DEADHEADS (2011) Review


Directed by The Pierce Brothers
Written by The Pierce Brothers
Starring Michael McKiddy, Ross Kidder, Markus Taylor, Thomas Galasso, Ben Webster, Greg Dow, Natalie Victoria, Eden Malyn, Harry Burkey, and Leonard Kelly-Young
For more info on where to see DEADHEADS check out the film’s website here and Facebook page!

It’s been a while since I have seen a horror film that actually warms my cold dead heart. Ok, it’s been a hell of a long time. That is, until I had a chance to see this film. DEADHEADS is a lighthearted comedy about two strangers on a roadtrip. One is a wise-cracking slacker who goes where the wind takes him. The other is a dedicated nice guy, in search of his lost love. Along the way, these two gents encounter forces of all kinds that work against them achieving their goals, but love won’t stop these two from pressing on. Oh yeah, these two guys are zombies too.

Though THE DEFILED (a film I reviewed earlier this year and one I whole heartedly recommend) is one of the first films I’ve seen with a zombie protagonist, that film was a relatively wordless film, since the zombie star was your typical Romero zombies. The tone is dire and the story is bleak. DEADHEADS is the polar opposite. Due to a scientific experiment, Brent and Mike have become conscious zombies; zombies who retain their minds, though their bodies are rotting. Sure there are Romero zombies shambling around too, but Brent (Ross Kidder) and Mike (Michael McKiddy) are unique. They’ve escaped their lab after being experimented on for three years and now the lab wants them back. Mike, on the other hand, just wants to find his girlfriend. So Brent and Mike set out to do so, teaming with a mindless but lovable zombie they name Cheese and an elderly old man who doesn’t give a shit that they’re zombies as long as he has someone to talk to on the road. The quartet face scores of zombies, a government hazardous material disposal unit made up of a sensitive scientist (Greg Dow) and a gung-ho meathead who talks like a descendant of Macho Man Randy Savage (Ben Webster), and a survivor deputized by the government to track them down.

DEADHEADS shines by incorporating grossout humor with horror standbys seamlessly, but doesn’t forget to make you actually care about these characters. There are a lot of laughs to he had, taking full advantage of the fact that these guys are the undead with pieces of them falling off and being used as props no live character could do. Writers/directors the Pierce Brothers have turned in a punchy script that goes into the realm of sweetness without the sour aftertaste, most relationship comedies often leave you with. When can you say you left a zombie film feeling pretty good? DEADHEADS is an energetic horror comedy mash-up that leaves you with that very feeling.

FRIGHT NIGHT (1985)/FRIGHT NIGHT (2011) Review


FRIGHT NIGHT (1985)
Directed by Tom Holland
Written by Tom Holland
Starring Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Roddy McDowall, & Stephen Geoffreys

FRIGHT NIGHT (2011)
Directed by Craig Gillespie
Written by Marti Noxon (screenplay from Tom Holland’s story)
Starring Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, David Tennant, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots, & Christopher Mintz-Plasse

The original FRIGHT NIGHT was an ode to every horror fan. It presented Charlie Brewster (William Ragsdale), a normal, somewhat nerdy teen, in love with horror films, but not so much that he’s a social outcast. Seems he even has a girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse later known as Marcy Darcy from MARRIED WITH CHILDREN), who is toying with the idea of sleeping with Charlie, but isn’t sure if she can do it or not. Enter Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) who moves into the abandoned house next door in the middle of the night. Soon all of those years watching Fright Night, a horror movie TV show hosted by Peter Vincent (Roddy MacDowall) make it pretty obvious what’s going on. All signs point to Jerry being a vampire, especially when Charlie catches Jerry leading a girl into his house. In a bit of fun voyeurism, Charlie, hormones high from Amy blue-balling him, at first thinks he’s going to see something naughty, but he catches Jerry bearing his fangs and ready to chow down—that is, until he sees Charlie watching him. What transpires is an instant classic vampire yarn with bits of vampire stories tossed in, but modernized to the 1980’s enough to be called an original, as Charlie enlists his best friend Evil Ed and Peter Vincent to help protect himself from a vampire.

On the surface, the remake is quite similar. Charlie (Anton Yelchin) is a semi-nerdy kid, but somehow is able to get the attention of smokin’ hottie Amy (Imogen Poots) who wants to bone the hell out of Charlie but he’s hesitant to do so. Charlie is avoiding his former friend Evil Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who has suspicions about the guy who moved in next door to Charlie, Jerry (played by Colin Farrell). Soon accusations of the toothy kind are flung and Jerry starts to make Charlie’s life hell, as he did in the first film.

