Dave Made a Maze
In my search for this horror/comedy review collection, I stumbled on this title quite a bit. It seemed to come pretty highly recommended by various lists, and the images that I was able to see taken from the film certainly intrigued me. I could tell just by a few details that this was going to be something I enjoyed, and I'm happy to say that I definitely was not mistaken. This is one of the finest examples of all-around creativity I've seen in a film to date, and we all know how I'm a sucker for imagination put into a film.
Things open up with Dave's (Nick Thune) girlfriend, Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) coming back to their apartment after having been away for the weekend. Upon entering, she notices a fair-sized cardboard fort has been constructed in the middle of things, while Dave's voice comes from it. Dave explains that he's built an elaborate labyrinth, and has become lost within it. He insists on having no one enter it, as things are too dangerous and people could get lost or caught in one of his booby traps. We also learn it can't just be knocked down, as it's actually a pretty gigantic structure that goes far further than just the apartment.
Annie calls Dave's good friend Gordon (Adam Busch) over to assess the situation, and Gordon, in turn, invites a whole whack of other guests over as well, including their friends Leonard (Scott Krinsky), Brynn (Stephanie Allynne), Greg (Timothy Nordwind), Jane (Kirsten Vangsness) and last but not leats, a filmmaker named Harry (James Urbaniak), his boom operator (Frank Caeti) and cameraman (Scott Narver). Eventually, the fascination with the alleged complex maze within the simple cardboard box fort leads these people inside in an attempt to rescue Dave, and help him find his way out.
Once in the maze, that's where the film takes a crazy turn with its imagination and just goes all out with things. Booby traps are sprung, for example, causing plenty of blood and gore, giving this horror/comedy its horror element. However, the gore is made up of things like red confetti, ribbons and other things one might see used as fake blood on a stage play. Beyond that, however, is the overall environment of the maze itself. It's all created with layered cardboard, paper, etc. and decorated both simply but elaborately. Think of it as a giant cardboard fort that a group of children constructed over the course of a summer or something. It's pretty simple stuff, but at the same time, you can't not think it's kind of awesome.
Things do not end on simple elaborate design, however. As I said, this is also loaded with imagination. One of the finest examples of this includes the group entering a room in which they all transform into paper bag puppets. Why? I have no idea whatsoever, but it's proof that they weren't afraid to go all out on this one instead of just thinking "nah, that's kinda dumb". There's also a minotaur that chases them around all throughout the maze, a strange portal that can transform you into cardboard if you touch it, and just pure works of art as far as the eye can see. This came from a genuinely creative mind who wanted to have fun with things.
All in all, this makes me think a LOT of being a kid and building forts in my basement. Things would transform just enough that it felt like a different room altogether, and we'd play games in there and such. It's almost like director Bill Waterson is a grown-up tapping into that childlike mentality and taking it to the next level - like what if we still thought like this? Beyond that, there's also a pretty strong message in here about the creative process, not being able to finish things and the frustrations of trying to create something perfect. One could think of the maze as Dave's own frustrated imagination at work as his friends travel through it trying to help him.
One can find this movie on Shudder at the moment, but otherwise, I'm afraid it's a pretty hard one to come across. That said, if you can find a way to watch it, this is one of my high recommendations for those of you who want to see something fun, original, creative and new. It's like I tell people, and this is further proof of it as far as I'm concerned, new and original movies DO still exist, they're just much harder to find now. This is also more of a comedy than it is a horror (especially with the blood not being remotely real), so just keep that in mind if you're coming here for the creepy factor. This may end up being one I want to show visitors when they come by though. If you can find a way to watch it, do check it out. It's bizarre, but really well done!
Here Comes Hell
This title is so very under the radar that it doesn't have a Wiki page (that I can find), the entire cast and crew are unfamiliar names (unless maybe you're British), it's low budget as all hell, and its Rotten Tomato page averages the film at 75% - 100% of that being a whopping 5 critic reviews. However, this is something I actually kind of admired for what it was. It's a title I think deserves to be out there for horror fans to explore.
Now, when I say "horror fans", I mean those who can appreciate this particular blend of 'Evil Dead', 'And Then There Were None' (which is really more mystery) and 'House on Haunted Hill'. Somehow, they made that all fit together here, and the low budget completely lends itself to the effects of old, classic cinema. Yeah, it sometimes looks ridiculous, but you can't help but feel that's what they meant to do. On top of that, it IS classified as a horror/comedy, so I feel a lot of cheap special effects are forgivable. Having said that, I should probably note that it's not exactly a knee-slapper of a horror/comedy either - this is saying a lot, as that's my favourite sub-genre.
The plot is about as basic as it gets. A number of characters, including George (Tom Bailey), Christine (Margaret Clunie), Jeffrey Bank (Robert Llewellyn), Freddie (Timothy Renouf), Victor (Charlie Robb) and Elizabeth (Jessica Webber) get invited to a fancy dinner party at a gigantic Manor. It's the old whodunnit set-up, hosted by some unnamed guy (Jasper Britton). However, instead of the classic situation where everyone gets to know each other, the lights flicker, and the first murder is committed for a night of problem-solving, only the first of these is true to form.
Instead, our Host wishes to conduct a seance with the help of a medium named Madame Bellrose (Maureen Bennett) in order to contact the spirit of the mansion's former owner, Ichabod Quinn (Nicholas Le Prevost). As one can probably guess, the seance goes awry, and before the group knows it, they are face to face with what can only be considered another version of "Deadites" from 'Evil Dead'. Can they survive the night, and close the gate to Hell they just accidentally opened? Sooo... not entirely original on the whole, but once again, this one's more about the execution of things.
The way this plays out is as though it's an old-timey horror/mystery film from the 30s or 40s but if they were allowed to do things like 'Evil Dead' was able to do by 1981. It would have been terrifying for the time, and I can't help but appreciate that aspect of it. I have a thing for something that can use old material but put a new spin on it. The only real problem I have with this is that it's just not really funny at all. There were times I may have snickered a bit, but I'm fairly convinced I wasn't exactly meant to. This is a movie I can appreciate for what it tried to do, but it sadly does fall a little bit flat. However, with the right audience, I do believe this has some kind of cult-following potential. For those of you who have Shudder, go check it out and decide for yourself.
You Might Be the Killer
Here we have what turned out to be a happy accident, as this review was originally to be something that I couldn't end up finding. Therefore, some last-minute research on something to replace it lead me to this title that actually turned out to be right up my alley. I will say that it's not exactly the best of its kind. But it does take a different sort of turn with the typical "camp counsellors in the woods" scenario in its overall execution. It's not what I'd call entirely original, but it seems to borrow from all the right things to make it all work.
The film kicks off with the lead camp counsellor for Camp Clear Vista, Sam (Fran Kranz) running away from something, panicked, sweaty and covered in blood. He uses his cell to contact his friend, Charlotte, better known through the film as "Chuck" (Alyson Hannigan). Chuck is a hardcore horror fan who works at a comic book store called "Rings of Saturn". Sam explains that a killer is on the loose at camp, and begins recounting the events to her in an effort to get her advice on the situation. It's not long, however, before the obvious is stated, and the walkthrough Chuck gives Sam becomes a little more than she bargained for.
