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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Monday, December 25, 2017

2017 Zombie movie marathon

October is over and my daily posting of reviews is behind me. I’m going back to a more reasonable and sustainable three posts a week. But fear not I’m not planning on getting lazy! I have another marathon much like my Summer Slasher series in store for the rest of 2017. As the title of this post indicates I’m going to do a Zombie movie marathon. Why zombies? Well if you see the images here on the blog I used to run a website called Gutmunchers. I love zombie movies so this appeals to me. Also with the passing of George Romero I sort of wanted to talk zombies. Without him most of these movies would likely not exist.

What can you expect? Well I will be covering some recognizable flicks that most of us have seen and enjoyed. But unlike many genres there is a glut of zombie movies, both big budget and independent. They also come from all across the world. For example, I know that I will be reviewing movies from Korea, Hong Kong, and god help us Virginia. This is what makes a marathon like this so much fun.

Not sure how long this will last but I can assure you I’ll run out of motivation way before I run out of movies. Come with me on this journey as I dive head first into the zombie genre and wade thru both the awesomely fun, hidden gems, and crap… There is going to be a lot of crap I’m afraid.

movie 1: KL Zombie (2013) – The first movie that I watched for the Zombie marathon was KL Zombie. This is one from Malaysia and was clearly inspired by Shaun of the Dead. It is played for more laughs than it is horror. The zombies are decent, but the gore is non-existent. I also very much disliked the ending. Not a recommendation from me.

movie 2: Zombies of Mass Destruction (2009) – The second movie in the marathon is also a new zombie flick. The unique thing about ZMD is that it has a serious political message that it repeatedly beats over the audience’s head. Stupid white people that watch a particular cable news network are dumb and dangerous. The first time that I watched and reviewed this one I liked it. Maybe in the eight years since I’ve suffered political fatigue because now it annoys me. The non-political stuff is decent but gets bogged down in the preaching. I can’t recommend this one either.

movie 3: Cooties (2014) – So the first two movies in the marathon weren't great. Both had some things that I liked about them, but neither ended up being recommended. I thought I’d cleanse the pallet with a movie that I know was enjoyable. What happens when summer school students get some bad chicken nuggets? Well they get all “zombie” on the teachers and start eating everyone in sight! Much preteen mayhem ensues.

movie 4: 101 Zombies aka.Broken Springs (2010) – This one has the honor of being the first in what I know will be many miserable experiences in my zombie movie marathon. This independent zombie movie from Virginia has the double whammy of a terrible script and horrible CGI. I like independent filmmakers and their movies, but many times the results are awful. This is one of those times. If you must have more details read my full review. I suggest not wasting your time on the movie or my review.

movie 5: Dance of the Dead (2008) – This is one of the better independent zombie movies that I’ve seen recently. Here we have a group of high school students that get tossed together when a zombie outbreak hits their town. It also happens to be the big night of the prom so it gets crazy. They totally have to save Prom, right? I’ve not seen a school dance this bloody since Carrie! Here is a zombie movie that I can get behind.

movie 6: The Mad (2007) – Let me just say this... Billy Zane is awesome! Here he plays a man trying to get his new girlfriend and daughter to bond on a family trip to spend a weekend in a cabin. The pair don’t get along, but that doesn’t matter much after they get caught up in a zombie outbreak in a small town. Toss in some killer beef patties and some very funny scenes for a good time. This is a must watch.

movie 7: Presidents Day (2016) – What happens when a bunch of kids go into the woods to party on President’s Day? Well if they get an evil book and read from it they just might bring back zombie presidents that want to murder them! This one is played for laughs and it works far better than I expected it to. There are some really funny jokes that as a history nerd I loved! While everyone might not get the more obscure stuff there is enough here to make it fun regardless of how much American history you know.

movie 8: Zombies of Mora Tau (1957) – This is one of the rare pre Night of the Living Dead movies that I’m going to watch for the marathon. Not saying there aren’t a lot of zombie movies before Romero, but most of them are well known and it would be a bit pointless to cover them. Though for some reason Zombies of Mora Tau never seems to get discussed which is why it has ended up on my list. This is a great movie that is creepy and spooky. Check out my review for more details. This is another must watch.

movie 9: The House of Seven Corpses (1974) – Here is another older zombie movie that I don’t think enough fans have seen. Much like the previous entry this doesn’t play like a traditional zombie movie. Here it is more of a supernatural revenge movie. But I included it in this marathon because the killing is done by a summoned zombie. So while it isn’t an end of the world flesh eating thing it still is a zombie movie!   

movie 10: Me and My Mates vs the Zombie Apocalypse (2015) – Not a huge fan of crowd funding or as I like to call it internet panhandling. But in spite of that I was willing to give this movie (it was financed with crowdfunding) a chance. This is supposed to be a comedy and it does have some funny moments. There is also a decent amount of practical effects work in the first half of the movie. But they either ran out of funds or time because it goes heavy on the CGI towards the end. Overall it was too much miss and not enough hit for me to recommend it.

