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Archive for March, 2010

Død Snø (Dead Snow)

by on Mar.24, 2010, under Daily Review

A group of Norwegian friends, twentysomethings head for a weekend of fun in the snow. A log cabin and snow boards, what more could they ask for? When a small box of treasure is uncovered, strange things begin to happen and the Nazi Zombies raise from the snowy ground, out for revenge.

It’s a simple plot and one full of homage to everything which has gone before. The script is one of fan boy turned film maker and on this level, the film wortks a treat. References all over the place. Evil Dead, April Fools, Friday 13th etc. It’s a great achievement for Norwegian Director Tommy Wirkola and writer/actor Stig Frode Henriksen to create such a great looking, well balanced movie. Black comedy moments fuel the script with a crazy amount of gore splashing all over the screen, turning the snowy peaks red.

It’s well shot, well made with a great cast of unknowns who all seem incredibly relaxed in front of the camera, all look great and its such a good thing to watch a gore flick with a talented cast who are not the usual Hollywood affair. It’s a good film with a high enjoyment level but the gore is what this film is really all about, with Zombies dispatched using all forms and manner. Especially fun, was the snow bike mincing the zombie to mush.

So what about the bad points? Well, for me, this doesn’t quite hit the spot. It says what it does on the tin, and that’s all you get really. The zombies are all a bit too controlled for my liking, but this is mainly a basic premise of the plot as Herzog, (Oran Gamst) their leader takes control. I must say, Gamst is very good in this role with a cool mighty bark on him.

I wasn’t expecting as much humour, but it was all a bit too obvious, but that’s not a bad thing. I’d look forward to seeing what direct Wirkola and Henriksen take, as they are obviously talented and enthusiastic, but next time, I’d expect more life and soul.  

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Lifeforce

by on Mar.23, 2010, under Daily Review

This is one of the highlight of British cinema from the mid 80’s. A time when cinema going was in decline. They actually launched national cinema year to reignite the flame. Films like The Emerald Forest, Room with a View and Wish You Were Here were in everyone’s hearts, as they were mine, but I had a darker preference. Lifeforce was a contribution towards the saving grace of not only British cinema, but the horror/scifi genre. It breaks so many boundaries, collecting influences and quality talent, dropping them in a huge cauldron and producing a film like no other.

Script by Dan O’Bannon, Directed by Tobe Hooper, Mancini score, Alan Hume DP. And then the cast are astonishing. Peter Firth, Pat Stewart, Michael Gothard, Frank Finlay and Aubry Morris. Stunning epitome of Englishness, depicted in four of the greats who support and nurture the two leading actors, Steve Railsback and the naked Mathilda May as the space girl.

The story is intriguing and original. A space crew attempt to fly through he tail of a visiting comet to collect space data, but find another craft pulled along with the debris. On investigation, they discover 3 naked humanoid figures in a state of space sleep. Back on earth, its soon realised that these creatures suck the lifeforce out of all in their path to gain energy for their spacecraft, leaving those drained in a zombie type situation, craving humans to drain for themselves. It all get out of hand and before we know it, the aliens have soaked up into the heart of London and the city is a mass of zombies and chaos.  The only survivor of the space mission, Tom Carlsen (Railsback) is infatuated with his naked alien space girl (May) who it is later explained the ultimate example of womankind from the mind of Carlsen. Joining forces with the military, Carlsen and Colonel Colin Caine (Firth) track Space Girl before her effect destroys the whole of mankind, or England’s citizens anyway.

Its great to see a good, solid, well made film which makes England look great. There are scenes out in the countryside which are beautifully shot, credit to Hume, who’s past credits are surprisingly, mainly ‘Carry on’ movies and a few ‘Bond’ films, but here, he is allowed the space to explore years of experience; the film looks a treat, especially in all it’s glory, an extreme widescreen edition. The scenes of London burning are brilliant, whilst Caine runs the back streets of Covent Garden, zombies running in packs chasing the courageous Colonel. Never before or since have we seen such a dramatic subject in our capital city.