One thing I picked up on, whether it was on purpose or not, was the names of a lot of these counsellors. One by one, we had Carol (Olivia Jaye Brown), Ted (Jesse Gallegos), Steve the "Kayak King" (Bryan Price), Drew (Sara Catherine Bellamy), Alice (Clara Chong), Heather (Carol Jean Wells), Freddie (Jack Murillo), Nancy (Savannah DesOrmeaux), Brad (Patrick Walker), Jamie (Jenna Harvey), and Sam's last summer fling he's still in love with, Imani (Brittany S. Hall). I won't go super detailed on some of the character names here, but I will note that a lot of it feels like nods to horror icons - namely 'Elm Street' characters (at least some of them).
Back to the film itself, I thought the dark comedy worked really well here. I appreciated Hannigan's sort of casual take on the whole situation, and a lot of her delivery is pretty funny. There she is, chatting on her phone in the middle of her store talking about murder, blood, killers etc. Therefore, we get a LOT of hilarious customer reactions, as they are all hearing it out of context. I might suggest that side of it is the highlight of the film, as everything else is more or less pretty typical stuff - the only difference being that we're following who might be the killer as opposed to the teenage movie meat waiting to happen. They also used this scenario with two of my favourite horror comedies, 'Behind the Mask' and 'Tucker and Dale vs Evil'. So I think I've found that I definitely have a thing for a good horror/comedy feature that's more about the killer and not so much the innocent victims.
I feel like I should also bring up the quality of the kills in the movie. I'm not gonna sit here and say it's amazing, but there's a lot of that old school 'Friday the 13th' spirit put into this where it's more about something quick and brutal to make the audience go "OOooh!" I've never been one for the torturous aspect of the kill, so this is what I personally prefer. Kills in a movie are like a cup of coffee; everyone has their formula for a good cup. Anyway, for whatever reason, I found it almost refreshing to see kills like this. That sounds really awful, I know, but all I mean is that this felt like it took it back to the old school style that movies like 'Halloween' and, again, 'Friday the 13th' perfected. Of course, maybe I've just been under a rock and missing out on a bunch of solid titles that have gone over my head.
This is a title that can be found on Shudder right now, and I'm not altogether sure where else, so watching it could be a bit tricky. That said, this isn't quite as up there as something like 'Tucker and Dale' where I wanna drag horror fans in by the ear to watch it. But it is something I'd recommend to horror fans to check out, if they can, nonetheless. It strikes me as one of those "throw on any old time" movies that don't make it onto anyone's "favourites" list, but it's enough that you could be in the mood for it every once in a while. I think if nothing else, a horror fan can have some fun with it. I know I did.
One Cut of the Dead
Despite this one being located "under the radar", it seems pretty evident that there are a lot of people out there who are familiar with this title. Personally, I've known of its existence since its 2017 release. Word spread about it being an absolutely solid Japanese horror/comedy flick, but for whatever reason, I just never gave it the time of day until now. My final conclusion though, spoiler alert, is that this is a unique example of how to take two completely overdone horror clichés and make something really good out of them.
This film manages to blend the concepts of found footage and zombie films and create what could be considered a work of directorial art from them... and that's just the first part of it. With that said, I'm going to try my best to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, and that is going to be extremely hard. So perhaps focus should mostly go to this first half. It entails a hack director, Higurashi (Takayuki Hamatsu) who gets frustrated with his film's actors, and we see him storm off. Meanwhile, we learn through actors Chinatsu (Yuzuki Akiyama) and Ko (Kazuaki Nagaya) along with makeup artist, Nao (Harumi Shuhama) that the abandoned water filtration plant they're shooting in has a pretty horrific history.
This history, of course, involves human experimentation and the eventual lead to zombification. Before long, the zombie film 'One Cut of the Dead' within the zombie film 'One Cut of the Dead' turns from fantasy to reality, as actual zombies terrorize the set. This, in turn, actually results in a pretty wonderful combination of comedic moments and high adrenaline. The comedy comes from zombies often being mistaken as actors, but the adrenaline comes from what is essentially a 40-minute single shot of zombie action, complete with chase scenes, gore and things that would be very hard to do in a single take. So huge kudos to these guys for managing it!
As far as the second part of it goes, that's where things get extremely tricky. There's a big reveal, and it gets way too deep into spoiler territory, but I will say this about it - it's very clever! If you want to know what's what and don't care about spoilers, then I'd urge you to take a look at the Wikipedia plot synopsis for this because from my perspective, I'd sooner highly recommend just watching the movie. It's a Shudder Exclusive at the moment, so if you don't have Shudder, you may be SOL. But if you can find a way to watch it, I'd say it's worth the approximate hour and a half, if only to refresh one's perspective on found footage and zombie films.
To top everything off, this is also a film largely dedicated to people who are into filmmaking and the whole behind-the-scenes process of everything. It has some truly unique ideas, it doesn't hold back on making you laugh, and it's also just very impressive filmmaking altogether. The one-cut concept already makes the movie pretty awesome, but then when the tables turn on the film, and the reveal happens, it's enough to make one want to applaud the real writer/director of this, Shin'ichirô Ueda. Once again, I'm happy to say that my mind is opened just a little bit more after checking this one out. If you enjoy found footage and/or zombies on any sort of level, this one comes recommended highly by yours truly.
Withnail & I
Generally speaking, I'm a pretty big fan of British comedy. But sometimes a title comes along that's pretty well-renowned as something that almost should be much more up my alley than it ends up being. 'Withnail & I' happens to be one of these movies. Let me be clear that I didn't hate, or even really dislike it. But it's a very well-reviewed title, the concept sounded fun, and upon this first viewing, I came out of it just kind of shrugging my shoulders at it. It's a good movie, I just didn't fall in love with it like so many others.
The story here involves The exuberant Withnail (Richard E. Grant) and the rather pensive Marwood (Paul McGann); two unemployed, actors living together in a nightmarish flat in Camden Town, London, in 1969. A fairly hardcore drug dealer by the name of Danny (Ralph Brown) is their only visitor, and it's not long before the pair feel cooped up enough that they want a holiday. The destination is a rural cottage owned by Withnail's Uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths), to which Monty eventually gives Withnail the key. Soon, the pair find themselves in what could very well be a worse situation than being cooped up in their mess of a flat all day.
Upon their arrival, they find the cottage to be in bad shape and without any provisions, the locals to be unpleasant - namely a rough-looking poacher named Jake (Michael Elphick), and the weather to be very dreary for their stay. Not surprisingly, it ends up being a situation where everything bad about their stay keeps escalating. Such situations include having to cook a chicken, dealing with a potential stalker, and of course, each other. But while I may shrug this one off a bit more than others, I can certainly appreciate what makes it "one of Britain's biggest cult films", according to the BBC.
I think my biggest takeaway from this is the idea that the grass isn't always "greener" on the other side of the fence. However, that's more of a surface thing. This also has a lot to do with the strained friendship of the titular twosome. And without spoiling too much, I'll just say that the way this ends almost defines "bittersweet" and pretty relatable, on the whole. For me, it's actually the way this ends that makes it worth the watch. In its own right, it's a bit of a work of art - cliche as that may sound. So believe me when I say that I can most certainly appreciate this one for what it is.
With all that said, however, I'm not sure why it didn't quite stick out for me. It's something I feel like I need to give a few viewings before really enjoying it, which is not unheard of for me. Even 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail', which I now consider my favourite comedy of all time, was a movie I thought had a "bunch of boring scenes". Nowadays, if you skip those same scenes, I feel like I want to lecture you on why those scenes are hilarious. I do get the impression that with enough viewings, this one could also grow on me quite easily. It's definitely not without the dark humour I appreciate so much, and the cherry on top of it all is Ralph Brown.
