Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Movie Review: Diary of the Dead

Diary of the Dead
Artfire Films, Romero-Grunwald Productions, USA, 2007.
Diary of the Dead title
Film students go to forest to film a horror movie when media starts to broadcast news about dead coming back to life. Director-wannabe Jason (Joshua Close) films the collapse of the society with his camera. Joshua, his girlfriend Debra (Michelle Morgan) and a bickering group of students hit the road in a camper van. There is also their teacher, drunk Professor Maxwell (Scott Wentworth).
Michelle Morgan
Amy Lalonde and Chris Violette
Tracy (Amy Lalonde) and Gordo (Chris Violette)
Joshua Close
The influence of mass media has changed as everybody can make films nowadays with their own point of view. Romero's social criticism is targeted this time on overconfidence on technology and he moralizes about everybody willing to film awful accidents. And the people who are just filming when they should be helping their friends to fight zombies. Maybe film making is the real zombie virus as anybody who grabs a camera must keep filming even as they may die doing that. The heavy-handed message is repeated over and over again so it gets old and  tiresome fast. It is like old man shaking his fist and raging: "In my youth there were only three TV-channels! Who needs Youtube!" And then a guy hits himself in the head with a scythe. It is hard to take anything seriously after that. It gets too cynical and nihilistic to be a working dark comedy or fun zombie culling movie either. Only near the end it had some classic Romero creepiness. It is not one of Romero's brightest moments although I have heard that the sequel "Survival of the Dead" is worse.
Scott Wentworth
Professor Maxwell
Shawn Roberts
Tony (Shawn Roberts)
Also the Amish guy should have been around longer. Maybe he could have said something witty about modern technology.
R.D. Reid
Samuel the Amish Farmer (R.D. Reid)
"Orphan Black" star Tatiana Maslany has a small role. Quentin Tarantino, Stephen King and many other famous people can be heard as voices in radio broadcasts.

Rating: Average 

Starring: Michelle Morgan, Joshua Close, Shawn Roberts, Amy Lalonde, Joe Dinicol, Scott Wentworth, Philip Riccio, Chris Violette, Tatiana Maslany, Todd Schroeder, Daniel Kash, Laura de Carteret, Martin Roach, Megan Park, George Buza, Tino Monte, Matt Birman, Greg Nicotero, Donna Croce, Nick Alachiotis, R.D. Reid, Scott Gibson, Jamie Bloch, Kyle Glencross, Boyd Banks, Janet Lo, Jack Birman, Trish Adams, Alan Van Sprang, Ron Payne, Shelley Cook, James Binkley, Anthony Cancelliere, Wes Craven (voice), Alexandria DeFabiis, Guillermo del Toro (voice), Ara Katz, Stephen King (voice), Mani Nasry, Simon Pegg (voice), George A. Romero, Tom Savini (voice), Quentin Tarantino (voice) 
Director: George A. Romero

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Movie Review: Gangsters, Guns and Zombies

Gangsters, Guns and Zombies
LMV Productions, UK, 2012.
A bank robbery goes all "Reservoir Dogs." Luckily for the robbers the cops have more important problems as the zombie apocalypse has just started. The main narrator Q (Vincent Jerome) wonders what he's gotten into. Gangster boss Tony (Huggy Leaver), loose gun Crazy Steve (Fabrizio Santino), strong and benevolent Muscles (Charlie Rawes), bank robbery middle manager Pat (Frank Rizzo) and injured Danny (Simon Mathews) get away in the chaos that ensues. The dumb robbers go to the countryside where it should be safer but it is not though. 
Huggy Leaver
Charlie Rawes, Frank Rizzo, Fabrizio Santino, Vincent Jerome
Muscles, Pat, Crazy Steve and Q
Is it Insane Clown Posse?
After some adventures the survivors meet an angry granny (Jennie Lathan) and her pretty granddaughter Cassie (Cassandra Orhan). They decide to leave Britain as it is not safe anymore. So just basic plot you could see in a dozens of other zombie films.
Jennie Lathan
Vincent Jerome and Cassandra Orhan
Q and Cassie
Chris Manning-Perry
Official PSA
Tongue-in-cheek film has shoestring budget and takes influences from "Lock, Stock and Two Barrels" and other Guy Ritchie's gangster films. Why not also from Peter Jackson's early horror comedies although this doesn't go as gory or crazy as "Bad Taste." If it only had a larger budget...