The effects are good here too, although this was back in 85 so you really need to forgive some and appreciate that this is all hand made makeup and prosthetics. No CGI stuff here. The first victims of Spacegirl are great effects, zombie humanoids, who crave the lifeforce and make a truly spooky sound as they cry out. There isn’t much in the way of gore as the zombies suck out the force though a kiss, causing the victims to shrivel into mummy type state. But it’s the sheer size of this film which is its strength. It’s a big movie, with huge stet pieces, loads of locations, helicopters, spaceships and a massive cast of extras. But the key characters make the film that little bit special. The moments in the mental hospital, Stewart, Firth, Morris and Railsback framed on the screen together with brilliant dialogue is just magical.

Tobe Hooper is a horror legend. With a career now in it’s 5th decade, I’d argue that this is his definitive moment in celluloid. Chainsaw is stunningly good, Poltergiest equally as impressive, although Spielberg’s dominant presence steals any traits that Hopper could have expressed. Lifeforce is a much bigger masterpiece than both of these films.

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Night of the Comet

by on Mar.22, 2010, under Daily Review

You might not realise it yet, but this film is one of the most important cultural reference movies of the early 80’s. It’s as must a documented recording and should sit on your shelf alongside the likes of Tron, Wargames, Back to the Future and ET as a historical account of how things were, clothes, hair and music and it gives me such a good feeling to watch.

This is a zombie film, with a scifi heart. The film begins with the people of LA awaiting a comet, celebrating in the streets, little do they know they’ll turn to dust as the rock flies across the sky. Two sisters survive the night, one spending the night in a cinema, the other hiding out in a tool shed. It appears, those inside a metal room for the event are the only ones left. Others in slight contact with the comet turn into crazy flesh eaters. So the sisters have LA to play in as the streets seem deserted. Cool cars to drive, great shops to dress in, and Uzi machine guns to fire. But as always, the key characters need to keep an eye out for the zombies and the greedy human survivors.

Reminiscent of Masterson’s ‘I am Legend.’ Writer and Director, Thom Eberhardt has created a brilliant, beautiful looking film here. The script is sharp, snappy and totally realistic bringing to life rich characters through the talents of our two protagonists Regina and Samantha (Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney). It’s also good to see that both of these actresses have maintained steady work for their career. A tribute to Eberhardt, through his fine choice for the roles. The look and feel of the film, although looking super 80’s is a real pleasure to watch. Each scene is well shot and LA looks amazing, with empty streets and pink smoggy sky over the city skyline.

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Nightmare City (Incubo sulla città contaminata)

by on Mar.21, 2010, under Daily Review

I was hoping this film would be better than I remembered it being, but alas all my fond memories, it seems are tainted in rose tint. Saying that, it’s not actually a bad film. It’s just a bit stale, a bit repetitive and flat. Umberto Lenzi (Cannibal Ferox & Eaten Alive) is by no means one of Italy’s greats, but his films are always solid and well focussed. This is what we have here. A coherent, solid zombie flick which flows and works as well as can be expected. The cast is decent, (Hugo Stiglits is a real presence of the screen) script is interesting (I believe there was much lost in the translation) and the style is quite good; the widescreen ratio really give the film some credence. Obviously, this was made in the zombie glory days, when everyone wanted to remake Dawn of the Dead, or at least complete for the next big thing. Lenzi takes a different approach here, which is unusual, especially for an Italian.

A plane lands, laden with crazy mud faced zombies with machine guns and knives. Massacre the airport staff, the police and army and somehow break into a TV studio with a dancing show, Legs n Co style. That’s the basics. These zombies are clever. They run, think, fight, cut phone lines and shoot guns. But at a basic level, when it comes to it, they still crave a nibble on the neck and the flow of gushing blood. For what it is, it’s pretty good, although with the huge twist at the end, I would still expect more from the rest. A slightly more visionary, artistic filmmaker could have turned this film on its head which really would have worked with the twist. The stuff in the theme park is great though and probably the highlight of the film, the use of a roller-coaster is brilliant.

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Week 21

by on Mar.20, 2010, under 365 Schedule

Z week 4. A Lenzi classic, 2 SciFi ish 80’s Gems, Nazi Zombies, Soavi and D’Ossario’s masterpiece.