For those of you who may not be able to place Ralph Brown, check out 'Wayne's World 2' again - he played Del Preston, Jim Morrison's former roadie. If you recall the character, you'll remember how funny he is, and this is basically the exact same character. Del Preston could totally be Danny, and that's actually kinda fun to think about. For yours truly, his brief appearances are the real comedic highlights of the movie. I will go ahead and recommend this to try out if you're into any sort of underground British comedy. As I said, even after all my praise for it, there's still a little something I don't quite get that others seem to. But again, I don't think this will be my one and only viewing.
Here's a rather hilarious title that still floats under the radar for most people I talk to about it. This comes to us from writer/director Chris Morris, who, if you can't quite place the name, played Denholm Reynholm in 'The IT Crowd'. Also, if you've never watched 'IT Crowd', do yourself a favour and check it out - bloody hilarious.
But getting back on track, 'Four Lions' focuses on a group of radicalized British Muslim men living in England who want nothing more than to become suicide bombers. So right away, one might want to think of this as a sort of British 'Team America'. It's very much a satire on the average terrorist mind, and it does it all very unapologetically. One might call it "edgy", but if you know anything about Chris Morris, this will come as no surprise. Also bear in mind that no one actually gets harmed in this movie. A sheep is credited to have been harmed, but be at peace that this is a fake credit.
Among the four are Omar (Riz Ahmed), our story's lead who's very critical of Western society; the bad-tempered Barry (Nigel Lindsay), the token dimwitted character, Waj (Kayvan Novak); and the ever-naive Faisal (Adeel Akhtar). Just to give some faces to these characters, Ahmed was Bodhi Rook in 'Rogue One', Akhtar was Naveed in 'The Big Sick' and Lestrade in the recent 'Enola Holmes', and one might recognize Novak as Nandor in the 'What We Do in the Shadows' series. Lindsay's a bit harder to place as this is the only thing I would probably know him from, but rest assured, his character is one of the best parts of the film; short-tempered at everyone else, but keeps screwing up, himself.
While Omar and Waj "answer the call", and head to a training camp for al Qaeda in Pakistan, Barry attends a conference and recruits a fifth member by the name of Hassan (Arsher Ali - who I'd probably only know from 'The Ritual'). Disaster hits the training camp by Omar's own hand (in a pretty hilarious scene, I might add), bringing the pair back to Britain, but Omar with a new attitude of authority with the group. The rest of the film pretty well involves them bumbling with plans for a bombing while ideologies are constantly clashing. But what takes you by surprise is some of the underlying concepts the film has to offer, like bringing Omar's loving wife and child into the story.
So, I'm not going to say that the film is "full of heart" while being a knee-slapping comedy, because it's definitely the latter first. I might also say that at this point in time it could be considered "dated", but it's comedic, slap-stick look at terrorism without causing any actual harm to anyone but themselves is almost something to be admired. It's not saying "look at these terrible people" so much as it's saying "look at these idiots". The way the film ends, as well, is (at least to me) enough to redeem a lot of the edgy, dark humor throughout the film. It proves the film still has some heart, and is actually still asking a lot of the same questions we've been asking about terrorism this whole time.
This might not be what I would consider a masterpiece of comedy like so many other reviewers seem to be doing. It's not something I'd be able to throw on just any old time, and I feel like I'd have to be in the mood to watch something along the lines of "World's Dumbest Criminals" to do so. But it does a good job at satirising something that, in essence, is mostly untouched in a comedic fashion. Again, 'Team America' is about all I can think of, and even then, the satire leans more on the American side of things. It's worth checking out if you want a good laugh based on this sort of thing.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
I may have mentioned this already, but Taika Waititi has grown over the years as one of my favourites when it comes to directing. He's a fine example of someone whose material that I have seen, I've never really been disappointed in. From 'What We Do in the Shadows' to 'Thor: Ragnarok' and even a bit of TV with 'Wellington Paranormal', he seems to hit the mark every time. The man knows how to entertain, my fandom for him just keeps growing, and this movie is no exception. It just makes me want to see more.
We meet a juvenile delinquent named Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), who has been given a new home through child welfare with his kindly new foster aunt, Bella (Rima Te Wiata), and her crotchety husband, Hector - nicknamed "Hec" (Sam Neill). Bella is very successful in forming a relationship with Ricky, but Hec really keeps to himself, and even sees the boy as a sort of unnecessary burden that he's putting up with. One day, things fall apart when Bella suddenly passes, and Hec prepares to give Ricky back to child services. This leads to Ricky faking suicide and running away with his dog, Tupac.
Soon enough, however, Hec finds the lost Ricky in the bush, and an injury to Hec's ankle has the two of them camping out for a little while. Meanwhile, back at the house, authorities find it abandoned, with some damage to the barn (caused by Ricky's fake suicide) and conclude that a bereaved and unstable Hec has kidnapped Ricky. But while authorities search for the pair, Hec has a nasty criminal record and Ricky's fate if brought in by authorities at this point could only be bad. With that, the two decide to head into the woods together; fugitives of sorts, ducking and dodging authority figures. And don't worry, the movie has a better explanation than I do about why these two are being chased.
With all of that, hopefully, I didn't spoil too much in my description. But anyway, essentially we have Alan Grant of 'Jurassic Park' trying to take care of and bond with the pain-in-the-ass kid from 'Deadpool 2'. I mean, it already sounds kind of fun, doesn't it? Especially when all he wanted to really do in the first place is get rid of the boy. That's nothing against actor Julian Dennison, but he manages to find himself somewhat typecast. Between this, 'Deadpool 2' and 'Christmas Chronicles 2', he seems to always land a role as a kid we're supposed to get irritated with, yet sympathize for. I think he's got talent, but he needs to land something where he can really flex his acting muscles.
With that said, however, this predates other things I've seen him in, so it could be said that the trend started here. It's also fitting to play off of Sam Neil's character. Their chemistry is honestly quite good here. I like the idea that this takes the father/son concept and makes it completely reluctant. Neither Ricky nor Hec want to really be with each other here, but they're forced to be and made to look out for one another. What gives it the extra "zip" is that these two aren't lost, scared and alone so much as they're survivors on the run from authorities. It often results in hilarity, but it's balanced very well with a good amount of drama.
As far as Taika Waititi's material goes (that I have seen), I would put this level to something like 'Jojo Rabbit'. All in all, it IS a drama, but it's a drama that's full of laughs that can STILL manage to make you tear up. Waititi seems to be very good at being able to gauge our every emotion, even though he leans towards comedy first. After seeing this, I've convinced myself that I need to check out some of his material that I haven't seen yet. For any fans of his who haven't checked this title out yet, I'm gonna highly recommend it. I may have liked 'Jojo' a bit better, but this is very close in comparison, especially with such a good soundtrack full of indie music.
Full disclosure, I thought this was a little more "Under the Radar" than it actually is. I suppose perspective is everything. Nevertheless, despite how much I love The Lonely Island's farcical music, for some reason, I never sat down to check out 'Popstar' in its more than five years of existence. I suppose my familiarity era for Lonely Island material is more the stuff that took place ten-plus years ago.
