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.

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.

FOLLOWED Short Film (2011) Review


Directed by James Kicklighter
Written by Maureen Cooke and Mark Ezra Stokes (based on a short story by Will McIntosh)
Starring Erryn Arkin, Edith Ivey, Abigail de los Reyes
Find out more about where and when to see this short film here and more on their Facebook page!

Director James Kicklighter contacted me a while back about this film and was nice enough to let me check it out, and I’m so glad I did. Though this film could easily be lumped in with other zombie films, it’s an entirely new and refreshing take on the zombie genre. Though it might take some work to seek this one out, it’s definitely worth the effort.

The concept of FOLLOWED comes from a short story by Will McIntosh. Unlike most cinematic zombies, the zombies in FOLLOWED don’t have the annoying tendency to eat brains. They actually are pretty pleasant. They just kind of appear from nowhere, following the humans slowly, and that’s about it. The thought of a race or species of human that do nothing but wander around and occasionally follow humans slowly is both a new and haunting one. One particular man finds himself followed by a little zombie girl and does everything he can to avoid her, but she relentlessly continues to show up everywhere he goes. Though the concept of zombies is always a gruesome one, FOLLOWED turns out to be a sweet and downright heartwarming story.

Directed with a delicate and gentle hand, FOLLOWED is probably the most unexpected horror surprise I’ve seen in quite a while. The final moments, set to a song called “Glory” by Essie Jane, will warm even the coldest and deadest of hearts. I don’t know if FOLLOWED is ever going to be a feature film, but it certainly has enough going for it to warrant one. As is, FOLLOWED is worth getting behind.

SLIME CITY (1988) Review


Directed by Greg Lamberson
Written by Greg Lamberson
Starring Robert C. Sabin, Mary Huner, T.J. Merrick, Dennis Embry, Dick Beil

Totally and unabashedly gross, SLIME CITY knows how low budget it is and wallows in it like a pig in slop. Those looking for highbrow scares and pristine production values should probably avert their gaze and scroll down. But those who love their gore grimy and gross need to seek this one out pronto Squanto.

Alex and his virginal girlfriend Lori answer an ad for an apartment in an old New York building. At first it seems like the perfect place for Alex (who invites his girlfriend to move in but she’s not ready), but soon he meets Roman the beatnik neighbor and Nicole the goth siren next door and things quickly go pear shaped. Tempted into Nicole’s bed and Roman’s dinner, squeaky clan Alex finds himself wrapped up in sex, drugs, and the occult. After a trippy dinner at Roman’s, Alex is introduced to a slimy “yogurt” dish and an unlabeled liquor. Alex wakes up covered in slime and soon begins to melt ooze all over the place. His actions become erratic but after killing a bum, Alex finds that he returns to normal. Soon Alex realizes that if he doesn’t want to end up a pile of ooze, he must kill on a semi-regular basis. Of course, his girlfriend Lori isn’t happy about all of this.

Released in 1988, a few years after Cronenberg’s THE FLY, SLIME CITY has a lot of the same themes, albeit in a more lowbrow manner. As Alex’s humanity and body begin to puddle beneath him, the similarities between the two films are pretty jarring. Director Greg Lamberson does a great job of keeping everything together despite the limited budget and works well with what he has. The use of non-actors often times adds to the hilarity of the film (especially in a scene where a gang confronts Alex in a not so dark alley).

Though I’ve already mentioned THE FLY, SLIME CITY also reminds me of the gross out awesomeness of EVIL DEAD II. In the gory climax of the film, Lori and Alex face off with severed limbs and oozing slime in their wake. SLIME CITY spawned a remake/sequel called SLIME CITY MASSACRE (also by Lamberson) last year that I’m dying to see after the gory giddiness seen in every frame of this film. If you’re in the mood for gore to the extreme level, SLIME CITY is right up your alley.

THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE (1974) Review


Directed by Jorge Grau
Written by Sandro Continenza, Marcella Coscia, Juan Cobos, Miguel Rubio
Starring: Cristina Galbo, Ray Lovelock, Arthur Kennedy, Aldo Massasso, Giorgio Trestini, Roberto Posse

While we’re on the subject of zombies, I might as well recommend one of my all time favorites: THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE. I’ve seen this film quite a few times over the years and love it more every time I see it. Filled with moody music and scenes and cast with dark and complex characters, THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE is one of those obscure gems that no zombie fan should go without seeing.