  • Nightmare City
  • Night of the Comet
  • Lifeforce
  • Dead Snow
  • Zombies Lake
  • Dellamorte Dellamore
  • Tomb of the Blind Dead
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Zombie Strippers!

by on Mar.20, 2010, under Daily Review

Don’t write this film off, as although it’s kinda what you’ll be expecting, its far better than you’d think and has much to offer the Z genre. Director Jay Lee truly has a great artistic eye for the camera and shoots with real zest, each shot colourful, crisp and very well framed. The subject matter is pure comic book with over the top characters in a crazy situation.

A chemical lab has an outbreak of zombie virus. A crack military troop are called in to clean up the area. One of the guys ends up bitten and on the turn, finds himself stumbling into an adult entertainment lounge. Taking in some of the sights, it all gets too much for the young soldier and attacks the main star of the show, Kat (Jenna Jameson) who in turn, dies and returns from the dead as a super zombie stripper, to the delight of the punters and the annoyance of the rest of the dancers. Club owner Ian (Robert Englund) sees the dollar signs and it’s not long before he has a whole host of Zombie Strippers and a growing number of shuffling victims mounting up in the basement.

So the plot and style is comic book with the main subject matter a tad risqué, but why not? Zombie Strippers. Basically says what it is on the tin and that’s basically what you get, but there’s more to this crazy outing. The acting is good and fun. Jameson is surprisingly good with plenty of presence, her acting skills seem to grow as her character gets more active and physical in her zombie role. Also, the Zombie Stripper Dance Off is something to be seen, with a stripper pole used as a baseball bat and pool balls fired through the air at great speed, making use of an old party trick.

The music is a thumping metal soundtrack which works real well but what is most surprising is the zombie makeup and gore scenes. This is no low budget affair. Makeup is of a real high standard, Day of the Dead style, with blood and flesh all over the place. One zombie has his tongue ripped out and spends the rest of the film with his jaw hanging off. Brilliant effect. This is a light hearted, fun and crazy film which looks amazing through stunning cinematography and colourful lighting and performances.

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The House by the Cemetery (Quella villa accanto al cimitero)

by on Mar.19, 2010, under Daily Review

This is another r fine example of Fulci at his peak. It’s also one of the most accessible of his films from this time with a more coherent storyline and a lot less vagueness to confuse the humble viewer. Again, stunning artistic vision from the eye of Salvati, in what could be argued as being his finest work. It’s a beautiful film to watch. It’s well paced and balanced with liberal sprinklings of blood, but a much great focus on the cinematic value of the aesthetic. It’s strong point being a slow building movie which a supernatural feel or is it a psychological piece, cleverly questioning Lucy’s (Catriona MacColl) deranged mind?

The premise is, a young family move from the big city to a huge country house on the outskirts of Boston. It soon becomes clear that there is more than meets the eye in this spooky old house. And what about those noises coming from the cellar? And why is the door to said cellar locked? A grave stone is uncovered in the garden, then another inside the house. The father gets attacked, quite viciously, by a bat from the cellar, soon after having a tussle in MacColl’s hair. The bat scene is bloody brutal actually. It’s a difficult task to pull off, but here, the viewer is cringing with pain as Norman (Paolo Malco, later seen in Ripper) stabs the bat as it bites and clings onto his hand. It’s a nasty mess.

It soon becomes clear, there is something or someone in the house with the family. Young Bobby (Giovanni Frezza, Manhattan Baby) has a secret invisible friend who is passing on thoughts and chats of the mind, tipping off the young lad about the Freudstein’s, the previous tenants. Dr Jacob Freudstein might just be living in the basement.

This is a great film. It’s easy to enjoy as it looks amazing. The colour and light are terrific and the moments of gore and suspense are perfectly executed. A scene mid way sees an estate agent attacked with a metal poker, stabbed in the neck, which is one of the most amazingly well filmed scenes I have ever seen. The lighting is brilliant, cinematographer is crisp and perfect. Spurts of blood gushing up over Dagmar Lassander’s face. I must mention, Lassander’s inclusion, although a small role, brilliant in it’s subtlety, seen earlier in Fulci’s Black Cat and Bava’s Hatchet for the Honeymoon. Another moment later on is also worth mentioning. Suspenseful, Lucy and Bob try to escape the thing in the basement via escape route through a grave stone. It’s a real highlight of the film and you can really feel every bump of the head as Lucy is dragged down the steps.