movie 11: Shock Waves (1977) – I went back to an old favorite for the next entry into the zombie movie marathon. Shock Waves is the best Nazi zombie movie that I’ve ever seen. Honestly until the recent Dead Snow movies that wasn’t hard to say. Here we have an excellent cast highlighted by John Carradine and Peter Cushing going against some weaponized Nazi zombies who “live” to kill! This is an excellent bit of late ‘70s horror cinema.

movie 12: Night of the Creeps (1986) – Okay an argument can be made that this isn’t technically a zombie movie since the corpses are merely transportation for the alien slugs that reanimate and use them to breed. But hey there are dead bodies wandering around attacking people so I’m counting it! Plus, with some of the independent flicks that I’ve been watching I needed to take a break and watch something fun. Night of the Creeps is certainly in that category with great one liners dropped by Tom Atkins, alien slugs, and a zombie axe murderer! Good times indeed.

movie 13: Bio-Zombie (1998) – Well crap. This Hong Kong produced zombie movie is one of my first purchases when I got into Asian horror in the early 2000s. I remember really liking it, but haven’t watched it in years. The humor and gimmicks don’t hold up well. Now I’m worried about the other movies from around this time that I watched and enjoyed. Are they not as good as I remember? Yikes!

movie 14: Night of the Living Dead (1990) – Now I’m normally not a remake fan, but there are always exceptions to that rule. NotLD 90 is one of them. Romero updated the script and put it in the capable hands of Tom Savini to direct. The gore is top notch and the characters play better to a modern audience. While the original holds a special place in my undead loving heart this is a worthy update.

 © Copyright 2017 John Shatzer

Monday, December 11, 2017

Night of the Living Dead (1990)

If you have read much here at the blog you probably know that I’m not much of a remake guy. But there are exceptions to that rule and Night of the Living Dead 90 is one of those. The script was updated by Romero to reflect things that he didn’t like or didn’t play correctly to a modern audience any longer. He also put effects wizard Tom Savini in the director’s chair. The man himself rewrote the script and someone who genuinely loves the original directed it. I’m down with that.

If you have seen the original the story starts off in a familiar way. Barbara and Johnny are off to cemetery to visit a grave when they are attacked by the living dead. Johnny is killed and Barbara runs off to a nearby farmhouse where she soon meets up with Ben. He has a truck but no gas. They also meet some other survivors who were hiding in the basement and eventually make a break for the gas pumps out back to refill the pickup and escape the zombies that are surrounding the house. That doesn’t work out so well and mostly due to an ass named Harry! The next morning the posse arrives to clear the house and save the survivors, but are there any?

When someone accuses me of just hating on remakes because that is the cool thing to do I always bring up this movie. The original Night of the Living Dead is one of my favorite horror flicks ever. Because it was in the public domain it played constantly on the late-night horror hosted shows that I grew up watching. So, I’ve seen it hundreds of times and love it on each viewing. There aren’t many movies that I’m more invested in as a fan than I am with the original NotLD. I say that because I love the remake. It’s very difficult to do a remake correctly, but this is a fine example of how to do it. 

Random Steelers hat!
First Romero was involved which gives this movie instant credibility. The fact that he went back and “fixed” some things that bothered him about the original was fun to see. The most noticeable difference is in the Barbara character. Instead of being catatonic and mostly useless the ‘90s version becomes invested in her own survival and immediately takes charge. She is the one that tries to calm everyone down and get them to work together. She is also the one that wants the group to make a break for one of the rescue centers. Barbara is a much more interesting and fun character in this version of Night of the Living Dead. And that ending… she is awesome.

The cast is also much better than the original. No disrespect meant but other than Duane Jones I never really thought that the actors were great. But in the remake, we get Tony Todd, Bill Moseley, William Butler, and Tom Towles. These are all actors that have long resumes and bring a lot of experience and talent to the project. The best “upgrade” is Patricia Tallman as Barbara. I’ve already gone on about how great this version is, part of that is the writing but a lot of it is Tallman’s acting. The character goes from running away to fighting, without feeling like she is suddenly an action hero. There is a character arc here as she still shows emotion, including anger and a sense of justice. God, I love that ending!

The zombies look great
The most noticeable change in the remake is the special effects work. We get a lot of cool looking zombies and a decent “feasting” scene. From the start, there is a neat bit with a recently dead person stepping out of their burial clothing, another that is bent in half by a pickup truck, an overdose zombie, and many more. Each of them has a reason they are dead which is a pet peeve of mine because I want to have an idea how they died. I love the attention to detail that someone like Savini brings to a zombie movie. Far too many filmmakers have all the undead look the same, which is annoying and disappointing. Here we get some quality work on a budget and it makes a huge difference. The feasting scene has the zombies ripping into the remains of the unfortunate gas pump victims. It isn’t as gruesome as Dawn or Day, but still is a good time.

This is a great movie that switches things up like the Barbara character and the ending so that it is different while still feeling like the original. We also get to see some familiar faces, especially Chilly Billy interviewing someone again! This is what a remake should be. Update what needs updating, maybe put a small twist in to surprise the audience, a couple of cameos as a nod to the original, and most importantly treat the first film with respect. I can’t think of a better remake of a horror movie than this one right here. I highly recommend it.

© Copyright 2017 John Shatzer