be rid of her forever.

Lil’ Stevie:  Some things are just better off left alone…particularly if they are chained and padlocked and hidden away in a college basement!

Peter:  This segment was my least-favorite in the movie.  Adrienne Barbeau is a hottie, and to see her in this role really, unfortunately, changed how I feel about her.  She embodies the role with such efficiency that whenever I see her I instantly correlate her to the character she portrayed here.  And that’s a drag.

Lil’ Stevie:  That’s her job, you idiot!  She’s an actress!

Peter:  I’m sorry, I’m sorry!  And yeah, when Billie finally falls prey to the beast in The Crate, I did feel a sense of huge satisfaction.  I guess maybe it’s because I just don’t care to see people get brow-beaten, especially in public places.

Lil’ Stevie: And did you notice the personal nod I gave to my wife Tabby in this one?

Peter:  Yeah, one of the secondary characters is named Tabitha…and unlike Billie, she’s polite and well-mannered.  It seems almost like an inside joke that her name appears in this piece.  On to the final story, “They’re Creeping Up On You!”  This tale concerns another eccentric millionaire, Upson Pratt (E.G. Marshall, 12 ANGRY MEN, 1957), a germaphobe who has turned his upscale penthouse suite into a colorless, sanitized-white protection bubble.  Pratt hides away from the rest of the world in this bubble, where he can be a ruthless tycoon that makes business dealings that destroy other peoples’ lives without ever having to face them.  Through his personal interactions over the telephone, we get a glimpse of a man that has reduced the rest of mankind to being nothing more than pesky insects, which he loathes.

Lil’ Stevie:  So, of course, we have to call in the cockroaches and sic them on him!

Peter:  This piece is not for the squeamish.  Thousands of roaches invade the apartment, and before it is over, the dead Upson Pratt’s body literally erupts with insects as they burrow and tunnel their way through his corpse.  It’s an amazing scene to watch, with props to special effects master Tom Savini for making the body infestation so life-like you’d swear it was real!

Lil’ Stevie:  And you should note that Savini makes a cameo appearance as a garbage man at the end of the movie.

Peter:  In all, CREEPSHOW really is a standout King movie.  Even if this movie isn’t the scariest thing that either King or Romero has put out, the tagline on the poster reads “The Most Fun You’ll Ever Have Being Scared,” and that still holds fairly true, even 30 years later.  With the screenplay written by King, the all-star cast, and the great comic book animations and panel-framing, this movie is a celebration of all things dark and macabre…more like a film for summer camp than for the Cannes film festival.  It is a treasured homage to those horror-themed comic books we dug on in our childhood, rather than reading Boy’s Life or Y.M..

Lil’ Stevie: Just out of curiosity, if you could pick any five of my stories for a CREEPSHOW sequel, which would you choose?

Peter:  Wow, that’s a tough one…you’d want to go with the ones that are visceral enough to paint that comic book sense of grue while maintaining that almost moralistic come-uppance at the same time.  Off the top of my head, “Grey Matter” really stands out.  As does “Home Delivery” and “The Monkey”.  Of King’s more recent works, I’d say “In The Deathroom” or “Mute” would be cool.  Then again, I’d also hope that King would make the effort to write some new stories specifically for the screenplay.  The REAL King, of course, not your sorry ass. 

(Lil’ Stevie’s eyes roll back in his head, and then the dummy lunges forward, mouth wide open, and begins biting Peter’s face off.  Peter screams in agony as the blood begins to spray in comic book gushes of blood.)

Lil’ Stevie: (At the camera, with blood all over his wooden face), Goodbye, folks!  See you next time!

The scene fades into an animated sequence of Lil’ Stevie devouring the rest of Peter as camera pans out.

© Copyright 2012 by Peter N. Dudar

CHILLERAMA (2011)

Posted in 2011, Anthology Films, B-Movies, Campy Movies, Drive-in Movies, Horror-Comedies, Just Plain Fun, Werewolves, Zombies with tags , , , , , , , on December 6, 2011 by knifefighter

CHILLERAMA (2011)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

There is a long history of great horror anthology films: from 1945’s DEAD OF NIGHT, featuring an early version of the tale of a ventriloquist dummy come to life (starring the great Michael Redgrave); to the EC comic book adaptations from Amicus Studios for TALES OF THE CRYPT (1972)—featuring no less than Joan Collins and Peter Cushing! —and THE VAULT OF HORROR (1973); to the George Romero/Stephen King classic, CREEPSHOW (1982). There were even more of these kinds of things on television, with anthology shows like TWILIGHT ZONE, NIGHT GALLERY, THE OUTER LIMITS and TV-movies like Dan Curtis’s TRILOGY OF TERROR (1975).