Ray Lovelock (that can’t be his real name, can it?) plays George, a hip and brash beatnik museum curator transporting a rare sculpture across the English countryside on his motorcycle. While stopping for gas, George’s bike is hit by Edna’s car in a gas station. George rather brashly encourages Edna to give him a lift while his bike is getting fixed and the two become uneasy travelling buddies, both needing to get to their destinations in a hurry. But wouldn’t you know it, the Department of Agriculture is testing a new pesticide which not only kills bugs dead, but it raises dead humans as well. Though it’s not in his destination, George is convinced to go with Edna to visit her sister before heading to his client. Both find themselves in the middle of a police investigation as Edna’s sister is suspected of murdering her husband, though he was actually killed by a zombie. Convoluted? Sure, but this movie is too much fun to care.

Director Jorge Grau paces the film perfectly as the traveling couple slowly realize what’s going on before the authorities do. Grau smartly directs a script worked on by multiple folks, all of whom probably have seen their fair share of fright flicks. There are scenes that remind me of both GATES OF HELL and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. The first time we see a zombie is straight out of the opening cemetery scene in NOTLD. But this is more than just a knock-off. Grau overlaps shots of jolly old England with factory smoke stacks, heaps of garbage, and smoking manhole covers in the beginning to ring the point home that this is a film trying to give an environmental statement. It’s made clear that the giant machine used by the government is the cause of all of this zombie-ness. Grau not only peppers in a message, but is able to handle the rather complex plot without losing focus. He also pulls off some truly frightening scenes of zombie attacks (the initial attack scene by a river is really well done, as is the final zombie massacre at the morgue and a middle section where our couple is trapped in a mausoleum). Grau lingers on the guts too in order to display some gruesome moments of feasting and shredding of victims’ bodies.

THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE is one of those classic fright films that some may scoff at from the name or the somewhat hokey cover art, but once seen, you’re sure to be a fan. From the police investigator who is too busy being grumpy at the “long haired kids with faggoty clothes” to notice that there’s a zombie apocalypse going on to the wide-eyed heroin shooting sister who is tormented by her photographer husband to the lead zombie, a dripping wet vagrant who drowned just before our couple arrive and looks a bit like an unkempt and water-logged Adrian Brody, THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE is filled with fun characters you normally don’t see in your run of the mill zombie film. The effects are gory as hell. The music is funky. And there are scenes of zombie mayhem that you’ll never forget. Seek out THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE. Though other films were more influential, it’s a zombie movie that gets a whole lot right.

QUARANTINE 2: TERMINAL (2011) Review


Directed by John Pogue
Written by John Pogue, John Eric Dowdle, Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza, Luiso Berdejo
Starring: George Back, Andrew Benator, Jason Benjamin, Bre Blair, Lynn Cole

I wasn’t one of those who hated QUARANTINE. Sure, Dexter’s twitchy sister wasn’t as plucky and likable as REC’s Manuela Velasco, but for the most part, I don’t know why there was such an uproar about the remake and such a dislike for it other than the remake was pretty damn pointless, serving only those who refuse to watch “films they gotta read”. Now, having seen REC and REC2, I definitely prefer those films to their American counterparts since the two original films fit together so seamlessly and the story of the first is expanded in such an ingenious way in the sequel. Arguably, REC2 is one of the few films which successfully improves upon the original (but that is a discussion for another day).

I wish that were the same for QUARANTINE 2: TERMINAL.

QUARANTINE 2: TERMINAL is just what you’d expect from a direct to VOD sequel of a remake. It’s got lesser known actors, the effects are less effective, and the plot is severely lacking in both originality and depth. Most of the charm of the first is either carbon copied or missed altogether. Whereas REC2 picked up immediately after REC ended, QUARANTINE 2: TERMINAL is a completely different story. For the most part, QUARANTINE 2: TERMINAL is QUARANTINE in an airport. Any story advancement that occurred between REC to REC2 doesn’t happen in this sequel. Instead of building upon the first, QUARANTINE 2 starts over again. In other words, it’s redundant.