In the IMDB trivia it is said that the budget was £1 200. I think it may have been a bit more (but not much) unless everyone worked for free, as already the camera costs and the gasoline costs were probably larger.

What is fun that there are some groups of themed zombies: medieval larpers, soccer zombies, and clowns. Crazy Steve (Fabrizio Santino) steals the show in the first half and granny (Jennie Lathan) with a gun in the second half. What is not fun is that most of the time the guys are just driving around and the second half just drags. The zombie makeup is just blood stains on the face and the effects use bad CGI blood. The zombies are amateurs but seem to have fun.

"Cockneys vs Zombies" was built with similar elements and it was a fun film. "Gangsters, Guns and Zombies" is not as good but could be worse. For a low budget zombie film it has a decent camerawork compared to many handheld shaky cam horror films. The characters were a notch more interesting than usually, and the British humour helped to make them likable. This was not so bad considering that there are many worse indie horror films. This is not everyone's cup of tea but I found the dumb humour quite entertaining.

Rating: Good (for a ultra low budget zombie film) / Bad (as a regular film)

Starring: Vincent Jerome, Huggy Leaver, Fabrizio Santino, Cassandra Orhan, Frank Rizzo, Charlie Rawes, Jennie Lathan, Simon Mathews, Dave Skirbeck Bedford, Gurpreet Bedi, Dean Boor, Lee Hardy, Sharon Lawrence, Chris Manning-Perry, Doug McCarthy, Jessica McManigan, Calum McNab, Josh Myers, Paul Neenoo, Andy Rawlings, Simon Woodgate
Director: Matt Mitchell

Monday, August 29, 2016

Movie Review: Resident Evil: Retribution

Resident Evil: Retribution a.k.a Resident Evil V: Retribution
Screen Gems A Sony Pictures Entertainment Company, Constantin Film International, Davis Films/Impact Pictures, Capcom Company, Germany, Canada, USA, France, 2012.
Resident Evil: Retribution title
Alice (Milla Jovovich) was stripped of her superpowers in the previous movie, not that it makes much difference. As a zombie-killer she is still unmatchable. She and other survivors are attacked by former friend Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory). Alice wakes up with a new hair-do and a family. Then the zombie apocalypse starts again and she finds herself trapped in Umbrella-company's underground simulator facility. Spy/thief Ada Wong (Bingbing Li) helps her escape by orders from Max Headroom impersonator Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts). Also Leon S. Kennedy (Johann Urb) and other pals are coming to rescue Alice. 
Milla Jovovich
Overeager Milla fans
 Andrew Wesker Max Headroom lookalike
I liked the first "Resident Evil" movie and also the second movie had is good parts. After that the series just ceased to pretend that it had anything to do with the original game universe. In the original games the original scenarios were about bioweapon tests gone haywire in limited buildings or towns making the exploration of the areas scary. With global zombie apocalypse the series kind of painted itself into a corner as the suspense of the first parts was lost and replaced with big action scenes. The overblown action scenes do not really have much suspense or horror as Alice always pwns the enemies, with or without superpowers.
Bingbing Li
Johann Urb
Leon S. Kennedy
Michelle Rodriguez
Bad Rain
The plot feels like a rehash of best of scenes the previous "Resident Evils" with ideas from "Aliens" mixed in. It feels also a recap episode of the previous films and an introduction to the next Resident Evil movie. There is not much story, the characters just move from one arena to another and fight zombies and Umbrella thugs. 

Important characters from the games Ada Wong and Leon S. Kennedy are introduced into the series with minimal characterization. They just appear from somewhere and feel like minimal homages to the games. Compared to the witty hero that he was in animated "Resident Evil: Damnation" I can not believe how generic Leon feels in the live action films. Thanks to cloning technology Rain (Michelle Rodriguez) who died in the first movie returns as different incarnations: the good and the bad but the zombie Rain was cut from the film. Overall the dialogue is dull and underdeveloped characters are just reading their lines. The characters from the games and previous films appear, some of them die but nobody cares. Even as a video game it would feel weak as the video games nowadays manage to have more interesting and rootable character characters.The action scenes are heavily CGI-enhanced and couple of the effects look surprisingly cheap. Hey, the car in the metro tunnel scene gave me flashback that I was watching some film made by The Asylum.

The worst part of the series.