So it was kind of cool to see a CHILLERAMA (2011), a new compilation film, come out, featuring several up-and-coming horror movie directors, It just recently became available on DVD and includes short films by Adam Rifkin, Tim Sullivan, Adam Green and Joe Lynch. I was really looking forward to this one after seeing clips on the Chiller channel over a buddy’s house. But is it in the same league as those other movies I mentioned above? Let’s see, shall we?

The film takes place during the final night of a drive-in movie theater, where a quadruple feature is being shown on the giant screen.

First off, there’s “Wadzilla” by Adam Rifkin. Rifkin actually made his name in the 90s, and gave us such previous films as INVISIBLE MANIAC (1990), the quirky and kinda cool (this has got to be a cult movie) THE DARK BACKAWARD (1991), and THE CHASE (1994) with Charlie Sheen and Kristy Swanson being chased by cop Henry Rollins. More recently, he wrote the screenplay for the awful live-action movie version of UNDERDOG (2007). As you can see, his output so far has been kind of uneven.

Wadzilla,” is actually a pretty funny little flick, where a guy with a low sperm count named Miles Munson (Rifkin himself), goes to see the not exactly ethical Dr. Weems (Ray Wise from TWIN PEAKS) and is given a medication that turns what few sperms he has into gigantic, slimy monsters who leave his body in a painful exit and grow to mammoth proportions, intent on impregnating the world. With Sarah Mutch as Miles’s potential love interest, Louise (she certainly is a very understanding gal), and Eric Roberts as “The General,” who is trying to take the monster down. “Wadzilla” looks as low-budget as it probably was, and yet it does have its moments. A nail-biting (wash those hands, first!) conclusion featuring the Statue of Liberty is both inspired and repulsive. Not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, “Wadzilla” is at least a fun time and a decent way to start things off.

Next we get “I Was a Teenage Werebear,” probably the most ambitious of the collected films here. It was directed by Tim Sullivan, best known for giving us the Herschell Gordon Lewis remake 2001 MANIACS (from 2005) and its sequel 2001 MANIACS: FIELD OF SCREAMS (2010). Sullivan specializes in a kind of “wink wink” horror comedy style that I’m not normally a fan of. But more on that later.

Werebear” is the story of high school heartthrob Ricky (Sean-Paul Lockhart, supposedly a one-time porn star), who seems to have everything, including a hot girlfriend, Peggy Lou (Gabrielle West), but who really yearns for “Rebel Without a Cause” wannabe, Talon (Anton Troy), who is always flanked by two leather boys and is always looking for trouble. Ricky’s a good boy, but the heart wants what it wants, and soon he’s snuggling up to Talon, who turns out to be a “werebear” an ursine variation of a werewolf (obviously), and whose flunkies turn into big hairy leather men (that “other” definition of a “bear”) with the coming of a full moon. Not only does the movie attempt to use horror metaphors for a story of a young man’s discovery of his sexual identity, it also does so with lots of musical numbers.”I Was a Teenage Werebear” has a lot of heart, but story-wise I found it to be the weakest of the three short films. It probably doesn’t help that I’m not a fan of musicals. But if a mix of I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF and GREASE, with two boys in love, sounds like your kind of thing, you’ll want to see this one.

The third film is “The Diary of Anne Frankenstein” by Adam Green. Green is best known for his films HATCHET (2006) and HATCHET 2 (2010), as well as the “stuck on a ski-lift during the coldest night of the year” flick FROZEN (also 2010). And, as you can tell from the title of this one, it’s an exercise in bad taste humor. In this one, Adolph Hitler himself (the tall and lanky Joel David Moore, who was also in Green’s HATCHET, and who is perhaps the goofiest-looking Hitler ever captured onscreen) steals a young girl’s diary, which shows him how to create life. His resulting “monster” is a golem-like creature called Meshugannah, played by Kane Hodder—who you may know as the guy who played Jason Vorhees from FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD (1988) up through JASON X (2001), and who also played killer/monster Victor Crowley in Green’s HATCHET films. While running amok, the creature kills lots of Nazis and pretty much wrecks the place. He even dances! Despite lots of bad taste jokes, “Diary” has the best production values of the bunch. It’s also filmed in spooky black and white!