Just taking a slight aside here, let's talk about further, more "hidden" Lonely Island success. They may be mostly known for their SNL/viral music videos, but the trio of Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer have had their hands in a bunch of popular stuff, including writing and performing "Everything is Awesome" and 'The LEGO Movie', a Netflix Original called 'Michael Bolton's Big, Sexy Valentine's Day Special', the upcoming 'Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers' and more. So they may be a little more "behind the scenes" now, but I'd almost consider them to be the modern-day, edgier "Weird Al" (not to take anything away from Al, I still love the guy!)
The film is shot mostly mockumentary-style, as it covers the success of Conner Friel (Samberg); a musician who went solo after his work with the fictional "Style Boyz" fell apart with a break-up. The Style Boyz further consisted of Conner's childhood friends, Lawrence Dunn (Schaffer), who has since become a farmer after failing his own solo career and Owen Bouchard (Taccone), who becomes Conner's nearly pointless DJ (as all he does is hit "play" on an iPod). Conner has since adopted the solo name "Conner4Real", and his debut album "Thriller, Also" is ultimately a success. However, his second album, "Connquest", tanks, putting Conner in a bit of a desperate situation.
Harry (Tim Meadows), Conner's manager, tries a few different things to attempt to get Conner back on top. These include things like trying a sponsorship with Aquaspin home appliances and hiring a rapper named Hunter the Hungry (Chris Redd). Meanwhile, Conner tries his own strategies with on-stage gimmicks that keep going wrong and going public with his proposal to actress Ashley Wednesday (Imogen Poots), on the advice of his publicist, Paula Klein (Sarah Silverman). Soon enough, however, it becomes a question of what part of this job is more important - the money, fame and success, or doing right by his fans and old friends.
I can't believe that this one almost went over my head. The way it plays with the ego of this "superstar" gone awry gets pretty hilarious, but what really makes the movie is ALL of the names attached to the cast. Shot mockumentary style, we get names like Seal, Michael Bolton, Nas, 50 Cent, Usher, Akon, Mariah Carrey, DJ Khaled, ASAP Rocky, Mario Lopez, and even the one and only Ringo Starr all playing themselves in various interviews. And that's not even everyone! To see how serious they are in some of these ridiculous interviews about Conner4Real can get pretty hilarious.
All in all, this ended up being a box office failure. But I think one must take into account other titles released around it contributing to its box office floppiness as well. It was released alongside 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows', and had 'X-Men: Apocalypse' and 'Alice Through the Looking Glass' released before it, while audiences were awaiting the following week's releases of 'The Conjuring 2', 'Now You See Me 2' and 'Warcraft'. Even 'Finding Dory' was released the week after that. In other words, it almost didn't stand a chance when your average fan is flocking to familiarity.
With that said, however, I can't push this as a comedy enough. This is, without a doubt, one of the funniest comedies I've seen in quite a while, and it's something I plan on re-watching time and time again. It's going to be one of those titles for yours truly. Just as far as taste goes, I might classify it as something of a present-day but edgier 'This is Spinal Tap'. It's absolutely worth checking out if you are or ever have been a fan of Lonely Island, as well. Despite the fact that it didn't do so hot at the Box Office, it has earned a bit of a cult following, and I'm pretty happy to join that particular cult. A few minor things hold it back, but this is almost a 5.
This one represents the directorial debut of a more common actor, Peter Stebbings, who one might know from a variety of TV dramas such as 'Murdoch Mysteries' (as James Pendrick), 'Nurses' (as Dr. Thomas Hamilton), and 'Bates Motel' (as "Trespasser"/"Bob's Employee"). Interestingly enough, this one predates the more popular 'Kick-Ass' as the portrayal of a "real-life" superhero, using nothing but wits along with little fighting skill, and getting his ass kicked appropriately in the process.
'Kick-Ass', however, still has a very comic-style feel to it. As "real" as it's meant to be, it's still an obvious work of fiction. There's something about the genuine harshness of 'Defendor' that stands out, making it really quite realistic all over. It even gets pretty deep at times and speaks to some out there who would love to get away with being a superhero. To be quite honest, despite any of its brutality, the bottom line of the film is actually pretty inspiring, as if to say even us little guys can be heroes. All it takes is the right frame of mind, and the understanding that the word "hero" doesn't have to be attached to the word "super".
The film opens with a man named Arthur Poppington (Woody Harrelson) talking to a psychiatrist named Dr. Park (Sandra Oh). Arthur has been sent to see her and be interviewed about his assault on a Mr. Debrofkowitz. The story is then told as a flashback interview, where we see Arthur taking on the role of "Defendor"; a hero out to stop his nemesis "Captain Industry", whom he believes is responsible for his mother's death. This leads him to a corrupt detective named Dooney (Elias Koteas), who Arthur thinks must work for Captain Industry.
After a confrontation and a good beat-down from Dooney and his friends, he meets a prostitute named Angel (Kat Dennings). Angel, not living up to her name, convinces Arthur that she knows who Captain Industry really is, and leads him on a not-so-healthy path, all the while spending Arthur's money. Meanwhile, Arthur's friend and boss, Paul (Michael Kelly) becomes increasingly concerned about Arthur's well-being, both mentally and physically. Eventually, it leads the viewer to question whether what "Defendor" is doing is really wrong or perhaps just a little justified.
While one is bound to go into this expecting much more of a comedy (again, similar to 'Kick-Ass'), what we get instead is actually a bit of a pleasant surprise. This movie takes into consideration things like the mental health part of a superhero. While Batman is quite often said to have issues or be "crazy", it's never really analyzed on a level quite like this. Beyond that, it's a matter of how far one would take the hero role before getting into trouble, and indeed, is any of the vigilantism he displays actually justified? It's a pretty interesting character study altogether.
When it comes to James Gunn's early work, a lot of people would probably suggest 'Slither' as being the cult hit of his past. However, he did have another that doesn't get referred to nearly as much (probably because it's his lowest-ranked title), and that's 'Super'. I still think that it has its following, but its timing is extremely unfortunate.
When you watch this, it's basically a cross between 'Kick-Ass'; released the same year and infinitely better, and 'Defendor', released a year prior and also often seen as much better. The thing 'Super' had working for it more than anything else seemed to be its cast of familiar faces. Again, at the time, James Gunn was still a pretty fresh face, so his name didn't mean a whole hell of a lot quite yet. In other words, to be fair, this isn't about to be equated to 'Guardians' or the latest 'Suicide Squad'. This is a little more on-par in quality to 'Slither'. Perhaps even a bit less.
Frank Darbo (Rainn Wilson) lives a life of insecurity and refers to the two best moments of his life for inspiration. First and most important is his marriage to his wife, Sarah (Liv Tyler), and second, was pointing out a perp's location to a cop, thus illustrating his interest in crime-fighting, or at least, the law. His humility is a little overwhelming, however, causing Sarah to leave him for a club owner named Jacques (Kevin Bacon). Frank sees this as more a kidnapping than a loss, however, and wants to get Sarah back one way or another. It doesn't help at all that Sarah is a recovering drug addict and this Jacques character seems to have plenty of them.
Soon, Frank has a vision in which he's visited by the Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion), who pretty much tells him that he should become a superhero. Due to the messenger being the Holy Avenger, Frank takes this as a message from God, and does his research on powerless heroes at a local comic store. With the help of comic store clerk, Libby (Elliot Page), and her suggestion for someone out there to become a superhero in real life, Frank takes to the streets as the Crimson Bolt. The thing is, his way of avenging society isn't exactly by the book. And as he quite literally tells crime to "shut up" with his pipe wrench, his mission to save his wife (who may or may not even want saving) remains his primary goal.