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The Beyond (E tu vivrai nel terrore – L’aldilà)

by on Mar.18, 2010, under Daily Review

Fulci’s follow up to City of the Living Dead, not a sequel, but following in the same footsteps. Witchcraft causes local residents to murder a bloke with a chain, a brutal death by anyone’s standards. His body, locked in a basement for 50 years until Joe the plumber finds the corpse, and unleashes the horrors from one of the ‘7 Gates of Hell’. Unsuspecting Liza, (Catriona MacColl) has recently acquired the hotel and is now more than a little perplexed to find the plumber dead and strangeness occurring all around. Stumbling upon a strange blind woman and her dog out on one of the Louisiana Wetland roads, the back story is explained and soon the dark powers are taking over the whole town. With the aid of Dr John MaCabe (played by the outstanding David Warbeck), the two pair up to solve the puzzle which inevitably leads to an ever increasing number of shuffling undead and an inspiring climax.

This film follows a more approachable viewing experience for the novice Fulci explorer. It’s a bit more coherent than City, but still carrying all the beauty and charm of its predecessor. The plot makes a little more sense although, that said, there are still huge questions to be asked as to why, where and what is actually supposed to be going on here. Put those questions to the back of your mind and enjoy the images which are fine pieces are artistic talent, care of Sergio Savati once again. Tomassi editing, Frizzi soundtrack, De Rossi on gore duty. This equates to the essential Fulci experience.

What’s astounding here, as we take for granted the great look of the film and a quality soundtrack, is the sheer amount or gore squeezed into 90 minutes. It’s outrageous really and credit to Fulci and De Rossi for envisioning the most outrageous collection of gore moments in a single movie. Where else can you see a man eaten alive by tarantulas, a blind woman ripped apart by her Alsatian dog, a young girl get her face and head blown clean off, a bloke nailed to a wall and whipped to death with chains, two scenes with eye balls ripped out and a woman’s face melted with acid! This is all before we mention the hordes of zombies causing all sorts of despair and violence. These are all huge scenes too; we’re not just talking quick editing and snapshots of bloody carnage. Here we have close up lingering camera shots, dripping blood and gore. I must say, the Alsatian scene is a thing of beauty. The dripping blood off the jaw of Cinzia Monreale’s (Emily the blind woman) beautiful face, framed brilliantly by Savati is truly a highlight. A moment of real artistic pleasure.

Let me mention Fulci’s stance on zombies. Unlike many of the other reasoning’s for zombies in movies, Fulci has a strong connected reasoning for the dead to walk the earth. Witchcraft and demonology. This is a force of evil, unleashed by dabbling humans causing the gates of hell to open with a wrath of strange monstrous effects on their surroundings and so, the dead will walk the earth. Unlike Romero’s which have an unknown reasoning for the walking dead apart from the vague wives tale of ‘when there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.’ Other films have used chemical misuse and  virus epidemics, which all have their time and place, Fulci has a solid grounding for his walking dead: Evil doings of men and the curse of the devil itself.

‘And you will face the sea of Darkness, and all therein that may be explored.’

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City of the Living Dead

by on Mar.17, 2010, under Daily Review

This is a beautiful movie. The essence of the word captured on film showing all the ups and downs and multi layers that make up perfection and treats for the eyes and mind. Fulci at his finest? Maybe, but this is definitely, for me anyway, Fulci’s breaking point. Following up his earlier Zombie outing (Flesheaters) in which he split away from the comfort of his giallo home, he stepped up the game and offered this incredible complex visionary film, which I believe he has never bettered on a magical visual level.

During a séance, Mary (Catriona MacColl)  sees a priest commits suicide, hanging himself from a tree in a graveyard, in the process, opening the 7 gates of hell, allowing all manner or evil to be unleashed and of cause, a growing number of undead. Mary dies of shock, later awakening buried alive (or dead) screaming to be rescued. A passing reporter, Peter (Christopher George) hears her cries and takes a pickaxe to the grave. An amazing scene with the axe tip grazing Mary’s head. They soon head off to save the world from the evil which is manifesting in the sleepy town of Dunwich, and the grave of the priest needs laying to rest once again, or something to that effect.  Along the way, a number of set pieces grace the screen which are loosely connected, or could be connected if you thought about it for long enough, but this film doesn’t really rely on a solid static plot, allowing dreamlike sequences free reign over conscious reality. MacColl is amazing in this film looking brilliant in every scene. True cinema presence with rich depth. A real highlight of the film.