There’s a very short fourth film, called “Deathication”(say it aloud to get an idea what it’s about), which strives to be nothing more than a complete piece of gross-out humor, which thankfully doesn’t overstay its welcome, as it gets “cut off” after about five minutes.

Linking all these films is the connective tissue of another film called “Zomb-B-Movie” by Joe Lynch, which involves the last night of a drive-in movie theater (as mentioned above), owned by Cecil Kaufman (Richard Riehle, who you’ve seen as everything from Principal Ed Rooney from the FERRIS BUELLER TV series from 1990 to 1991, to Tom Smykowski in 1999’s OFFICE SPACE, to, most recently, playing Santa Claus in HAROLD AND KUMAR’S  3D CHRISTMAS (2011)). There are also several other cars-full of characters who find love and others who just cause trouble. Lynch’s only other directing credit before CHILLERAMA is for WRONG TURN 2:DEAD END (2007), but he does a serviceable enough job tying everything together.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the last night of a drive-in theater without zombies, and a guy who digs up his dead wife and attempts to have sex with her in CHILLERAMA’s very first scene (what a great way to start things off—well, at least is establishes the tone of the film right away) , is turned into a festering zombie and when he “accidentally” masturbates into the butter for the drive-in’s popcorn (turns out he’s the projectionist!), it transforms almost everyone watching the movies on the big screen into flesh-eating ghouls who alternate between killing and having sex with everything they come across (the fact that they spew blue goo reminded me an awful lot of Tobe Hooper’s recent zombie novel, MIDNIGHT MOVIE).

I had a mixed reaction to CHILLERAMA, mostly because it gives us more of the self-conscious horror/comedy stylings that have been running rampant lately—most notably in the other films by the same directors involved in this one. A lot of these younger filmmakers were clearly influenced by late-night viewings of movies by people like Herschell Gordon Lewis and Ted V. Mikels, and yet they failed to learn an important lesson. Those older directors, no matter how goofy their films, tried to play it straight for the most part. Any laughs were mostly unintentional. They were really trying to scare their audiences—believe it or not. A lot of this new generation of horror directors try to recapture the feel of the bad old movies, but do so in a way that is very conscious of their goofiness. That’s why I call this subgenre “wink wink,” because the directors are in on the joke and want to make sure you are, too. For the most part, I am not a fan of these kinds of movies, because, by trying to be both horror movies and comedies, they often are neither horrific nor funny. And I really can’t stand a director winking at me.

That said, CHILLERAMA is better than average for this kind of stuff and actually delivered some laughs (though no scares). It was fun, in a dumb “midnight at the drive-in” kind of way, and for that reason, and because there really hasn’t been a good horror anthology film in a long time – and this one was entertaining, at least – I give CHILLERAMA two and a half knives. If it sounds good to you, you should consider renting it.

However, imagine how much better a movie like this could be if it was done seriously and really tried to scare the pants off you? I guess I’ll have to keep waiting for that one.

© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives CHILLERAMA ~two and a half knives.

Cinema BOOK Knife Fight: MIDNIGHT MOVIE BY TOBE HOOPER!

Posted in 2011, Cinema Knife Fights, Horror, Horror-Comedies, LL Soares Reviews, Movie Books, Nick Cato Reviews, Tobe Hooper, Zombies with tags , , , , on October 19, 2011 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT BOOK REVIEW!

MIDNIGHT MOVIE by Tobe Hooper (with Alan Goldsher)
(2011 Three Rivers Press / 316 pages / trade paperback)
By L.L. Soares and Nick Cato

(THE SCENE: A run-down dive bar in the heart of Austin, Texas)

L.L. SOARES – Wow, that was some movie. I guess we should review Tobe Hooper’s lost first film, Destiny Express now.

NICK CATO: What are you talking about? Destiny Express isn’t real.  It’s a fictional movie that’s at the heart of the new book, MIDNIGHT MOVIE, where Hooper tries his hand at being a novelist.

LS: You mean we’re not here to review the movie Destiny Express? Now I’m really confused.

NC: As the new novel MIDNIGHT MOVIE opens, Destiny Express is a movie Hooper made when he was a teenager in Austin. No one has actually seen it – not even Hooper himself – when a print suddenly turns up during the annual South By Southwest Music Festival…….

LS:….. Yeah, and a genuine weirdo named Dude McGee, who has found this movie, calls Hooper and offers him a lot of money to come down for the premiere screening and do a Q&A thing afterwards. Hooper is sure the movie is awful, but agrees to do it because he needs the money, and  he’s really curious to actually see the flick. Not long after it was filmed, Tobe was in a car accident and has big gaps in his memories of that time period.