Between this being a black comedy that's almost too dark in its look at comedy, and being overshadowed by 'Defendor' (to be reviewed next) and 'Kick-Ass', it's sort of easy to see why this got swept under the rug. It is interesting, however, to remember this being sort of a big deal for a short time. In fact, this practically paralleled 'Defendor' in a "Coke/Pepsi" sort of way for a bit as the lesser-known "realistic" hero. It basically comes down to taste. Personally speaking, I find this one to be a lot sillier than 'Defendor', and the message at the end is a bit of a "wait a minute..." kind of message; one you need to second-guess. I wouldn't recommend any movie in this "real hero" category above 'Kick-Ass', myself. But like I said, this does have a cult following, so maybe it's another case of me just not wanting to be part of that cult.
Let's face it; whether you're like me and can't get enough, or someone who's sick of it all, one can't really deny an oversaturation of the superhero genre lately. It is, indeed, to the point where a lot of it can be played for laughs nowadays (like three of the four titles on this "Underground Superhero" list). But one might recall this somewhat forgotten farcical title from 1999 that has since become something of a hidden gem.
It's important to remember that this predates things like the 'X-Men' and 'Spider-Man' movies, and at the time, the best superhero movie in existence was probably still 1989's 'Batman'. Sure, 'Blade' was still very fresh as well, but the superhero genre was only really on the first rungs of the ladder to success. As a result, there was something about 'Mystery Men' that always felt a bit off, as it was a parody of the superhero genre before the superhero genre was anything really good yet. Therefore, it's largely considered nowadays to be before its time, and it's currently something fun to check out more so than it was upon its initial release.
An amateur superhero team consisting of Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), The Shoveler (William H. Macy) and The (now probably controversial) Blue Raja (Hank Azaria) try to make a name for themselves by preventing a robbery. They are, however, interrupted by the arrogant Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear), whose fame and power have seemingly resulted in all of his primary enemies being eliminated, one way or another. This leads to his sponsors withdrawing support, and his own desperation to stay on top. Using his secret identity of lawyer Lance Hunt, he pleas for the release of his arch-nemesis Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush), basically so that he has something to do.
Amazing's plans backfire, however, and Frankenstein outwits and captures him. All the while, his diabolical plan involves unleashing something called the "Psycho-frakulator" on Champion City - a device that can bend reality with fatal consequences. So we have a very classic Batman-ish villainous plot here which, along with silly things like not recognizing Captain Amazing out of costume (like Superman) really lends itself to the comedic aspect of the movie when we think of how silly some of these things are. Anyway, with Amazing out of the picture, it's up to the trio of unlikely heroes to save the city.
Realizing the team needs more allies to go after a big villain like Frankenstein, the team holds auditions for new additions. Through this, they recruit Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell), The Spleen (Paul Reubens) and The Bowler (Janeane Garofalo). The trouble is, no one but The Bowler is very good with their superpowers, and they eventually need to undergo some training from the Sphinx (Wes Studi). Can the unlikely superheroes show their full potential, rescue Captain Amazing from the clutches of the evil Disco Boys and save their city?
It's interesting for me to remember seeing this upon its release and not really being into it at all. I think a lot of it was, again, the timing though. It was kind of hard to see this as a farce more than thinking the superhero genre was just kind of doomed at that point. I mean, it was still pretty hit or miss after that, save for a few titles leading up to 2008's 'Iron Man'. But it's like I said before. One can actually probably get a real kick out of this nowadays with the whole genre basically taking things over. It's a fun superhero comedy that doesn't take itself seriously at all, and even seemingly makes fun of the whole thing. I really think this is one that both fans and non-fans of the superhero genre can appreciate.
Invasion of the Star Creatures
Another fine example of a product of its time (in other words, extremely dated with some things) is this little independent romp that doesn't fit into society today at all. The main problems it runs into are it's very cartoonish treatment of both women and Native Americans. As a result, this is another movie that's hilariously over-the-top and dated. The sad thing is, all of the dated stuff is trying to help the movie be funny.
Watching this is a lot like watching someone carrying ten stacked pizzas on one hand while trying to ride a unicycle and burp the alphabet. You know it's going to fail, you know the fail is gonna be hilarious, but the movie will get back up and try again, only to fail over and over with each try. This is a film that's so badly dated with its material that it's really no wonder the only version I found of it was on a YouTube channel, chock full of ads while I was watching it.
Now, Going way off-topic, remember 'Deadpool' and its gag opening credits? Well, this one actually opens with "R.I. Diculous Presents", which instantly gives you the notion that this is a comedy more than the typical B movies that lean more towards horror and sci-fi. Granted, this is another sci-fi, but it's sci-fi comedy, featuring Dollar Store versions of Abbott and Costello; Army Privates Philbrick (Robert Ball) and Penn (Frank Ray Perilli). They are responsible for the simpler tasks at the U.S. Army base where they're stationed; Fort Nicholson, and are introduced with a runaway hose gag, instantly telling us everything we need to know about these two bumbling characters.
Philbrick and Penn are soon assigned to a scouting mission, sending them into a nearby cavern, along with an expedition team. In the cave, they are separated from the rest of the team, and captured by whatever the crap those things are in the accompanying picture - described as humanoid, plant-like creatures. Said creatures bring them to an alien base, commanded by two beautiful women from the distant planet of Kalar (just examine these names for a second); Dr. Puna (Gloria Victor) and Prof. Tanga (Dolores Reed). We also soon learn that a kiss from one of these guys leaves them in a dazed state. But just you wait, because the offensiveness doesn't stop there.
As also mentioned previously, we eventually come across a Native American group, made to be a source of humour by using a lot of stereotypes. Granted, they come across as friendly, but we do still get words like "savages" thrown into the mix. Being that this was 1962, none of this movie's offenses are entirely surprising, given the general public's (ignorant) state of mind about things back then. But once again, we have something that's actually entertaining because it's so terrible in that sense. It's another example of a film that illustrates how far we've come as a society, and yet, how much further we have to go.
This one is actually a little bit of a cheat, as it's a Shudder exclusive, and I have it placed here, "Under the Radar". Honestly though, it fits. It's actually a pretty interesting flick for anyone who appreciates a good blend of comedy and over-the-top gore. 'Evil Dead 2' perhaps being the best example. However, there's nothing occult surrounding this at all. This one's about a virus, predates Covid-19, and is one of the more relatable movies for the psyche as of late.
This is very much a comedy horror version of your average "bad day" movie (this is where someone finally "snaps", but does so in a way that a general audience can relate to) In this case, it involves a virus that activates that little thing in your head that says "f*ck it, this is happening", leading to rage tantrums, hardcore violence, screaming out of frustration, and sex out in the open. In other words, inhibitions go out the window, completely. Here, a known (but fictional) virus finds its way into an office building, which gets quarantined, effects everyone inside, and this is what leads to the film's namesake.
We meet Derek Cho (Steven Yeun), who has climbed the ladder of success at a law firm. One morning, he meets with a client named Melanie Cross (Samara Weaving), desperate for more time on a loan. However, Cho does not help her, and calls security. So yes, this is one where you route for the underdog, but you're knowingly also routing for a bit of a jerk. The "underdog" part comes from him being pinned for a botched legal case for a major company called Vandacorp by his superior, Kara "The Siren" Powell (Caroline Chikezie) - nicknamed for always having the John "The Boss" Towers' (Steven Brand) ear, whose nickname is obvious.