Rating: Very bad 

Starring: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Michelle Rodriguez, Aryana Engineer, Bingbing Li, Boris Kodjoe, Johann Urb, Robin Kasyanov, Kevin Durand, Ofilio Portillo, Oded Fehr, Colin Salmon, Shawn Roberts, Toshio Oki, Takato Yamashita, Mika Nakashima, Megan Charpentier, Ave Merson-O'Brian, Raymond Olubawale, Kevin Shand, Razaaq Adoti, Kim Coates, Martin Crewes, Iain Glen, Sandrine Holt, Thomas Kretschmann, Ali Larter, Spencer Locke, Eric Mabius, Wentworth Miller, James Purefoy, Norman Yeung, Anna Bolt, Indra Ové, Joseph May, Heike Makatsch, Liz May Brice, Pasquale Aleardi, Sally Cahill, Amanda Dyar, Reese Riley, Chris Sullins, Vaja 
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

Friday, August 26, 2016

Movie Review: Resident Evil: Damnation

Resident Evil: Damnation a.k.a Biohazard: Damnation 
Capcom Company, Digital Frontier, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Japan, 2012. 
Resident Evil: Damnation title
In a former Soviet state civil war is raging (kind of foreshadoing the Ukraine crisis) and the rebels are using biological weapons. Zombies and mutant monsters are approaching the President's palace. Special Agent Leon S. Kennedy (Matthew Mercer) is recalled home but he decides to finish his mission without American support. After a fight with Licker-monster Leon finds himself captured by trio of rebels: America fan J.D. (Val Tasso), old coughing Ataman (Robin Sachs) and bitter rebel Alexander a.k.a Buddy (Dave Wittenberg).
J.D and Buddy
Mysterious thief Ada Wong (Courtenay Taylor) is also on her own mission. Her motives are always shady and this adventure doesn't really make them much clearer. Still she has liking to Leon and Leon gets also some unlikely allies that are helpful when fighting the ever more dangerous zombie mutants. Leon finds out that every faction of the civil war has dirty hands.
President Svetlana Belikova
Just another day in Eastern Europe
Ada Wong
Stand alone sequel to "Resident Evil: Degeneration" is the faithful continuation of "Resident Evil" games (somewhere between parts 5 and 6) that can not be said about the live-action films.  Okay, the first "Resident Evil" movie was good, but the series went downhill since. These computer generated RE animations are getting much better than the live-action films. Although they are not the best scifi-horror made in Japan, they still beat most of the video game adaptations. The story has a good combination of action, intrigue, horror and humour. Leon has some witty dialogue and one liners and the Japanese style adds some tragic aspect to some of the characters. The animation looks good with good character animation, backgrounds and impressive monsters. As a horror-action film it offers solid fun and it is a good video game movie too.
Rating: Good

Voice actors: Matthew Mercer, Dave Wittenberg, Wendee Lee, Val Tasso, Robin Sachs, Courtenay Taylor, Salli Saffioti, David Vincent, Patrick Seitz, Michael McConnohie, Patrick Harlan
Director: Makoto Kamiya

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Movie Review: White Zombie (1932)

White Zombie (1932)
A Halperin Production, USA, 1932.
White Zombie title
From the Mill Creek Horror Classics 50 Movie Pack.

Inspired by the book "The Magic Island" by William B. Seabrook.

Young couple Madeline Short (Madge Bellamy) and Neil Harker (John Harron) visit Haiti and plan to get married. They were invited by plantation owner Charles Beaumont (Robert Frazer) who secretly wants to marry Madeline. On the road to Beaumont's mansion the voodoo master 'Murder' Legendre (Bela Lugosi) nabs Madeline's scarf. The couple were invited to Haiti by plantation owner Charles Beaumont (Robert Frazer) who secretly wants to marry Madeline. Missionary Dr Bruner smells a fish and suggests that Madeline and Neil should leave the place as soon as their wedding is over. 
John Harron and Madge Bellamy
Neil Harker and Madeline Short
Bela Lugosi
'Murder' Legendre
Joseph Cawthorn
Dr Bruner
On 'Murder' Legendre's sugar mill the workers look like sleepwalkers. One worker falls into the grinder while the rest just continue working as nothing happened. Beaumont makes a deal with Legendre. Using voodoo powder they will turn Madeline into a zombie. So after the wedding Madeline drinks poisoned wine and dies. Neil goes to drink heavily. Beaumont, Legendre and the zombies dig up Madeline and Neil stumbles into the scene to see that the tomb has been raided. Dr. Bruner has a theory that Madeline may be alive but a victim of voodoo magic. 
Robert Frazer
Frederick Peters as zombie Chauvin
Madeline wanders in the castle
Although not scary by modern standards, it has quite creepy atmosphere in some scenes and has couple of scenes that seem to have tested the limits of the Hays' code. However the full potential of zombies is quite underused, they mostly go around doing tasks their master orders and manage to kill only one victim. Bela Lugosi's character is properly devilish. Zombie Chauvin (Frederick Peters) is an impressing looking undead henchman. Also some scenes have a nice silent movie style playing with shadows and dim lighting. Although the black zombies are used as slaves for the benefit of a white colonist don't expect much of Romero-style social commentary though.