NC: There’s always a roll of the eyes when a famed horror film director tries his hand at a novel (Wes Craven, anyone?).  When I heard Tobe Hooper—director of my all-time favorite horror film, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) —had written one, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it, especially after hearing that one of my buddies HATED it and another LOVED it. I’m curious to see what you thought of it.

LS: And we don’t normally do book reviews here at the Cinema Knife Fight website, but when there’s a direct link to movies, like a new novel by a legendary horror director, we thought we’d try something different.

And what a coincidence. TEXAS CHAINSAW is my all-time favorite horror movie, too. Since then, Tobe’s movie output has been kind of uneven, but I’m always curious about what he’s up to next, not just in movies, but in this case, his first novel.

NC: Well, for the first 100 pages or so, MIDNIGHT MOVIE had me hook, line, and sinker.  The pace was nice, the initial idea seemed great (a screening of an unseen Hooper film shot in his teenage years somehow causes America to become a zombie land)…..

LS: See, that’s where he almost lost me. Hooper is the guy who made TEXAS FRIGGIN CHAINSAW, a movie that was unlike everything else around when it first came out, and yet, in this book, his first (lost) horror movie sounds like just another zombie flick. Considering how creative Tobe is, and the cool title of the movie, Destiny Express, I was hoping that when he described the actual film, it would be something different and bizarre. But it sounds like just another zombie movie. I was bummed out about this at first, since I’m really kind of tired of zombies and was hoping for something a little more original from Mr. Hooper.

But I guess it makes sense, because if Tobe was a teenager at the time, he’d probably make a first movie that was kind of derivative,  influenced by the movies that were popular at the time, like George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968).

In the book, as Nick said, a screening of this lost movie in Austin leads to the audience freaking out, and some kind of killer virus getting out into the world.

NC: Yeah, right after that great set-up, the novel goes in several different directions, and I spent most of the time wondering if Hooper (and co-writer Alan Goldsher) could bring it all together in the final act.

They do and they don’t.

LS: I’m kind of shocked that you didn’t like this one more, because I absolutely loved it. It grabbed me right away with it’s really unique style—it’s written as an “oral history” type book, from various characters’ points of view—including Tobe Hooper himself—with excerpts from characters’ blog postings, Internet message board ramblings, and e-mails, along with the characters’ narratives. I liked the way they put this one together and it kept me barreling through to the end.

And I didn’t think it lost steam after the first 100 pages at all! I thought it did a great job of maintaining a steady pace from start to finish. I was hooked and read this one pretty quickly—and I’m a notoriously slow reader.

NC: While I enjoyed Tobe Hooper as the antagonist (as well as the group of misfits who help him re-film his lost epic), and REALLY liked how the zombies are so in the background you hardly know they’re there, there were so many other things going on I had a hard time staying focused on the story: besides the zombies, why did the screening of the film cause mass terrorist attacks and outbreaks of sexual frenzy?  And just who were carrying out these attacks?  The zombies, or some kind of splinter cells?  Isn’t a zombie invasion enough?  The authors seriously should’ve trimmed this thing down a bit (even at just over 300 pages, 75 could’ve easily been chopped without losing anything).

LS: Antagonist? I thought Tobe was the protagonist/hero of this one. He is one of the main people who strive to save the day and reverse the effects that the screening of Destiny Express had on everyone who saw it. I really liked how Hooper was one of the main characters and we got some insight into who this guy is, who normally hides behind the camera. From his annoyance at how people constantly mispronounce his name (it’s “To-bee”), to his anti-social ways, to his struggles to get movies made with studio money, I just really dug that Hooper gave us a peek into his real life, even if it is really skewered.

As for the zombies, another thing I liked about the book was how it wasn’t just flesh-eating zombies that were the big threat. The movie screening affects a lot of different people in very different ways. Some become zombies. Some get a kind of sexually transmitted disease nicknamed the “Blue spew,” the symptoms of which include a need to be constantly having sex, and blue discharge when they do. Some become homicidal maniacs who suddenly erupt with violence. If it was just plain old zombies, I probably would have lost interest early on, but the fact that this book is so strange, and the symptoms of the “virus” so varied and creative, kept me coming back for more.

And no, a zombie invasion is not enough. Because a zombie invasion has been done like a hundred thousand times before. I really wanted something different, and I got it. But if you like zombies, that’s here, too. Like when Tobe has to shoot his zombified best friend in the head to put him out of his misery.