After discovering this, Derek takes it to the top, confronting Powell, and bringing it to Towers' attention. This fails terribly, resulting in Derek's firing by HR chief Lester "The Reaper" McGill (again, nicknamed for obvious reasons). He's offered a hefty severance package from McGill if he takes the blame, but Derek refuses to compromise his integrity, and more importantly, realizes he could be disbarred and sued as a result. During all of this, the virus is slowly taking effect on everyone in the building, including Derek, who has definitely had the last straw.
One nice little loophole that Derek and Melanie have to work with is the fact that one time this virus infected another locale where a brutal murder took place, and the killer was cleared due to him being helpless against the virus. That's another interesting concept to me, which reminds me of the idea of 'The Purge' - the concept that there IS a way to get away with murder quite legally due to some crazy loophole. It may not be realistic, but it's something interesting to think about.
Not forgetting about the lovely Melanie Cross, Derek and Melanie actually end up sort of teaming up here, both having a terrible day, and both out for the same person's blood... somewhat literally. To be quite frank and honest, I actually love this concept. It makes me think of the average zombie virus that often effects the animalistic rage portion of the brain, but without it being a zombie movie. It's a "what if" scenario involving everyone actually carrying out their inner-most brutal thoughts.
What more can I say? This is not going to be for everyone, as there's quite a bit of off the wall stuff happening here. Like, imagine walking into a room and in a couple of different corners, people are having sex, while in other parts, there's fist fighting and possibly even murder just unfolding before your eyes. What I liked about this so much was that this was a lead that sort of had to get humbled after being a jerk. It's interesting, you don't really like Cho much at first, but after the day he has, you do end up routing for him. As for Melanie, she's just fun times. So, having a terrible day? Check it out for yourself, and enjoy they Mayhem that this movie is so appropriately named for.
For yours truly, there really is something about the horror comedy that comes from the British commonwealth. A lot of it has to do with the fact that they always seem to have such fun with things, and you know that with these you're almost always in for a really solid B movie. Here we have an Irish creature feature that's no exception, and I honestly just want to see more horror comedy from Ireland now.
We are introduced to Garda Ciarán O'Shea (Richard Coyle), and Garda Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley). "Garda", for anyone unfamiliar can roughly be translated to "Officer". O'Shea is a resentful alcoholic lazybones who somewhat resents Nolan, his new workaholic partner who takes a job on a remote Irish island where the townsfolk have discovered mutilated whale corpses along the beach. Soon enough, it is revealed that a group of tentacled aliens, varying in size, are the source of the attack.
Where things get really fun here are when the town lush, Paddy (Lalor Roddy) remarkably survives an attack, and it's soon theorized by local marine ecologist, Dr. Smith (Russell Tovey) that alcohol is their best defense. While these creatures thrive on water and blood, alcohol seems to provide a sort of poison to them. So, indeed, a lot of the humour to this movie does come from drunken Irish dialogue. But seeing as this is from the Irish, it makes me think a lot aboot us here in Canada embracing our stereotypes so well, eh?
I don't think there's a whole lot else left to say about it, so here we have a pretty short review. I think if I were to compare it to anything as far as "mood" goes with American films, it's a lot like 'Eight-Legged Freaks' in that it's a B movie that recognizes itself as a B movie, and it's one of the finer examples of, once again, a nation embracing its stereotypes and just having a good time with things. I thought this was actually a lot of fun, and I do tend to have a sort of bias towards modern B movies like this.
Unfortunately, however, this one is pretty damn hard to find, so one will certainly have to do some digging in order to find and enjoy it. But if you can find it (currently rentable from Apple TV), and you enjoy these kinds of movies as much as I do, AND can get past some of the language, I recommend grabbing some salty snacks, plenty of beer, and enjoying the silly sci-fi fun that is 'Grabbers'.
Here's another one of those movies that has been on my radar for several years now, solely based on the subject matter of "Nazi Zombies". Because sometimes, even I can be a gore hound, and what better way to have fun with that than offing something one couldn't possibly have much sympathy for? There is something more satisfying in seeing them get treated like slabs of Hollywood meat, and I believe there is good reason this has actually become a bit of a cliché over the years. Hell, 'South Park' even jokes about it in 'Stick of Truth'.
But please don't get me wrong, I do stick to the fact that I enjoy "human" stories, and often enjoy seeing a certain "good" side to Nazis - I know how that sounds, but 'Schindler's List' is a fine example of this. Or a scene in 'Band of Brothers' I recall with an American talking to a Nazi soldier, only to find out they're from the same town, and that particular German was simply called into action, fighting through no real fault of his own. But with that said, this is NOT that. This is, as the trailer suggests, 'Evil Dead' meets 'Dawn of the Dead', and comes to us from Norwegian writer/director Tommy Wirkola - the guy who also did 'Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters'. And while that probably doesn't sound impressive, I can say with all honesty that I had a great time with this.
We meet seven students on Easter vacation, headed to a small cabin near Øksfjord, Norway. In one car, Martin (Geir Vegar Hoel), Roy (Stig Frode Henriksen), Vegard (Lasse Valdal) and Erland (Jeppe Beck Laursen). In the other car, Hanna (Charlotte Frogner), Liv (Evy Kasseth Røsten) and Chris (Jenny Skavlan). Once there, they are met by a mysterious stranger, or harbinger, if you will (Bjørn Sundquist) who warns them of the supposedly cursed history of the area. Once occupied by Nazis, led by the Hitler-paralleling Herzog (Ørjan Gamst), they tortured the locals until there was an eventual uprising towards the end of the war. Surviving Nazis, including Herzog, were chased into the woods, and eventually presumed to have frozen to death. In reality, however, their fate was much worse.
Soon enough, things go pretty much as you expect. Group in cabin finds foreign object (in this case, stolen gold) and unleashes unspeakable evil that pursues them through the rest of the film. So in many ways, it's relatively typical - 'Cabin in the Woods' even uses this scenario as a sort of farce on American horror. And while it does come down to survival, it also has something to say about greed, and even deeper things I caught, like how our rage during times of war can lead to hurting our loved ones. If you've seen it movie, you know exactly the scene I mean. So I can't really say that there's no heart put into this. It also has a solid sense of humour, and even what could be one of my new favourite all-time deaths.
The film's real star, however, is just the gorey kills. It's a lot like 'Evil Dead' that way, where the more splatter there is going on, the more into it you are. If they decide to make this a musical one day, it may also involve a "Splatter Zone", just like 'Evil Dead' did. I think in many ways this is very typical for both the zombie subgenre and the horror genre. But there were just enough moments in here to make it incredibly fun for me. If you are a gore hound of any kind, I can recommend this one pretty highly as something to just sit back and enjoy with a bag of popcorn. Just one more thing though - don't expect a happy ending.
Black Sheep (2006)
For the life of me, I can't remember where I first saw the trailer for this. But I can remember going out to find and purchase the film solely based on said trailer. It was off the wall horror comedy about, basically, "weresheep" in New Zealand. This struck me as a pretty brilliant concept as well, considering what I learned in school about the sheep of New Zealand outnumbering the human population (according to Google, about 5 sheep for every 1 human). So the idea is actually scary enough, albeit altogether silly. Sure enough, I ended up liking it, showing a few friends, and I currently consider it a guilty pleasure.