As I said, on the surface, these films are very similar, but the more you get into it, the films begin to distinguish themselves. Changing the character of Charlie is the main difference here. I understand studios don’t think that the audience identifying with a total nerd is going to fly with the cool kids who they hope to attract to the film, but making Charlie into a Ronald Miller-type, trying to fit in with the cool kids and shed his nerdy roots, made me immediately kind of dislike Anton Yelchin’s character. Yelchin is an extremely talented actor and I’m sure will be a megastar some day, but here because of some initial decisions in the script, he has no choice but to be the guy trying to be someone else than who he is. Pressured at every angle (horny girlfriend, creepy ex-friend, the cool kids at school, nosey mom) from frame one, New Charlie is a person pulled in many directions even before the vampire shows up. His hesitancy to make any decisions at all until it is too late is a character flaw that is tough to look over.

Making Charlie the one who is hesitant to do the deed with Amy is also something that’s hard to overlook as well. Her hotness aside, Charlie doesn’t really present much as to why Amy would want to be into him other than the script tells her to do so. In the original, up until Jerry’s fangy voyeur scene, Charlie is the one who is frustrated because Amy won’t put out, and then as she offers herself to him, he is distracted by Jerry’s presence and shows more interest in Jerry than her. The scene is mirrored in the beginning when Charlie is distracted by Peter Vincent’s horror show instead of continuing to make out with Amy. I don’t want to get too much into some of the homosexual overtones of the original (Jerry has a man-servant that he is pretty chummy with), but Charlie’s interest in Jerry over Amy is a running theme throughout the film, only resolved when Charlie must kill Jerry in order to get the girl. The metaphor isn’t too shrouded here.

Of course, hardly any of that is even present in the remake. Farrell’s Jerry lives alone and oozes sexuality towards Amy and Charlie’s mom (Toni Collette in a wasted role), serving more as eye candy for female viewers than a challenge for Charlie’s manhood. Yes, when Jerry makes his move on Amy, he is pretty blunt about making out with his girlfriend in front of him, but these broad strokes moves come late in the film. Seems director Craig Gillespie wasn’t as interested in exploring this challenge too much.

The main problem with the remake is that the pacing of the entire first half of the movie is off. Instead of playing up multiple subplots, director Craig Gillespe handles each one as if checking off a checklist. Clearly he is more interested in the triangle between Charlie/Amy/Jerry and rushes right to that, hurrying past the story between Charlie and his friend Ed in the first twenty minutes.Christopher Mintz-Plasse does a nice turn as a modern version of Evil Ed, but doesn’t have that hurky-jerky-ness of Stephen Geoffreys’ take on the character that made his small role so iconic in the original. The almost Riddler like manic laughter made Geoffreys’ Evil Ed stand out as someone to be pitied and fearful of. Mintz-Passe is good at what he does, but lacks any of that in this role. The fact that he’s not seen as a friend but more of an annoying reminder to Yelchin/Charlie’s uncool past makes him even less likable. And Farrell’s speech about being an outsider, which was absolutely perfect in when Serandon delivered it to Geoffreys in the original, feels more like something that the director knew needed to be said, but he didn’t know how or why it was important and rushed right through it.

Farrell is one of the best aspects of the film. Although vastly different from Serandon’s performance, at least it seems Farrell is having fun with the role. Though the elegance and complexity of the character is completely lost (Farrell’s Jerry almost immediately reveals to everyone that he’s a vampire, while Serandon’s Jerry toys with Charlie more through most of the film), I found myself liking Farrell’s great white shark of the suburbs performance quite a bit. Farrell’s performance is less nuanced, but he does have an animalistic snarl throughout, playing up his sexuality towards Amy and Charlie’s mom and marking his territory every time Charlie is around.