Another main character, film critic Erick Laughlin, finds that his symptoms are even weirder. Not only does he become invisible at night, but he travels to crowded places like movie theaters and shoots red dots from his body at the people collected there, giving them the weird-ass virus symptoms as well. “Spreading the love,” so to speak. I thought this manifestation of the illness was especially INSANE.

And I thought the book was a perfect length. I don’t think Hooper should have cut it down at all.

NC: DOH!  I meant to call Tobe the PROTAGONIST before—not the ANTAGONIST—cut me a little slack here.  Maybe the virus from the novel is starting to infect me?

While the novel works fine as a metaphor for Hooper’s views on the Hollywood system, and will make independent film makers proud of what they do, MIDNIGHT MOVIE—in the end—is a so-so offering that starts out fantastic then looses steam as it unfolds (the quick and blah conclusion doesn’t help, despite some ends being decently tied up).

I’d say this one is for Hooper fanatics only.

LS: Oh, I totally disagree. I think it’s so much more than a metaphor for Hollywood. In fact, I thought it was an out-and-out comedy a lot of the time. So many hilarious things happen throughout the course of the book, things that are completely absurd, that I found myself really digging the tone of the entire thing. I just found it all incredibly entertaining.

I thought the ending tied up everything pretty well, and gave us some real insight into the nefarious, salami-breathed Dude McGee, as well as a director named Tobe Hooper (we can only guess how much the character of Tobe Hooper is based on the real thing). The only disappointment I had was when I reached the end of the book and suddenly realized that it had been written by Tobe Hooper and Alan Goldsher, because I was reveling in how entertaining it all was, and was bummed out that Tobe didn’t do it by himself (especially since Goldsher’s name is nowhere on the front cover!). You’d think someone who has written so many film scripts could have written a novel by himself. But then I thought about it, and realized there are some talented twosomes in the writing world (some great ones in the horror genre alone), who acquit themselves just fine. So I guess you can add these two guys to that list.

MIDNIGHT MOVIE is so over-the-top, so completely OUT THERE, that I think it would win over a lot of readers who aren’t necessarily fans of Tobe’s films, so it’s not just for Hooper die-hards. I also thought it was very cinematic (no surprise there, since the author is a movie director).

I really enjoyed it, and give it three and a half knives out of a possible five. What about you, Nick?

NC: I didn’t like it as much as you did. It just didn’t wow me. I give it one knife.  And chances are Hooper didn’t write even half as much of this as Goldsher did.

LS: Wow, that’s a big difference in opinion. I’m surprised you didn’t like this one better than you did. It was funny a lot of the time and had a real “Bizarro” feel to it.

As for me, I gobbled it up from start to finish, and I’d love to see more from Hooper and Goldsher.

NC: I’d rather watch CHAINSAW MASSACRE for the umpteenth time.  But of course I’ll probably follow whatever Hooper decides to unleash next.

LS: Well, that’s it for our special edition of Cinema BOOK Knife Fight. Until next time…

© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares and Nick Cato

L.L. Soares gives Tobe Hooper’s MIDNIGHT MOVIEthree and a half knives

Nick Cato gives Tobe Hooper’s MIDNIGHT MOVIEone knife.

TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL

Posted in 2011, Campy Movies, Gore!, Hillbillies, Horror-Comedies, Just Plain Fun, LL Soares Reviews, Nick Cato Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on October 4, 2011 by knifefighter

TUCJCINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL (2011)
By L.L. Soares and Nick Cato

(THE SCENE: A fishing hole in the deep South. L.L. SOARES and NICK CATO are dressed in overalls as hillbillies, sitting in a boat and fishing)

LS: I haven’t gotten a bite all day.

NC: What are you using for bait?

LS: A copy of your novel, DON OF THE DEAD.

NC: Silly guy. Fish don’t read.

LS: Oh. That explains an awful lot.

NC: Don’t worry about the fishing. We’re really hear to review the new movie TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL. This one is in limited release in select cities throughout the country, as well as being available on various cable systems’ “OnDemand” service. Which is how we saw it, thanks to our cable company, Comcast.

LS: Yep, we got to enjoy this one in the comfort of our own homes. Which reminds me, it sure isn’t very comfortable out here in the middle of this river, getting eaten alive by bugs.

NC: I told you to put on some Raid before we left the shore.

LS: Raid? I thought you said we were going to finally get PAID. Which is why I agreed to do two Cinema Knife Fights in one weekend.

NC: Well, this is going to have to be a quick one. I got a date with Ellie Mae Clampett tonight. And you know how she hates to be kept waiting.