We meet Henry Oldfield (Nick Fenton) who lives in the calm and lovely country area of New Zealand along with his father (Matthew Chamberlain) and older brother, Angus (Eli Kent). Angus sees his father favoring his little brother and he plays the cruelest of "pranks" on him. Henry finds his pet sheep to have been slaughtered, and immediately after that, he gets word that his father has just been killed in an accident. Ultimately, as one would imagine, this leads to Henry developing a horrible and somewhat irrational fear of sheep. Fifteen years later, we find a grown up Henry (Nathan Meister) returning home to sell his share of the family farm to Angus (Peter Feeney).
We, the audience soon learn that Angus has a side project, where he is creating genetically mutated sheep, making them go full-carnivore for... reasons. What's more is that their bites can transform their victims into, well, weresheep. The film gets going when a mutant lamb is accidentally released by two environmentalists named Grant (Oliver Driver) and Experience (Danielle Mason). It's not long before the mutant lamb finds the herd, gives its first bite, and things get chaotic. Can Henry, his friend, Tucker (Tammy Davis) and the others stop the madness before New Zealand gets taken over by carnivorous mutant sheep?
There does seem to be some variety in horror/comedy as much as there's a variety in individual horror. For example, this and 'Slither' both make for funny looks at gross-out/body horror, but there are plenty out there that cover things like serial killers, hauntings, etc. This is another one for those who don't mind some good body horror, but I might also suggest that one should be just a little desensitized when it comes to some of the humor this has. I'll also say that this isn't really laugh out loud hilarious, but it does offer a lot of fun, awkward giggles. As I said, I call it a guilty pleasure. But it's a guilty pleasure I can still say is good for what it is. This isn't like watching a "so bad it's good" movie, it's just kind of messed up.
So, in the end, I might not recommend this to just anyone. But I will say that if you can appreciate New Zealand's dry comedy blended with some comedy that doesn't really have many limits to it, this might be worth checking out. On the other hand, this is something I could definitely see someone finding to be far too off-the-wall for their taste. In any case, you get a lot of "weird" with this one. But I'll be honest about something - that bit of the climax when things are just about to conclude will probably make anyone with even a slightly low-brow about their comedy a good, genuine laugh. If nothing else, the build up is worth it.
I never realized until I saw this movie how much James Gunn has actually worked on in the past. Before he really put himself on the map with 'Guardians of the Galaxy'; his name becoming synonymous with the series, he's credited as screenwriter for 2004's 'Dawn of the Dead', to a lesser extent, 2002's 'Scooby-Doo', and he even had a hand in 'Thir13en Ghosts'. 'Slither' here, however, is pretty much his breakout project, both writing and directing for a horror comedy that really likes to play the gross-out card. It does, however, admittedly do its job of being a modern B movie very well.
It all starts when a meteorite crash-lands nearby the town of Wheesly, South Carolina. From the meteorite springs an alien parasite, which heads into town, finds the wealthy Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) and pretty much takes him over. His changes in behaviour and appearance gets his wife, Starla (Elizabeth Banks) suspicious, leading to an eventual fight that bring in the police. As the cops manage to rescue her, Grant heads off to check on his super grotesque nesting situation, involving poor Brenda (Brenda James) who Grant's parasite uses for breeding. This eventually leads to those slug-like creatures, who try to take over the town like an extraterrestrial plague.
A posse is soon formed, led by Police Chief, Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion), helped by Starla, who may be the only one who can talk to Grant without consequence. Soon, they include Mayor Jack MacReady (Gregg Henry) and lone teen, Kylie Strutemyer (Tania Saulnier); the girl in the unfortunate bathtub situation on the movie poster. As they attempt to hunt Grant down in order to put a stop to things, they must evade both parasitic slugs, and the zombified people these slugs have taken control of. All the while, there's plenty of comedy to keep us going, but so much of it is gross out material that this is a horror comedy that I'm kind of "meh" about.
All things considered, I think the biggest problem is that this kind of thing has been done in the past. Alien parasite falls to Earth, alien takes over bodies, and there's some kind of breeding process going on. Another thing this one loses major points for is how the breeding works. It involves a whole lot of meat, and a lot of this meat comes from dogs, and I'm totally one of those people who absolutely hate a dog death in a movie (at least unless there's a John Wick character ready to spring into action because of it). But with my personal taste aside, there's still plenty to give this credit for.
To begin with, I have to give Gunn some slack, this being the first major film he both wrote and directed. This was the first thing he worked on that was his, and to begin with a modern B movie was definitely a solid choice for a blossoming filmmaker. The other thing he manages to do here is gross-out successfully with some of the body horror in this. It's not my favourite thing, but I can't deny that if done right and makes me go "ugh, nasty", I have to admit that it's doing its job. It's a lot like a movie that has me flinch at torture porn - the effect is there, which is what they're going for, but I'm not the biggest fan of it. SOME of it is pretty dated CG, but still, this was 2006, so pre MCU CG and generally forgivable.
I think I can recommend this as a fun B movie as long as you're a person who gets a kick out of body horror and gross out humour. Some of the names attached to this will also be enough to draw some people in, like Fillion for us fifty-million 'Firefly' fans, and Michael Rooker under Gunn's direction before he became out favourite MCU father figure. It's another film I can give plenty of credit to for what it is, but I don't know that I'll be rushing to check it out again anytime soon. It gave Gunn a nice boost, but as far as I'm concerned, nothing he makes will ever top his 'Guardians' movies.
The Funeral Home
Originally, this was supposed to be a Spanish film called 'Sexy Killer'. However, having trouble finding it, I changed things up to this Argentinian (Spanish language) flick, found easily on good old Shudder, as I still wanted to do International horror at least once this month. After all, after seeing a movie like 'Cabin in the Woods', a horror fan does get curious as to what different nationalities have to offer.
The plot here is pretty straightforward. Taking place in a funeral home (surprise), we focus on a dysfunctional family of three; undertaker, Bernardo (Luis Machín), his wife, Estela (Celeste Gerez) and her daughter, but his stepdaughter, Irina (Camila Vaccarini). The family is haunted, and this s something that's just accepted, and I sort of admire that. It's so typical for American ghost movies to need that scepticism - while one or two people know things are happening, others know there must be a logical explanation, dubbing the believers crazy and whatnot. This is simply "hey, we live in a funeral home, so it's haunted".
Bernardo and Irina have a belief that the house is haunted by an entity that will one day allow them to see and communicate with their loved ones - particularly Irina's real father, who both Bernardo and Estela claim to have been a horrible person in life. Meanwhile, Bernardo's own father comes into question, as he had a history of dabbling in the occult, and Estela believes he may be a big part of this haunting. But there's more to the spirits Bernardo communicates with as well, like perhaps a former partner he once had an affair with. Soon, a psychic named Ramona (Susana Varela) is hired to cleanse the house, but as events unfold, they get a bit more convoluted and if I'm being 100% honest, a bit confusing to the point of taking you out of things.
So forgive me for a bit of a half-assed review, but I'm not sure I totally understood everything that went on with this film. It seems the kind of thing that might gather some kind of cult following, but I think this one's a bit lost on me - at least as far as story and characters go (no one is particularly likable here). That said, this does have a few things that help it along as a supernatural horror movie. The atmosphere actually works really well, and things are sort of ever-creepy here. There aren't really any cheap jump scares to speak of, and the film does a god job at showing us just enough of these entities and how a frightened family interacts with them. One scene that stands out is a spirit in Irina's room that is filmed in such a way that suggests "I'm here, but I'm not gonna let you see me", and it's downright eerie.