Crucial to both stories is Peter Vincent. Roddy McDowall delivers his role passionately in the original, giving the character power and weakness as we see the former great cinematic vampire hunter growing long in the tooth and being written out of his own show. McDowall offers up a fantastic presence here as he slips in and out of his on-screen persona while encountering the real monsters. McDowall channels all of the good Van Helsings in movie history with all of the power, cheese, and grit that comes with the character he has formed his life around. Though not an awful performance, instead of basing his character on Van Helsing, David Tennant seems to be channeling Aldous Snow and Chriss Angel; two characters as less powerful as they are interesting in the remake. On paper, the conflict is still there with Tennant struggling to care about Charlie’s predicament, then finally embracing his monster hunter roots. Played out, it pales in comparison because you just can’t fuck with McDowall’s performance. Putting eye shadow and tight leather pants on Peter Vincent is like flames on Optimus; unnecessary and only for show.

One of the coolest aspects of the original was that not only was it a fun story filled with fun actors, but it was also a showcase for some of the best practical special effects of its time. The original used everything from puppets to animatronics to gobs of make-up and goo for its gore and scares. People melted, bats flew through windows, werewolves morphed, crosses burned into foreheads, and fangs were bared a plenty. All filmed right there in front of the actors. Now I’m not a CGI prude, but when its unnecessary, I take offense. Look at Farrell’s CGI-ed face compared to Serandon’s make-up effects. One gives you nightmares, the other is a mushy mess of a nightmare. Serandon’s acts beneath all of that make-up. Farrell isn’t even there anymore when his multiple layers of teeth are bared. Serandon’s presence in the scene is what makes it scary, even though it was a bit hard for him to talk in those giant choppers. Animating over Farrell’s head immediately makes it less effective.

This disconnect not only occurs when Farrell fangs out, but when the rest of the vamps do as well. The CGI use overall is pretty uninspired in the entire film, resorting in gobs of blood splashed in our faces to amp the 3D effect, which by the way is completely unnecessary in this film. For most of the film, there is hardly a need for the 3D, with the 3rd dimension only utilized when blood is thrown at the camera, and that blood is CGI-ed in. If you have to see the remake, see it in 2D and save your money. The 3D option doesn’t enhance this film a tick.

I don’t want to completely pan the remake of FRIGHT NIGHT, although I’m not a fan of remakes in general, I’ve definitely seen worse. With a rushed narrative, unnecessary and ineffective effects, missed opportunities as revisiting interesting themes, it definitely pales in comparison to the original, though the cast is very strong with Farrell’s performance (albeit ultimately different from Serandon’s take) leading the pack. In the end, the main distinction between the two films is that FRIGHT NIGHT 2011 is an ode to a better film from 1985 while FRIGHT NIGHT 1985 is an homage to all of those horror films we all loved as a kid.

TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL (2010) Review


Directed by Eli Craig
Written by Eli Craig and Morgan Jergenson
Available on VOD now and in theaters September 30th!
Find out more about the film here!
Starring Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss, Chelan Simmons

The horror comedy is very difficult to accomplish. Too much comedy, it softens the horror and makes it all pretty ridiculous. Also there’s a factor of the comedy actually being funny, which is harder than usual to play off. Too much horror, and the comedy fails. But if you go too far over the top with the horror and gore, then it overshadows the comedy or negates it. With the genres seemingly at odds with comedy reliant effortlessness and improvisation and horror being so meticulously framed and acted out, one wonders how any horror comedies ever worked. I can name only a few that have been totally successful; EVIL DEAD 2, MOTEL HELL, ZOMBIELAND, maybe the original SCREAM, but that’s more of a spoof of the genre than real horror (I know that’s debatable). There does seem to be a trend these days with mixing horror and comedy. I think it’s a coping mechanism for most. Rather than tackling a subject head-on. The safe way to approach things is to make fun of it, which often times lessens the impact of the horror. While I wax on and off about horrors and comedies and their kooky relationship, consider TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL.

Never in danger of taking itself too seriously, TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL walks that precarious line between horror and comedy and comes out a winner. Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine play Tucker and Dale respectively. Like a classic comedy team, the two play off of each other with Tudyk being the surly straight man to Labine’s innocent naïveté. There’s a deep friendship between the two of them which is apparent from their first moments on screen and Tudyk and Labine but enough sincerity and heart in the characters to show that they are taking these two dolt hillbillies seriously, even if the story is ridiculous.

And the story is pretty ridiculous, but genius too. Instead of focusing a group of pretty twenty-somethings, the narrative focuses on Tucker and Dale, two hillbillies who just want to own their own home and fish all day. When that simple dream becomes a reality, a group of kids stumble upon them and mistake them for DELIVERANCE-style hillbillies. A series of ridiculously hilarious events occur to make Tucker and Dale look responsible for the kids’ deaths and all hell breaks loose. Everyone in this film is an idiot, but fully committed to their idiocy. It works amazingly well.