The story has so many similarities to "Dracula" (1931) and even the character names are similar so it can be considered some kind of a rip-off. The protagonists (Neil Parker/John Harker) are invited to desolate dwelling, there is a young lady (Madeline Short/Mina Seward) who is controlled by evil master (Legendre/Dracula), evil master's ally (Beaumont/Renfield) is slowly destroyed by his master and a priestlike specialist (Dr Bruner/Van Helsing) helps the hero. 

What makes this movie interesting is its historical value and later impact and the introduction of a new monster type. For cultural impact it was more important film than it was initially acknowledged. This was quite possibly the first movie with zombies and voodoo. The zombies here represent the ones from the Haitian folklore being drugged slaves without cannibalistic tendencies. It was inspirational for later film makers (at least Tobe Hooper and Tim Burton, and also Angus Scrimm of "Phantasm" movies was a fan) and it has become a cult film. Rob Zombie took the name of this movie for his band. Who knows if Roger Corman's surprisingly similar shot of the castle in "The Terror" took some inspiration from this and both films have also ominous bird of prey flying around. 
The castles in "White Zombie" and "The Terror"
Rating: Good 

Starring: Bela Lugosi, Madge Bellamy, Joseph Cawthorn, Robert Frazer, John Harron, Brandon Hurst, George Burr Macannan, Frederick Peters, Annette Stone, John Printz, Dan Crimmins, Claude Morgan, John Fergusson, Velma Gresham, Clarence Muse 
Director: Victor Halperin

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Movie Review: Day of the Dead: The Beginning

Day of the Dead: The Beginning a.k.a Day of the Dead 2: Contagium a.k.a Contagium 
Taurus Entertainment Company, USA, 2005.
Day of the Dead The Beginning title
Originally I wanted to watch George A. Romero's "Survival of the Dead" here but the disc froze after first fifteen minutes so I'll have to watch it later if I find a replacement copy. So let's watch 'prequel' to Romero's "Day of the Dead" instead.

In 1968 a Russian defector with vials of zombie virus causes a zombie outbreak in American hospital. The army kills everyone inside but it is already too late. Someone stole a thermos bottle containing a virus.

In 2005 there is a mental institute near the location of the hospital. Patients Emma (Laurie Baranyay) and Isaac (Justin Ipock) consider about starting a relationship but a mean butch Vicky (Jackeline Olivier) bullies them. Sympathetic Doctor Donwynn (Stephan Wolfert) tries to help the as much as he can but a cold hearted Dr Heller (Andreas van Ray) throws a spanner in the works. The "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" drama comes to an end when the patients find and open the thermos bottle. And the zombie epidemic is caused by... space fairies(!?)
Laurie Baranyay
Stephan Wolfert
Doctor Donwynn
Justin Ipock
Isaac and the space zombie fairy

My brain melts.

This is the sequel of underrated zombie classic (or rather prequel of its remake that was made in 2008 (!) ) that nobody asked for. It is very gory with gruesome makeup effects. Before the gorehounds and splatter fans get interested it must also be said that in addition to that there is very little of anything worth watching as it is also extremely boring. It has nothing left of Romero's style and even any social commentary it may contain is weak. The ending just screams that they ran out of money. Even at their worst, any of the real Romero-zombie flicks is much more recommended than this. Heck, even "Day of the Dead" remake was better than this which is much to say about this film.

A terrible, terrible film.