Though the contrivance of the first person POV shot film is somewhat overused these days, it is an integral part of the REC series and was used in QUARANTINE as well. In the sequel, though, the first person POV is dropped and shot in a more conventional manner. Because of this, QUARANTINE 2 plays more like a sequel to 28 DAYS LATER than the original film. It’s just another infection film where a bunch of people are trapped in one location with blood spewing zombies are running about.

Lack of POV camera and redundancy aside, QUARANTINE 2 is not unwatchable. The film tries to play a game of “who’s got the plague” at the beginning as passengers enter the plane; some sniffling, some sneezing, some suffering from ailments like strokes and some are just drunk. Like SNAKES ON A PLANE, every plane passenger cliché is used, but this is a fun sequence. Though the secret twist is pretty evident from the beginning, the film gives it the old college try to keep us guessing who brought the plague on board, how they did it, and why. Though the acceptance of the existence of a plague and the logic that it is spread through bites and contact with fluids seems a bit rushed, once the infected start swarming, it gets kind of fun watching these annoying passengers getting picked off one by one. The effects are somewhat shoddy and a lot of the crisp, funhouse thrills and chills from RECs and QUARANTINE seem to move at a much more lumbering speed here. The final sequence is also somewhat effective as a pair of survivors try to make their way to freedom in a cramped tunnel with only night vision goggles to guide them. Only when the film falls back on its roots and shows us a first person POV in this scene do the scares feel a bit more genuine.

REC2 pretty much distanced itself from QUARANTINE by introducing religious elements that are never touched upon in the American version, so though I’ve compared the two film series throughout this review, one can look at these two series as completely separate entities. I didn’t expect another carbon copy Americanized version of REC2, but I was hoping for more than a rehash of QUARANTINE set in a different locale. Though vastly inferior to the REC series and the original QUARANTINE, QUARANTINE 2: TERMINAL has a few frightful moments and reminded me just enough of REC to satiate my hunger until REC: APOCALIPSIS and REC: GENESIS are released later this year.

RAMMBOCK: BERLIN UNDEAD (2010) Review


Directed by Marvin Kren
Written by Benjamin Hessler
Starring: Sebastian Achilles, Ingrid Beerbaum, Carsten Berendt, Melanie Berke

Wow, I loved this fantastic little zombie film. Everything about this film is spot on. Though it doesn’t blaze any new trails in zombie lore, RAMMBOCK: BERLIN UNDEAD doesn’t need to. It tells a standard zombie tale in a vivid, genuine, and harrowing manner. Poor schlub Michael makes his way to Berlin to give his ex-girlfriend back her keys and maybe grovel a bit for her to come back to him. But upon arriving to her apartment, wouldn’t you know it? A zombie apocalypse occurs.

I love it that there’s no explanation for the zombie plague. It just happens. And it happens quickly. By the six minute mark, we’ve got zombies. None of this slow build crap. Michael shows up. The ex isn’t home. The zombies attack.

Important to the narrative and in distinguishing this film from the rest of the zombie flicks out there is the locale. The whole thing takes place in an apartment complex with a courtyard in between the apartments. So while the zombies swarm below, the residents of the apartments are communicating with one another and trying to get into each others’ rooms for safety. It’s almost like watching multiple zombie films simultaneously in that each room has some kind of drama going on. One man is trapped alone and trying to deal with solitude. Michael is trapped with a young repairman in his ex-girlfriend’s apartment. A man below them has an infected wife that he keeps feeding sedatives to slow the infection. Another grieves for the loss of his girlfriend in the initial attack. Another apartment has been overrun by zombies. Another houses a drug addicted elderly woman. The set-up of the apartment makes for a highly original multi-screen effect zombie film–one like I’ve never seen before.

Aside from the apartment locale, RAMMBOCK: BERLIN UNDEAD isn’t anything different than most other zombie films you’ve seen other than the fact that every thing is of top notch caliber. It’s a zombie film that does everything right and never makes a misstep. It’s tension filled, well written and acted, and most of all, not a minute is wasted or uninteresting. Though this film runs just under one hour, it fills every second with all the zombie awesomeness you’ll ever need. I highly recommend RAMMBOCK: BERLIN UNDEAD. It’s one of the best zombie films of the year.