Writer/director Eli Craig pulls off the impossible here, making a genuinely funny film with over the top gore. TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL touches on all of those clichés we’ve come to love and grow tired of in the horror convention, but does so with a fresh perspective and with a cast (most notably Tudyk and Labine) that is truly exceptional. By the end of this film, I could see this being a franchise with Tucker & Dale facing off against all types of evil!

PHASE 7 (2011) Review


Directed by Nicolas Goldbart
Written by Nicolas Goldbart
Starring Daniel Hendling, Jazmin Stuart, Federico Lupi

Imagine SHAUN OF THE DEAD without zombies set in Argentina or a comedic version of REC and you’ll pretty much get the tone of PHASE 7 which refers to the most extreme case of emergency for a contagion to occur on a national level. Much like SHAUN OF THE DEAD, the lead characters (played by the mutton chopped Daniel Hendling and the very pregnant Jazmin Stuart) are oblivious to the world falling apart around them until the very last minute. While folks armor up their vehicles and loot groceries for supplies, the couple go about their normal existence. PHASE 7’s strength lies in these performances by these likable actors who endear themselves to the viewer by showing real emotion toward one another despite the quirks both of them possess.

What makes PHASE 7 so strong is the culture it is filmed in. There’s an air of polite sincerity in the tone, lines, and posturings of all of the Argentinean actors in this film, who are trapped in this building. Though the situation is absolutely dire, composure and manners are always remembered while the characters interact with each other. Even when the government shuts down the apartment complex, the tenants politely answer questions and accept what the government explains to them. Had this been an American film, I’m sure the tenants’ reactions to the government lockdown would not have been so cordial.

But manners begin to fray at the edges the longer the tenants are trapped in the building. With only TV and radio reports to let them know what’s going on outside of the apartment, the tenants begin turning on one another. Again, like SHAUN OF THE DEAD, while things start out almost farcical, the tone shifts to dire towards the end. Like SHAUN OF THE DEAD, PHASE 7 seems to be commenting on how much is taken for granted as well in society and how we often walk around so wrapped up in our own problems that we don’t notice the world crumbling around us. It’s a effective film focusing on a small story during a large scale problem. Though played for fun most of the time, when things get serious and bloody, it’s all the more shocking due to the abrupt change in tone. PHASE 7 is definitely yet another winner from Bloody Disgusting Selects! Check out Bloody Disgusting for dates and places this darkly comical tale can be seen.

THE TAINT (2010) Review


Directed by Drew Bolduc & Dan Nelson
Written by Drew Bolduc
Starring Drew Bolduc, Colleen Walsh, Cody Crenshaw, & Kenneth Hall
Find out more info on this film here!

I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anything like THE TAINT. The taint referred to in the title is not that unmentionable area between this and that down below. It refers to a chemical that was released into the water supply and now, at a growing rate, all of the water is tainted. The effects of the taint cause men to have raging erections and become mindless zombie-like creatures that like to chase women and bash their heads in with rocks.

Misogynistic? Of course.

Tasteless? Totally.

But despite all of that, THE TAINT is most likely a film experience I will never forget. It throws any sense of decency and taste out the window. No fluid is unspewed, unsplattered or unrecognized. Effects are so over the top, they’re orbital. And the acting is so purposely bad, it’s gut-busting.

Drew Bolduc writes, directs, and stars as Phil O’Ginny a mulletted douchebag who changes sunglasses according to the manner of action he is doing and attempts to make his way through this mad tainted world. He meets Misandra, a young survivor with a shotgun (Colleen Walsh), who has her own insane story of how she stayed alive through the madness that is equal parts insanely funny and gross. Soon, with society going down the tubes, they run across O’Ginny’s high school gym teacher who leads a gang of rapists with ridiculous names like Alligator Fuckhouse and equally ridiculous costumes. As Phil and Misandra make their way through a gauntlet of human rapists and tainted monsters, they find the man behind the madness, the masked screaming man, Ludas, who has his own tale of depravity. It all culminates with Phil draping the American flag over his shoulder and going on a spree shooting the tainted’s penises off with uncanny accuracy to the tune of some epic rockin’ music.