One of the most famous scenes has the intestines of a young girl, sprew from her mouth. A scene that seems to last an eternity, and how on earth did they get all that meat in that girls mouth? This was after a romantic moment with a young Michele Soavi. The other brutal scene has John Morghen’s character, Bob get a power drill through the jaw for perving on a Carpenter’s daughter. A bit harsh I hear you say? Although the moments of gore here are seriously over the top, the balance is one of harmony with drifting scenes of perfect cinematography from Sergio Salvati. Once again, Fulci has his team together to create a stunning picture. Tomassi, Salvati, DeRossi and Frizzi.

This is a challenging movie, competing with Argento once again (Flesheaters follwing Dawn) after the release of his Inferno, City had a much smaller budget, but a mighty heart and vision to produce this landmark.

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28 Days Later

by on Mar.16, 2010, under Daily Review

What we have here is a serious kick in the butt of the zombie genre that we know and love. In 2002, the concept had been done to death and was soon running out of fresh ideas and new blood. Danny Boyle, the legendary British film maker decided to take the basic premise and inject some fresh thought and totally change the ideology forever. It was a difficult task. How does a director face up to Romero’s legacy and come out the other side with something credible? We’ll, it’s something which Boyle does time and again with genres, creating stunning movies which stand up in their own right amongst the greats, always working in a different area and genre and always knocking out something special. I’d even go as far as to say that no director has achieved such a diverse cross section of films since Kubrick. High praise.

A young man, Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakes in a hospital only to find the city of London deserted. Walking the streets, trying to make sense of it all, he’s soon set upon by crazy, blood thirsty zombies. Making his escape with the help of Frank (Brendan Gleeson), his daughter Hannah (Megan Burns) and fellow survivor Selena(Naomi Harris), the reasons are explained as to what as happened. A deadly virus, ‘Rage’ tested on animals in a lab had escaped, causing those infected to transform into zombies. These are zombies, but not as we know them. This is different. They are not dead, they are just rabid, wild humans with an unstoppable desire to kill.

A radio signal leads the team to a small military blockade outside Manchester, controlled by the deranged Major Henry West (Christopher Eccelston) This is where the film turns from survival against the wild things, to facing the horror of humanity and the brutality and lengths that mankind can go to. This is one of Boyles strengths as a film maker. His characters are rich and realistic working with a stunning script from Alex Garland. We see this with many of his films, a strong balance of a darker side of humanity which manifests and creates monsters, even without a virus. The acting is perfect also. Harris and Murphy both young at the time, who have now grown into fine actors. Another fine trait of Boyles, recognising talent, and nurturing to maturity. Eccleston is brilliant here as always.

There are plenty of nods of the head in the Romero direction. The scene at the supermarket, jovial and light with comedy soundtrack and later on at the petrol station, Jim finds an infected child which he kills, reflects the air hanger scene in the original Dawn. We also get a quality eye gouge as a tip of the hat in Fulci’s direction. But these are all small appreciative inclusive moments which compliment Boyles work. He admires what has come before, but this is his film, made his way and it’s about as good as it gets. It’s terribly British on all accounts, from the use of a London Taxi as the vehicle of choice, to the military camp set up in a huge country manor house. A good balance of accents across all of the characters.

A few further points to note. The brilliant use of ‘East Hastings’ by Godspeed You! Black Emperor as an eerie atmospheric soundtrack which not only lifts the film and creates atmospheres, but also reflects the feeling that the country was in when this film was made. Finally, there is the notion that none of this film is real. With Cillian’s character in hospital for an operation on his head, the huge scar visible for most of the film, is this all just a dream and figment of the imagination of a dying man, clinging to what’s left of his own thoughts? Finally, shot on digital video, this was a curious choice as many scenes, once blown up on a huge screen at a cinema looking shockingly grainy and distressed. A hand held style also made the film look and feel like a home made video diary. It was a controversial decision, used pre happy slappy and cloverfield. But here, works a treat, even now, some years later, the look and feel of the film is beautiful in a decayed fashion, obviously complimenting is subject matter, alongside the mirrors of London council flats and an English manor. All works very well. This is a great film on many levels.

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