Rating: Very bad

Starring: Laurie Baranyay, Stan Klimecko (as Steve Colosi), John F. Henry II, Justin Ipock, Julian Thomas, Stephan Wolfert, Samantha Clarke, Joe C. Marino, Jackeline Olivier, Andreas van Ray, April Wade, Kevin Wetmore Jr., Simon Burzynski, Mike Dalager, Christopher Estes, Anna Lerbom, Jacob Lopez, Michael Moon, Donald Osborne, Stephen Sanders, Andre Dupont, Charlie Graves, Joshua Heck, Jeffrey Jon Mayes, Michael Tumino, Albert Stroh, Andy S. Allen, Christopher Stanley Burton, Derrick Carr, Shasa Dabner, Melissa Frederick, Mark McKenna Johnson, Anebey Monyei, Brandon Ellison, James Glenn Dudelson, Wendy Wells, Jason Alan Miller, Laynee Jennings, Kelly Ciriero, Joseph Marino, Johnny Diaz Reyes, Gia Franzia, Chris Morrissey, Giacinto Pira + huge number of medical staff, zombie and military personnel extras
Directors: Ana Clavell, James Glenn Dudelson

Monday, August 22, 2016

Movie Review: Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies

Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies 
The Asylum, USA, 2012. 
Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies title
Zombies kill young Abraham Lincoln's parents so he learns to hunt zombies with a cool switchblade scythe. As the President of the USA (Bill Oberst Jr.) he hears that strange undead cannibals have invaded an important fortress. Abe gathers a group of 12 special agents and goes to stop the undead. A black agent Wilson Brown (Jason Hughley) has heard folk stories and knows that the attackers are zombies. However some confederate soldiers and General Stonewall Jackson (Don McGraw) are also hiding there. If this is not already bad, one of the agents has bad intentions. 
Bill Oberst Jr.
Abraham Lincoln
Confederate zombie
Don McGraw
Stonewall Jackson
During the adventure various historical figures jump around every corner. Abe meets his old girlfriend Mary Owens (Baby Norman). Western legend Pat Garrett (Christopher Marrone) decides to help Abe although he fights on the Confederate side. Sacrifices are hard but necessary to save the USA from the undead menace.
Jason Vail
John Wilkinson (Jason Vail)
Christopher Marrone
Pat Garrett
Abraham Lincoln the Zombie Hunter
The Asylum made a mockbuster of fun alternate history adventure "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter." Some real historical figures are included in the story but who cares about historical accuracies: Pat Garrett would have been 13 during the events of the film. It is also very cheaply done and the zombies with their painted faces look like Norwegian metal musicians. The costumes look nice, probably they were borrowed from some Civil War reenactor groups. Much of the (unintentionally) comedical value comes from the deadpan attitude and the funny fake beards. The tone swings between zombie slaying and pseudo-historical drama that looks like those dramatizations in history documentaries. The B-movie script has a good pace and the ending has an interesting twist. It is one of the more enjoyable Asylum mockbusters as scythe swinging Abe is so cool. Bill Oberst Jr. makes a good Abraham Lincoln role, and would also be believable in more realistic historical depictions.

Rating: Good 

Starring: Bill Oberst Jr., Kent Igleheart, Rhianna Van Helton, Brennen Harper, Josh Sinyard, Debra Crittenden, Bernie Ask, Chris Hlozek, Richard Schenkman, Jim E Chandler, Corey Seawell, Jason Vail, Jason Hughley, Eric Lee Galloway, Ronald Ogden, Shane Gray, Raed Ali, Anthony Paderewski, Chip Lane, Phil Parham, Nathaniel Grauwelman, Stephen Shane Martin, Chris Whitley, Sean Freeland, Christopher Marrone, Don McGraw, Baby Norman, Hannah Bryan, Anna Fricks, Canon Kuipers, David Harland Rousseau, Christopher Deen, David Alexander, Muki Aledori, David Anderson, Jim Anderson, Steve E. Barach, Steve Baisden, Melissa Balazs, Craig Michael Beck, Morgan Beem, Lounie Benton, Brian Bird, Sherry Bishop, Jared Boswell, Angie Bosworth, Megan Bosworth, Jason Boyd, Caden Boyette, Crew Boyette, Amy Brice, Kennedy Brice, Bryce Broussard, Tyler Burgett, Corey Carr, Thomas A. Carter, Therese Cavegn, Richard Cheely, Dennis Clark, John K. Clark, Lydia Clark, Melanie Conzchi, Jorge Corona, Rich Lane Disco, Rebecca Etheridge, Rob Fletcher, Rebecca Gnann, Susie Hohenstein, Jon M Hudson, Gwen Kasprzycki, Tyler Marion, EmmaRose Orthman, Ronald "RP" Pickens, Kenny Prawat, Robin Reynolds, Finn Schiesser, Talon Schiesser, James Troutman, 'Meme' Mary Elizabeth Etheridge Walton, Ryan Watterson, Laura Yacso, William R. Brock
Director: Richard Schenkman

Recommendations by Engageya