Not a beat of this film is played seriously. It’s crude and disgusting from scene one to end. But it’s also probably one of the most inanely funny films I’ve seen this year. THE TAINT also sports some impressive special effects as heads are sliced, crushed, minced, beaten, and blown apart in various ways. On top of all of that, this film sets the bar high for most penises blown off by a handgun ever on celluloid. So there’s that.

Utterly crude and rude, if you’re looking for an unapologetic gross out film, you need to look no further than THE TAINT. The level of disgust this film achieves is truly epic. You’ve got to have a pretty iron constitution to stomach a lot of the stuff that goes on in THE TAINT, but I guarantee if you like gore, you’ll laugh so hard you’ll piss and shit yourself at the gross-out glory of THE TAINT.

THE NIGHT SHIFT (2010) Review


Directed by Thomas Smith
Written by Thomas Smith
Starring Khristian Fulmer, Erin Lilly, Soren Odom, Jordan Woodall
Find out more here at Fighting Owl Films!

Fans of recent spoofs THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA and ALIEN TRESPASS may want to seek out THE NIGHT SHIFT. Though this film plays things a bit straighter than those two homages to 50’s monster films, THE NIGHT SHIFT has the same embracement of its low budget and love for the genre. The characters in THE NIGHT SHIFT also have that kind of 50’s innocent mentality where our hero Rue Morgan, an undead graveyard caretaker, only wants a date with his boss, Claire, but with the undead rising and causing all sorts of trouble, it’s hard for that to happen.

I couldn’t help but think of other films like DEAD ALIVE which THE NIGHT SHIFT seems to strive to be despite its more modest budget. Or even CEMETARY MAN, which basically has the same premise, but takes itself much more seriously than this one. This isn’t a bad film. Quite the opposite. It actually is pretty charming in the way it approaches the characters in such an innocent manner without making fun of them. The acting is decent, though it seems everyone knows what kind of movie they are in. And though the effects aren’t the best, it matches the 50’s movie tone pretty well.

Where THE NIGHT SHIFT falters is that the version I saw clocks in at around 2 hours, which is way too long. This film is in post production, so I’m sure a lot of fat will be trimmed. I found myself looking at my watch a few times toward the end wondering when things would wrap up. I think an hour in the editing room with a machete and some good whiskey would do this film right. There’s a good film in here, despite the similarities to other films. It’s in good company with THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA and ALIEN TRESPASS, two films that jokingly poke at the goofiness of horror without putting it down. THE NIGHT SHIFT does the same in a charming and fun way. I was rooting for Rue Morgan and his skeleton sidekick Herb to save the day and get the girl. And though hardcore horror fans may scoff, I think there’s room for all kinds of takes on horror in this genre. THE NIGHT SHIFT is for those who can laugh at how silly this little horror genre can be.

ROID RAGE (2010) Review


Directed by Ryan Lightbourne
Written by Ryan Lightbourne
Starring Zach Canfield, John Russo, Ben Evans, John Archer Lundgren, & Grayson Lauffenburger

There are few films I’ve been looking forward to seeing more than ROID RAGE. Ever since I saw the extremely crude trailer below, I knew it was going to be something that appealed to my sleazier side. I’ll come right out and say that ROID RAGE is not going to be for everyone. Slickly produced horror fans need not apply here. But if you like films with that grindhouse feel with humor of the pottiest of flavors, ROID RAGE is right up your alley.

The version of ROID RAGE that I saw is a short film, but it looks as if writer/director Ryan Lightbourne is looking to expand the concept and maybe even 3-Dimensionalize the film soon if the trailer during the credits are real. As it is, ROID RAGE is a fun and fast, deliciously disgusting venture into the realm of bad taste

Zach Canfield plays Sammy, who has a major problem; hemorrhoid problems, but this isn’t something a finger full of Anusol can help. Sammy’s hemorrhoid has a mind and bloodlust on its own. When dead hookers start piling up with their faces ripped off, it garners the attention of a pair of hard-nosed detectives. What plays out is gory and funny as hell.

ROID RAGE is as tasteless as old Troma. It isn’t afraid to go into a world of wrong and roll around in it like a pig in slop. If you love your horror dirty and tasteless, ROID RAGE is for you. I loved every second and hope Lightbourne is able to make his full length 3-D version very soon. I can’t help it…I have to say it…ROID RAGE is a film I can definitely get behind!