So I guess as an international horror film, this holds its own pretty well, and it's decent for a creepy night in, hiding under your covers. It's not gonna make you lose sleep, but there is something unsettling enough about it that it works. For me, it only works up to a certain point though, and when it was all over, it really did turn into a "what the hell did I just watch?" situation. I think this is another case of me just not quite getting it though, so I'll give the movie points for its overall feel, but not a whole lot else. Parts of this felt pretty typical to me, but some didn't, and the bottom line is I can't formulate a very good opinion on this one. So I'll give it a pass, at least for some of the best haunting atmosphere I've seen in a while.
Also entitled 'Wasting Away', 'Aaah! Zombies!!' is one example of a modern day zombie flick that manages to bring something relatively original to the table. Unlike most zombie material out there, this one features the story from the perspective of the zombie; a lot like 'Warm Bodies', which may be remembered more fondly, but was released six years after this. The problem here is that this one still floats incredibly low under the radar, largely due to a low-budget look, and complete lack of names. The big one here is probably Richard Riehle, who you're bound to recognize from something.
Anyway, that's not to discredit this film in any way. In all seriousness, I quite like this. Here we have a horror comedy that shows creativity with the zombie genre. It doesn't just do this plot-wise, but aesthetically too. While we see things from the zombie perspective, they are in colour, but anything from anyone else's perspective is black and white. You can tell that the filmmakers had a lot of fun with this. The only real problem is that some of the dialogue is a bit lame when it's trying to be funny, and this is admittedly a very silly zombie movie with nothing much to take seriously out of it. Even 'Shaun of the Dead' and 'Zombieland' have their glimpses of tragedy. This is obviously much more played for laughs in its execution, and there's nothing wrong with that, but zombie fans might not get as much a kick out of it as I do.
The film opens as we learn about a military experiment gone wrong when it turns a soldier into a zombie instead of the "super soldier" he was supposed to turn into. The remainder of the "super soldier serum" (by the way, this is a few years before 'Captain America', so not entirely a rip-off) is taken away to be disposed of, but the transport truck gets into an accident, and a barrel of the substance rolls into the back of a bowling alley. There's a bit of a spill that miraculously contaminates a few boxes of ice cream, which one of the employees, Tim (Michael Grant Terry), shares with three friends; Mike (Matthew Davis), Vanessa (Julianna Robinson) and Cindy (Betsy Beutler), who he has a thing for. Of course, this turns them all into zombies, but they actually have no idea.
As things begin to unfold, strange and unexplainable things keep happening to them. In looking for answers, they run into Nick (Colby French); a military private who seems to understand what's going on. He suggests that they are all becoming super soldiers while the rest of the world is "infected" with some sort of virus that makes them speed up. Meanwhile each of the friends have their own concerns and try to tackle them in their own ways, all while unknowingly being zombies. The idea that they all still think everything else is screwed up while they remain normal is an interesting thought - like what if that brain is still human but the zombie can't help its behaviour? It adds an extra layer to the dread of becoming a zombie.
Eventually the film largely becomes about Nick trying to take down the ones responsible for the experiment in the first place; Colonel South (Richard Riehle) and Dr. Richter (Jack Orend) while the friends provide the comedy relief as they keep attempting every day things while trying to figure out what's going on around them. Perhaps most peculiar is one of the characters being contacted for a job interview - so yeah, things definitely do get super weird, and one might even argue kinda stupid. But I definitely do enjoy this whole idea of not being aware - it may or may not be a nod to 'The Others'.
Some of the rules here can get a little bit cloudy too. The way the serum works makes them look like zombies to the straight and narrow, but for whatever reason, drunks can understand them. It's all very scientific, you see. That said, I have to admit, I find that to be a pretty interesting new rule for the zombie-verse. Again, one might see it as stupid, but you've got to admit that it's creative, and you probably haven't seen it before. And that, to me, is exactly what this movie offers - it's something you haven't seen before or, really, since. 'Warm Bodies' is fairly close, but not quite the same. It's unfortunate how low this floats under the radar though, because, while it's not the best zombie movie out there, it's a neat little treat for any underground horror/comedy fan.
Hobo with a Shotgun
Second in-line for the fake 'Grindhouse' trailers to be made into an actual movie is 'Hobo with a Shotgun'. The trailer was apparently only seen in some Canadian releases of 'Grindhouse', and the actual film looks quite a bit different than what is shown in the trailer. Although the plot is essentially the same, originally, the hobo was portrayed by David Brunt. Here, it's Rutger Hauer who, in my opinion, is what really makes this movie.
An unnamed hobo (Hauer) enters the ironically named Hope Town; a city overrun with unspeakable acts of crime, headed by a crime lord known as "The Drake" (Brian Downey) who watches over things. In the meantime, the hobo minds his business, wanting to buy a lawnmower in order to start his own business and make a bit of extra cash. However, as a hobo, this guys ends up seeing how bad things really get, often becoming victimized, himself. Such acts include humiliating desperate homeless people on camera for money, which is something he eventually succumbs to participating in.
One day, the hobo sneaks a peek at the underground community, and it's pretty reminiscent of the Foot headquarters in '91s 'Ninja Turtles' - a bunch of punk kids, an arcade - but here, things are just a bit more R-rated. Here, the Drakes two sons, Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman) along with a few henchmen take delight in torturing and killing the homeless. This is where our hobo hero finally has enough, upon watching the sexual harassment of a prostitute named Abby. He knocks out and drags Slick to the police department, but learns how corrupt they are as well. His final straw results in him grabbing a shotgun and dishing out some vigilante justice. His primary targets - The Drake and his two sons.
Being that this is a Grindhouse movie, one should probably expect to see some pretty messed up shit. But being a Canadian Grindhouse movie, one should probably expect the scales to tip into even more messed up. For reference, see a handful of our terrifying PSAs, available on YouTube. We're super friendly and polite, but we're also a little bit looser about things around here, eh. Anyway, I might suggest that of the Grindhouse movies in the series, this one probably is the most disturbing. Luckily, it's filled with some really weird stuff too, so it reminds us that it's not something to be taken seriously at all. However to illustrate some of the brutal content here, let's just say that absolutely no one is safe in this movie. This one is definitely for the more hardcore at heart.
I have to imagine that the purpose of 'Hobo with a Shotgun' was to sort of reveal just how bad some of these old Grindhouse movies could actually get. While all of them have a good amount of gore, language, gore, sexuality and gore, this one also plays with the mind a little bit more than the others. Over the top or not, there's something truly psychologically disturbing about this one. You can laugh some of it off, but if any of these were an actual snuff film, it would probably be this one. Bascially, just make sure you have your wits about you when you venture into this one. It's not quite as "fun" as any of the others, although there are still elements of comedy.
Of the Grindhouse collection, this might be the one I'd openly recommend the least. It's the only one I walked away from with a big "WTF" reaction as opposed to something more positive. None of the other Grindhouse movies made me feel particularly uncomfortable about what I was watching, but this actually did. Despite a few funny moments, it does get cringeworthy with some of its contents, and not in a "lame joke" kind of way. I suppose that's the point, but it does have that air of torture porn about it that I've never been a big fan of. I can't say it was necessarily bad, as it's quite honestly supposed to be to some degree. At the very least, I can respect the fact that it accomplishes what it sets out to do.