LS: Ellie Mae? I thought I saw you smooching with Granny!

NC: You’ve been drinking too much moonshine, buddy. Why don’t I start this one?

LS: Be my guest. (Pulls out a giant jug with three X’s on it and takes a gulp).

NC: As a life-long connoisseur of humorous horror films, I approach each one with a bit of hope that it won’t be a total waste of time (as the majority of them are). While only a select few have been noteworthy in my book [among my personal favorites are STUDENT BODIES (1981), PSYCHOS IN LOVE (1986) and SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004)], I didn’t have high hopes for TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL for two reasons: one being the trailer was better than most films. Could a movie possibly be this good for 90 minutes?  The second being its standard “Three’s Company” sitcom-misunderstanding plot.

But may I be pierced by a hillbilly’s nail gun! TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL took a simple sitcom concept, added a classic slasher film “20-years ago” back story, and delivered two of the most likeable redneck buddies to grace the screen since I can remember.

Tyler Labine (who has been acting on TV shows since 1991) stars as Dale, and is impossible not to like.

LS: Yeah, I’ve been a fan of Labine’s for awhile now. He’s been acting since the 90s, like you said, but I first noticed him in the underrated ABC series INVASION (2005 – 2006), where he really stood out as Dave Groves, and I thought he was the best thing in REAPER (2007 – 2009), another show that was canceled before its time. From the start, Labine has shown a strong ability to be funny as well as serious, so he’s a great choice for TUCKER AND DALE.

NC: Same goes for his buddy Tucker, played by Alan Tudyk, who is also very likable here. At the start of TUCKER AND DALE, he convinces Dale to go talk to a pretty college girl (played by Katrina Bowden) at a gas station. When she and her college buddies think the two rednecks are a couple of dangerous creeps, they take off, leaving Dale to continue to believe he’s nothing but a backwoods loser.

LS: It doesn’t help that when he approaches them, he’s carrying a scythe. He doesn’t even realize it, because he’s so nervous.

NC: Yep. But losers are the furthest thing from what these two guys are. In fact, they’ve both saved their hard-earned blue collar money to buy a fix ‘er up vacation cabin in the woods; they may look low class, but they’re each “living the good life” as they know it.

LS: Alan Tudyk has done a lot of television work as well, and he’s really good here, too. He was in a lot of shows I liked like STRANGERS WITH CANDY (1999 – 2000), Joss Whedon’s FIREFLY (2002 – 2003), and the criminally short-lived DOLLHOUSE (2009 – 2010), also by Joss Whedon, where he played one of my favorite characters, the villainous Alpha! He’s even in the new ABC comedy series SUBERGATORY.

As for Katrina Bowden, she is a friggin knockout! She’s a regular on the NBC series 30 ROCK, and will be in this fall’s horror movie sequel, PIRANHA 3DD. Which is fine by me. The more we see of Ms. Bowden, the better, I say!

NC: When they go fishing one night, they come across the college kids skinny-dipping on their property. When Dale sees Allison (the girl he tried to talk to at the gas station) fall off a rock and get knocked out, he dives in and rescues her. But her friends see something else: they see two demented rednecks kidnapping their friend.

The rest of TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL features Allison’s friends trying to rescue her, each one accidentally killing themselves in insane ways. But Dale and Tucker have no idea what’s going on and are convinced Allison’s friends have some kind of suicide pact going on—and that, for some reason, they brought Allison to the woods to kill her.

LS: Yeah, basically, the college kids die in horrible ways trying to fight back against the “hillbilly killers” they perceive Tucker and Dale to be. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. These two guys are sweet-natured lugs who just want to make friends

NC: With plenty of laughs, buckets of gore (some of the splatter effects being genuinely disturbing in a dark humored sort-of way), and a script that was MUCH better than anyone would think for this type of film, I was pleasantly surprised with the results—and I enjoyed the film’s underlying message of the working man’s pride and success being possible outside of a college education.

LS: You make it sound like a commercial for a trade school. But it’s actually a lot of fun. One scene where a kid ends up in a wood chipper (I won’t give away how he gets there), had me laughing out loud. There are a lot of funny moments in TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL, and several of them involve plenty of blood. Laughs and gore—two of my favorite things.

This movie is pretty much a one-joke comedy, but it’s so well done and well-written, that the joke works fine throughout the film, and you really find yourself rooting for Tucker and Dale to win against the college kids!

Another great performance, by the way, was by Jesse Moss as Chad, the most gung ho/psychotic of the “kids.” He was in one of my favorite recent werewolf movies, 2000’s GINGER SNAPS, and was in the short-lived Eliza Dushku series TRU CALLING (2004). He actually reminded me a lot of a young Tom Cruise, and he brings a tremendous amount of energy to the role. I thought Moss  was terrific in this movie.

NC: I’m glad you mentioned that wood chipper scene, which in itself was WAY more entertaining than the entire, seldom-seen 1988 waste of time, WOOD CHIPPER MASSACRE.

Humorous horror films don’t hit the mark all too often. For that reason alone, TUCKER & DALE is must viewing. I give it three and a half knives.

LS: That’s funny, because I give it three and a half knives, too! What are the chances of that?  I enjoyed this one, and thought it should have gotten a normal theatrical release. I think TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL is one of the better horror movies of this year so far. At least it was an original idea! How often do you see that anymore.

Director Eli Craig did a great job here. I hardly ever say this, but I really hope they make a sequel to this one.

NC: Oh well, we’re done fishing for today, it’s time to go home.

LS: Yep, so long folks. See you next time on Cinema Knife Fight. Y’all come back now, you hear?

(LS’s fishing pole starts to vibrate violently)

LS: I got me a nibble!

NC: Bring it in! Bring it in!

(LS reels it in and a humungous alligator climbs up into their boat, capsizing it)

LS: Sheee-oot! How was I to know that gators knew how to read?

NC: Shut up and keep swimming!

-END-

© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares and Nick Cato

L.L. Soares and Nick Cato both give TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL ~ three and a half knives!

DOGHOUSE

Posted in 2011, Comedies, Horror-Comedies, Michael Arruda Reviews, Pickin' the Carcass, Zombie Movies with tags , , , , , , , on May 5, 2011 by knifefighter

PICKIN’ THE CARCASS:  DOGHOUSE (2009)
By Michael Arruda

 

Hey, if you pitched your new movie as THE HANGOVER (2009) meets ZOMBIELAND (2009), you’d have a hard time convincing folks NOT to back your movie, because it sure sounds like a can’t-miss hit!

That’s certainly what I thought as I prepared to watch the horror comedy DOGHOUSE (2009), now available on DVD and Streaming Video.  It’s a crazy tale about a group of guy friends who rally around one of their buddies going through a painful divorce, and so they decide to take him on a weekend trip to a small village where they can get drunk and have their way with the local women.  Problem is, once they get there they find out all the women have turned into man-eating zombies!

DOGHOUSE sounded like it would be a lot fun, a good mix of horror and comedy.  Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.  DOGHOUSE is about as fun as a heaping pile of smoking dog poop.  Yep, it’s that bad.

It starts well, with a creative pre-credit sequence that introduces each of the “guys.”  These introductory bits are actually funny and give each character individual moments to shine.  If only the rest of the movie had been like this.  In fact, in terms of characterization, the rest of the movie is the exact opposite.  As the film goes on, none of these guys do anything to distinguish themselves from each other.  These characters don’t grow, and as a result we don’t really get to know them or even to like them.  It’s no surprise then that the film’s trailer relies heavily on the initial pre-credit sequence for its humorous bits.

The guys hire a bus to take them to the vacation spot they’ve picked out, a secluded village named Moodley.  Ironically, the bus driver for this group of weekend women haters turns out to be a gorgeous babe (Christina Cole).  Anyway, Moodley turns out to be a dump, and worse yet, it’s an abandoned dump.  There’s nobody there, which strangely enough, doesn’t seem to faze these guys that much.  Sure, they wonder where everybody is, but they don’t seem all that concerned by Moodley’s ghost town status.  They walk into a bar— where there’s NOBODY, patrons or staff— and they prepare to order drinks.  By this point, I’d be getting back on the bus or checking out the news to find out what the hell has happened in Moodley!

Of course, what’s happened is the punch line of the film, and that is all the women have turned into flesh-eating zombies, and all the men have been eaten, which I guess is supposed to be symbolic of the plight of these guys—and other men, for that matter— being henpecked by “carnivorous” women, at least in the figurative sense.  In Moodley, however, it’s in the literal sense.

This revelation comes early on in the film, which usually is a good thing, but here it’s not, as the zombie scenes are by far the worst part of DOGHOUSE.  They’re awful.  Not awful “cheap,” but awful in lacking any sort of creativity.

Let’s start with the premise.  Women have turned into zombies while the men haven’t, due to a virus that affects only women.  This makes absolutely no sense, and the movie makes no attempt to make this make sense.  Thus begins the movie’s downfall.

I thought DOGHOUSE would be a horror movie with comedic elements, in that a bunch of “guys” a la the folks in THE HANGOVER would be the heroes pitted against a deadly threat of man-eating monsters, but it’s just not much of a horror movie since the horror elements fail miserably.  The women zombies are played completely for laughs.

Worse yet, they’re not that funny.  They’re never allowed to do much of anything other than chase the men around.  As a result, it doesn’t work as a comedy either, because the laughs just aren’t there.  It’s not even close to generating the humor seen in ZOMBIELAND and SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004).

The zombies don’t even look good.  Admittedly, I’ve seen much worse in several grade Z budget films in the past few years, but compared to the Romero zombies, and the ones in ZOMBIELAND, the zombies here are several notches below in quality.  They’re good enough for a music video, but for a feature length horror movie, they’re seriously lacking something.

A huge problem is character development.  The whole group of guys is largely wasted, which surprised the heck out of me, since they each enjoyed a strong introduction in the movie’s pre-credit sequence.  I didn’t get to know these guys, nor did I grow to like them.

Also, the actors in DOGHOUSE all have heavy British accents.  Now, this usually doesn’t bother me, but in this case I have to admit I had a really hard time understanding what these folks were saying, so much so that it really interfered with my enjoyment of the film.  The characters speak in rapid fire fashion with heavy accents and suddenly I find myself looking for the subtitles because I don’t know what they’re saying.

DOGHOUSE doesn’t skimp on the gore, that’s for sure. So, if you like lots of bloody scenes involving flesh-eating zombies, then you might like this movie because there are plenty of these scenes to go around.  The problem is director Jake West doesn’t do anything creative with these scenes.  There’s no set up, there’s no “in-your-face-this-scene-is really cool’ feeling, and so ultimately there’s no payoff.  This is how the zombie scenes work in DOGHOUSE:  the zombies appear, the men react with a humorous quip or two, they fight off the zombies, usually by throwing objects at them or hitting them with golf balls, and then the men flee, only to run into another set of zombies, and the process repeats itself, endlessly, it seems.

All in all, I was not impressed by Jake West’s direction one iota.

The same can be said for the screenplay by Dan Schaffer.  He presents a neat idea with lots of potential but never quite delivers the goods.  This is supposed to be a funny horror movie, but the humor just isn’t there.  There are like nine guys here, and I think the story would have been much more effective with fewer friends, say perhaps three or four, who we could have really gotten to know better and laughed with more.  As it is now, it’s one set piece after another with a group on nondescript buddies fending off hideous- looking women zombies over and over again.  It gets old real fast.

And the zombie women are hideous.  If you’re looking for sexy zombies, a la ZOMBIE STRIPPERS (2008), you won’t find them here.

One moment that did resonate with me, where there actually was some truth behind the humor, came towards the end of the film when one of the guys laments that among their group of friends, the ones who “played by the rules” and treated women the best were the ones who got screwed over by their women, and so he wonders why the heck follow the rules in the first place?  It’s a funny moment.

The cast of DOGHOUSE didn’t wow me by any means.  Stephen Graham is OK as Vince, the soft-spoken nice guy who’s going through the painful divorce and is the reason this group of guys gets together for the weekend in the first place.  Vince is a likeable enough character, but he’s way underdeveloped and never becomes the central focus of the movie.  We saw Graham earlier this year as the sleazy guide Hagamar in SEASON OF THE WITCH (2011).  Graham was more impressive in WITCH than he is here.

Danny Dyer is somewhat memorable as Neil, the “leader” of the group, or at least its most outspoken member.  He’s the chief woman-hater among them and can’t seem to spend more than five seconds in the presence of a woman without insulting her.  Yet, women are attracted to him.

Christina Cole plays the good-looking tour bus driver Candy, and in her few brief scenes, she’s likeable, but she’s hardly in the movie at all before turning into a zombie.  Once she becomes a zombie, her zombie scenes like the others in the movie, just aren’t very good.

You know, I’ve really enjoyed the recent surge of zombie movies, even the comedies like ZOMBIELAND and George Romero’s SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD (2010).  But there have been some bad ones, films like ZOMBIE STRIPPERS, for instance.  DOGHOUSE  is every bit as bad as the worst of these.  It’s definitely a movie that sounds better than it actually is.

Don’t waste your time with DOGHOUSE.  Watch ZOMBIELAND and THE HANGOVER instead.

—END—

© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda