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Featured Post - The Giallo Marathon

Yep I'm back with another marathon. This is a first for me here at Crappy Movie Reviews as I've never spent much time on Gialli. The...

Friday, October 23, 2020

The End? (2017)



While poking around on Amazon this movie popped up. It was promoted as a new Italian zombie movie, which caught my attention right away. I love Italian zombie movies… I mean my email is gutmunchers! I figured I’d give it a chance and I’m glad that I did. 

Things kick off with an impatient businessman Claudio who is running late to an important meeting. He gets on the elevator and we see him being pretty awful to his ex-girlfriend whom he still wants to fool around with. This is further complicated when we find out he is married! In five minutes we already know what kind of guy that Claudio is. That is some damn fine screenwriting. 

While this is all getting established, we also hear reports in the background of rioting and random attacks. The traffic is also horrible and while he doesn’t know it, we the viewer know that something bad is coming. He arrives at his building and hops on the elevator in time for it to break down. This is where Claudio spends most of the rest of the movie. Trapped with just a sliver of the door open so he can see one hallway. Between that and the phone calls he makes and receives are how we experience the zombie outbreak. 

I had my doubts about whether this was going to work or not. One small location and just a couple of actors isn’t something that I’d think would work. But this is such a well written movie that it does. The story is compelling and our lead actor, Alessandro Roja, does a wonderful job selling it to the audience. We get to hear most of the mayhem outside over the phone. While the audio is decent it is his reaction that gives the movie it’s heart. His fear and anxiety are translated to the audience. 

Great Setting
This also creates an interesting character arc as he starts off as the cheating bastard of a husband but quickly becomes a man concerned with his wife’s safety. His first instinct when she is in danger is to send someone to help her. There is also a bit with a police officer where he expresses his regret and admits that he is a bad husband. You just know the moment he gets out of the elevator he is going to go looking for her. I think that is kind of cool and not what I initially expected. I like my characters in zombie movies to have some heart so I can root for them. 

Since this is a zombie flick, we do have to talk about special effects and gore. I’ll start with the latter. From the small space he forces open in the elevator doors we do get to see several people running and fighting the zombies in the hallway. This allows for a bit of gore, though most of the good stuff happens off-screen. There is one gag where he pounds the hell out of zombie with an improvised weapon and another when he gets his hands on a gun. The best bit though is when he stomps on a legless zombie. But again, there isn’t a ton of blood in the movie. 

The creature design on the zombies is topnotch. Each of the zombies looks unique and you can see why many of them died and reanimated. They are very gooey and generally creepy looking. These are fast zombies as they run around, which isn’t my favorite thing. But overall, I was pleased with what I saw on the screen. If you are going to make a zombie flick they had better look good and that is the case here. 

I really liked this movie and can recommend it without qualification. It’s a great story that focuses on a main character who just happens to be dealing with a screwed-up situation. The ending is satisfying and leaves the fate of Claudio and the world up in the air. Maybe we get a sequel… maybe we don’t. Either way The End? is worth a watch. 


© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Blood Quantum (2019)


I saw this one pop up on Shudder and the generally positive reviews for it and I was intrigued. Independent zombie movies are somewhat of an addiction for me so I’m always looking to check another one out. Most of the time I regret it, but occasionally I find a good one. Blood Quantum also had the added bonus of a plot twist I had never seen before in a zombie flick, which doesn’t happen very often. 

Let me set the scene by introducing you to the town of Red Crow. The inhabitants are made up of whites on one side and the indigenous people on the other. Things kick off in a very creepy way as we watch a fisherman gutting his catch only for them to start hopping around and reanimating on him. Then we meet the sheriff as he answers a call about his ex-wife’s dog, which has died… but not really. He is the son of the fisherman from earlier and both of them are members of the local tribe. This is important later. We also meet the sons of the sheriff, one from a previous relationship and the other the product of his marriage to the ex-wife. They are both in jail, which is where we meet our first human zombie. But it doesn’t take long for the outbreak to happen. Then the action jumps to six months later. 

There are a couple important things to note at this point. One the world has gone to hell with the indigenous people barricaded up on their side of Red Crow, which conveniently is an island with a single bridge as entry. Second thru a quirk in genetics they are immune to the outbreak. If you aren’t a member of the tribe the traditional one bite and you turn rule which we are all familiar with apply. But for the indigenous people they can get bit and survive. This leads them to housing and protecting those vulnerable behind the walls of their community. A fact that the older son doesn’t agree with. I won’t spoil what happens with any details but clearly this doesn’t end well. 


I have things that I love about Blood Quantum and others that annoyed me. Since the bad stuff is regarding the story, I suppose I’ll begin there. I really don’t like the jump forward in time. My favorite bit of most zombie movies is the initial outbreak and seeing how people react and the world falls apart. That is just a personal preference I know, but it felt like the movie was building up to something awesome when we get the “six months later” popping up on the screen. I was also bummed because there were some things hinted at that were never followed up on. 

Additionally, there is a conflict between the older son and his father, who he thinks abandoned him, that are mentioned but never fleshed out. This is huge as it might explain his actions later on. Without that it sort of comes off as random. We also have conflict between some of the indigenous people the whites that treated them badly before the outbreak. I would have loved to seen more of that story and how it affected the characters. I think that there was an interesting story there. This would have also made the subplot of the youngest son’s white girlfriend being pregnant far more tied into the plot instead of feeling tacked on so they could have one scene at the end of the movie. You could have focused more on either story and still had a kick ass zombie movie. 

Don’t get me wrong, Blood Quantum is a kick ass zombie movie in spite of my disappointments with the script. The zombies look amazing and show some thought into individual design. Generic zombies are a pet peeve of mine and we certainly don’t get them in this flick. We also get some gore like I haven’t seen in a long time. We get the normal bites and munching, but there are a couple highlights that had me sitting up in my seat. A zombie mom eats her baby on screen and later on we get a lady wang munching on an unfortunate guy! Those two gags alone would make me recommend Blood Quantum, especially with how well they manage the makeup. This is some stellar practical effects work. 

Two other things that I need to mention. First, we get a great soundtrack that has a real John Carpenter vibe to it that I noticed right away. That was a solid choice. Second is that in spite of me wanting more I will admit the filmmakers did a wonderful job including a message and making a political point without ruining what is an otherwise solid zombie flick. George Romero is my favorite filmmaker and I don’t think I’ve seen anyone use the zombie genre to deliver a message this astutely since Dawn of the Dead.

This is a pretty good movie that I can recommend. I worry that the hype might make an otherwise fun movie disappointing to a viewer that has been exposed to it. This isn’t a perfect flick, nor is it the classic that some people are trying to claim it is, but it is damn good. Manage your expectations and let Blood Quantum stand on its own. I think you will be pleased. 


© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer



Monday, October 19, 2020

Automaton Transfusion (2006)

 


I’m back with another independent zombie movie. I remember watching and not liking this one at all when I first caught it back when it was first released on DVD. But I’ve been cleaning out my storage locker so I thought I should check it out to see whether or not I should rehome it or keep it in my collection. Spoiler… I can’t wait to be rid of it!

I’m going to give you the plot, at least what there is of it, quickly. We are introduced to some teenagers. One group goes to a concert in the city, the other attends a house party. Some zombies show up earlier in the day, but that doesn’t seem to put a damper on their plans. Then a bunch of zombies show up and start eating people, which does get their attention. The run around a lot, both the kids and the zombies (damn I hate that!) until almost everyone is dead. Along the way we get characters that drop in out of nowhere and a silly plot about government experiments and undercover agents. That about sums it up.

This movie ties into a couple of the things that I keep harping on here at Crappy Movie Reviews. If you have read my reviews, you might remember where I keep mentioning that I end up watching a lot of terrible independent zombie movies on the hope of seeing a good one. Automaton Transfusion is one of those punishments that I must take while looking for something worthwhile.

If you have read my reviews of independent movies you will also remember my motto that a low budget doesn’t prevent you from writing a cohesive script that takes into account your resources and locations. The story with Automaton Transfusion is quite the mess. First how is it that the characters don’t seem all that concerned that one of their classmates “zombies out” and tries to eat a teacher? Seriously they don’t even discuss it and head off to their planned evening activities. I get kids are stupid, but not that stupid! Other than this huge plot hole it was also apparent that they had no idea how to transition from one location to the next. The group of guys that went to the concert suddenly show up at the door to the party to save the one girl left without explanation or even an establishing shot of them arriving.

We also have three separate instances of random characters either showing up to die or worse give the speech to explain why things are happening.  There is the random guy in the shed and the bartender who exist to die horribly, possibly to pad out the effect shots. And then the janitor/army secret agent who explains the movie’s plot and then provides them with the McGuffin that drives the rest of the story. You can do this sort of thing, but don’t be so obvious about it and work a little bit harder to explain why they are there. Finally, we get the biggest screw you ending that I’ve seen in quite a while. It is pretty clear that they didn’t have an ending, so they just slapped a … to be continued… card when they arrived at the needed runtime. I can assume after all these years it isn’t going to happen. Thank God.


The plot isn’t the only thing that annoyed me about Automaton Transfusion. The absolute worst thing about the movie is the terrible camera work. Not only does it appear that this movie was shot on consumer grade equipment, but they don’t know how to shoot a movie. Every action scene is ruined by some terrible shaky cam that you will ever see. It is impossible to follow the action or know who is doing what due to it. But it isn’t just the action that is mangled. Instead of shooting inserts as character are talking to one another the damn camera keeps swinging back and forth to catch their lines. You are shooting on digital would it have killed you to shoot a few more takes? I felt like I was going to need some Dramamine before it was all over. Thankfully the movie is only seventy-five minutes long, though that felt like forever.

I will give Automaton Transfusion some credit when it comes to the special effects. The zombies are all generic and this is one of the few movies in the genre that lacks a featured flesh eater. But we do get some gore that given the lack of quality overall is strangely done with some passable practical effects. Throats are ripped, limbs torn off, and heads smashed. The best kill is a jaw getting ripped off a girl’s face. The funniest thing you will see is a fetus getting ripped out of a pregnant woman and getting chowed down on by a zombie. I suppose that shouldn’t be funny. Then again, I watch a ton of independent zombie movies, so I’m probably irreparably damaged by now. Again, I would have expected this to be some shitty digital work considering what the rest of the movie was, but I’ll be damned if we don’t get a healthy dose of latex mayhem. Sadly, the lousy camerawork ruins a lot of the best gags by making them almost impossible to see and follow. Still I wanted to give the filmmakers some credit.

Okay I’ve said something nice now I can let you know that I don’t recommend this movie at all. There is nothing of value here and it is a total waste of seventy-five minutes. I’m sure that you can find a way better use of an evening than watching this mess. I would suggest watching paint dry or perhaps YouTube videos of nut shots. Trust me it’s way more entertaining.

 

Ó Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Zombieland (2009)

 


Like many other fans I have a complicated history with this movie. On one hand it feels like it is kind of making fun of the subgenre of horror (zombies) that I love so much. But on the other hand, I also understand that this was a natural reaction to the glut of zombie movies, books, and television shows that were everywhere. I mean suddenly zombies went from niche to mainstream, so this was bound to happen. Plus, the movie itself is sort of harmless fun, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Things kick off with us meeting our main character named Columbus... well that really isn’t his name. All of our characters answer to the names of their hometowns. Something about not getting attached to people during the zombie apocalypse. Getting back to it Columbus has been surviving by using his rules, which will be reinforced again and again as they appear superimposed on the screen. He eventually meets up with Tallahassee, played by Woody Harrelson, and the two of them start to travel together. After a few mishaps while looking for Twinkies they run into a couple of con artists in Wichita and her sister Little Rock. This leads to more zombie related shenanigans and eventually the big finale at an amusement park.

Let me begin by addressing some of the issues that I know fans have with the movie. First, we have the rules and more importantly the breaking of the fourth wall when Columbus speaks directly to the audience to explain them. I think that annoys genre fans because it can feel like the rules kind of make fun of the tropes of the genre and they aren’t wrong. But as I mentioned earlier there were so many of these movies and shows coming out that it became very predictable how they were going to play out. If you look at pop culture when something is this popular it is going to get parodied. In many ways that is what Zombieland is, a parody of the genre.

Though unlike many inferior parodies it also works as a decent entry into the zombie genre. If you can get past the tongue in cheek humor you will see that there are some decent kills and the gore, while mostly digital, is plentiful enough to satisfy those looking for a bloody good time. Well at least this gore hound was happy with it. The zombie designs are also decent, and some thought is put into making the feature zombies memorable with obvious evidence of how they became undead. This is even true of some of the inserts that are shown as flashbacks having nothing to do with the characters or story. The zombie kill of the week gag is a neat plot device to include over the top zombie action without it connecting to the plot allowing them to dream up elaborate kills without having to work them into the story. Who doesn’t love that?

The second issue that I hear a lot of complaints ties about is the cast and characters, which I just don’t get. I understand that Jesse Eisenberg isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and the script doesn't do him any favors by overplaying the nerdy elements of his character. But he is a decent actor and has some chemistry with Woody Harrelson, which gives the movie it’s heart. Plus, Harrelson steals every scene that he is in and gets most of the best jokes. Though as I think about it the movie does play it close to the vest with one character being the typical nerdy guy playing video games and drinking mountain dew while the other is a gun toting redneck that paints an Earnhardt three on every car he steals. Screw it I still like the characters.

Bottom line for me is that you get some zombies, a little bit of gore, some funny jokes, and can turn your brain off for a couple of hours. Not every horror movie needs to be serious or groundbreaking. Some can just be harmless and silly fun. This is exactly what Zombieland is trying to be and I think it succeeds. I recommend it.

 

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Little Monsters (2019)

 


Well damn it Australia did it again! There must be something in the water down under because they keep cranking out interesting horror flicks. I remember watching the trailer for Little Monsters and immediately adding it to my must-see list. It took a couple months, but it was worth the wait.

Uncle Dave has a lot of issues, the first of which is that he is a man child that hasn’t grown up. We find this out early on as the movie shows scene after scene of him arguing with his girlfriend. She wants to talk about kids and him getting a job, where he won’t let go of his band, which we later find out is long broken up. This leads to him getting kicked out and moving in with his big sister and her adorable young son Felix. Thru them he meets Felix’s teacher, Miss Caroline, and volunteers to chaperone their field trip to a petting zoo. Why? Because Uncle Dave is smitten with her.

This petting zoo is right next door to a military base where of course they are studying zombies. The undead get loose and soon it is just Dave and Caroline protecting a class of scared kids as they are surrounded by the hungry corpses. Oh, and I almost forgot the best part. Josh Gad makes an appearance as a bitter children’s show host named Teddy McGiggle. Honestly, he has the best lines and steals almost every scene he is in. The character is an unrepentant asshole who is looking out for number one. People die, zombies eat, and the military calls in an airstrike to cover things up before we get to a very satisfying and oddly sweet ending.

Josh Gad is awesome
That is the strangest thing about this movie. At its core the movie is less about zombies, death, and flesh-eating then it is about Dave growing up and realizing what is important in life. Like I said the movie is sweet in how it shows the relationship between Felix and his uncle developing and how the kid makes him grow up. Don’t get me wrong there are lots of funny lines, again Josh Gad is awesome, and plenty of gore on the screen. Little Monsters delivers those goods while at the same time giving you characters with a story arc that you can root for and identify with. In a market that is flooded with zombies this makes Little Monsters stand out. I consider that to be a good thing.

The zombies look good
Enough with the love I’m giving the characters and story. We need to talk zombies and gore now. Like I said I was satisfied with that I got. There are several feasting scenes, flesh is torn, people die horribly, and blood is sprayed all over the cast and scenery. If you have read my other zombie movie reviews, you also know that I’m very picky about the design of the monsters. Here they all have their own look and don’t feel like an assembly line put them together. The featured zombies have obvious signs of how they died and look gruesome. Most of them are fresh so the makeup doesn’t get too elaborate but what we do get is well executed.

Clearly, I’m going to recommend Little Monsters to you. It gave me what I expected from a zombie movie while giving me a story I didn’t see coming. This is a perfect example of a filmmaker who didn’t forget that they needed an actual story and just not a bunch of gore. Check this one out, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Ó Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

One Cut of the Dead (2017)

 


I like zombie movies and I like Japanese horror movies so when this popped up on Shudder it was a no brainer. I watch a lot of low budget horror, specifically a lot of low budget zombie movies. They are a mixed bag, but sometimes you get something really special. This was one of those times.

I’m debating how to do the plot synopsis. To do it properly I’m going to spoil somethings and honestly that would be a real shame. So, before you continue, I would recommend that you go and watch the movie. Yes, I’m recommending the movie before actually talking about it. This is one of the most creative and entertaining zombie movies that I’ve watched in a very long time. Now should you continue reading then that means you have agreed to the spoilers and can’t get mad at me.

This is the best zombie movie that doesn’t actually have zombies in it that I’ve ever seen. How exactly does that work? Allow me to explain. The first part of the movie is about what you would expect from a no budget zombie flick. Shaky camera work, awkward dialogue, mediocre special effects work, and an abandoned building as a location. We watch as a low budget zombie movie is being shot, only to have an actual zombie outbreak happen. This is a story that we have seen before, so the movie wasn’t terrible original. I think it had something to do with a curse and haunting of the location where they were shooting. I was rolling my eyes but stuck with it because that is what I do. Then something amazing happened, the end credits rolled.

I’m not being sarcastic with that last sentence. We were about halfway thru when the movie ended. Then the action rolled back to a month earlier. The meat of the story is following the director and the cast as they prepare for shooting what we just watched. It is to be a live broadcast without any cuts, which explains the title. All of the flaws and issues that I was having with the movie are explained in a very amusing and entertaining fashion. This second half is the actual story and what we watched before was just setting it up.  We get to see them overcome the obstacles that occur, which ties into some of the awkward dialogue and weird twists the movie takes. Let me be clear, this is a zombie movie about a crew making a zombie movie where a real zombie outbreak happens but doesn’t. Damn that wasn’t clear at all.

What I thought was a bad zombie flick turned out to be a very creative and funny comedy about the people making it. I love it when a filmmaker plays with an audience’s expectations and gives them something different but still entertaining. It is also amazing how the cast is so terrible when in the movie within the movie but are great when playing the characters behind the scenes. The actors are portraying bad actors but are so good at it that you think they are bad when they are actually great. Confused yet? Not sure if this is due to their talent or the direction, but it worked. They had me convinced I was watching a bad movie before it all shifted around.

There isn’t much more I can say about One Cut of the Dead other than to recommend everyone go out and watch it. Though if you took my advice you already have done that before reading this review. Even if you allowed it to be spoiled for you, I think it is still worth watching. It is currently streaming on Shudder so get yourself a subscription and check it out.

 

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Monday, October 12, 2020

Deadsight (2018)


 

Every so often I decide to make a blind buy at my local big box store, normally on an independent movie that was lucky enough to get distribution and some shelf space. Deadsight looked like one of those and it was a low budget zombie movie. I’m always on the lookout for a new zombie movie, which means I’ve sat thru many bad ones. Where does Deadsight fall? Let’s find out.

The movie kicks off with a guy, Ben, waking up in the back of an ambulance. He doesn’t know where everyone else is and his eyes are bandaged. He is also handcuffed to the gurney. We watch as he struggles to get himself free and navigate without his sight. It isn’t long before he has his first encounter with a zombie, which obviously freaks him out. Our other character is a very pregnant sheriff’s deputy named Mara. She gets up for work and has no idea that anything is wrong except for her radio not working. That is until she has her run in with an infected, but not yet full on zombie, who carjacks her! Didn’t see that coming… The two main characters eventually meet up and spend the rest of the day trying to survive.

I liked this movie for a couple of reasons. First it does an excellent job of knowing what the budget was and telling a story that they could afford to put on screen. The locations are tiny and easy to control. There is the ambulance, a farmhouse, a trailer, and a power station all of which they use really well. They keep the cast small and the characters isolated so that they never have to explain and more importantly show what is happening in the rest of the world. Way too many of these low budget zombie flicks get ambitious and end up looking terrible as they overuse CGI to fill in the blanks. This movie lets the viewer’s imagination do that heavy lifting for them.

The other reason I enjoyed Deadsight was them making Ben blind, though he slowly gets his sight back as the day goes on. This allows them to do some creepy things with zombies sneaking up on him. There is one particular gag with an open door at the farmhouse that was a lot of fun. Him fighting blindly is also well staged and interesting to see. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a zombie movie with a character like this. If you are going to make a zombie flick you need to have your own twist to make it stand out and I think that those responsible for Deadsight nailed it.

Zombie or pre-zombie carjacker!

The zombies look decent, though again they were clearly on a budget. Mostly they are fresh as are the infected we get to meet before they go full zombie. The work is effective but subdued. There aren’t any kills onscreen, but some zombies do get dispatched. Sadly, this is done with CGI, including a really dumb disintegrating head gag that they keep using and that looks terrible onscreen.

Normally the lack of practical effects work would be a deal breaker for me but Deadsight feels more like a flick that is focused on the characters and the story. Why was Ben cuffed to the gurney? That is something that is always beneath the surface but never completely explained. There are hints why and that might even play into the ending, but they never give you the wholes story. Sometimes that can be annoying, but there it works pretty well. This isn’t a perfect movie, but it is an interesting one that I’m going to recommend. 


© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

 

 

 

Friday, October 9, 2020

Zoombies 2 (2019)


 

Some people like shitty movies and some people don’t. If you haven’t realized it yet, please let me clue you in on the fact that I am one of the former. I just can’t help myself and am a sucker for the movies from the Asylum. They can be poorly made, have an absurd premise, but as long as they aren’t boring, I’m in. So where does Zoombies 2 fall?

The action kicks off with some poachers sneaking into an animal sanctuary for some easy scores. One of them, Jezel, has developed a new drug to knock the critters out. Putting holes in the skin is bad for business you see. This has the unintended side effect of causing the animals to become zombies, though later it feels more like they are infected. Regardless this spreads throughout the sanctuary infecting other animals. All of them craze human flesh. Why? Well Jezel engineered it so that the drug wouldn’t affect human beings. Because of Science stuff that means the only cure is human beings and eating their flesh. That seems like poor planning.

This is a stupid movie. I think that we all knew that the minute the poster was teased online. The plot is simple, linear, and has that been there done that feel to it. Of course, the group splits up and some of them get stranded outside with the animals. And yes, they have to walk back to the facility Jurassic Park style. Really folks there is nothing new here at all. Within ten seconds I could have and actually did predict who was going to survive till the end. But not everything has to be clever or artistic. Sometimes you can just make it fun. I thought Zoombies 2 was fun.

Why do I say that? Let me give you a couple examples. First there are the cutesy meerkats that go all zombie and chew on some poachers. This includes leaping from nowhere to rip up some faces as well as eating a dude’s fingers off. Don’t get too excited because the gore is all digital, but it still made me laugh. The other example borders way more on the WTF side of the equation and involves a crocodile that apparently sneaks thru the pipes and bursts out of a toilet. Please don’t try and overthink that one as it makes no sense. Again though, it made me laugh.

Zombie Meerkats!
We get a ton of CGI zombie animals. They look like crap but are sort of amusing. There are lions, rhinos, crocodiles, and hippos. But my favorite are the zombie porcupines that can now toss quills like deadly weapons. These animals keep attacking and killing off the humans who are basically continually doing stupid things. I kind of had fun rooting for the zombie animals, which I’m thinking is the point.

I’m going to say it again. Zoombies 2 is a shitty movie. It is also one that I got a kick out of. While I don’t feel the need to ever watch this again if they make Zoombies 3 I’ll be there. I mean since Zoombies 2 is basically a prequel to the first in the series we really should see a proper sequel to wrap the story up. Right? I probably shouldn’t recommend this movie, but I’m going to. Consider yourself warned and let me know if you do watch it what you think.

 

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Shed of the Dead (2019)

 


Another day and another independent zombie movie. This time I decided to check out a zombie comedy from England. There have been a lot of these zombie being made in England since Shaun of the Dead and some of them have been okay. I wonder where Shed of the Dead will fall?

Our main character is Trevor who likes to hang out in his shed painting miniatures and fantasizing about being a wizard and doing battle with the undead. He has a pal named Graham and together they play a fantasy wargame, which is feeding Trevor’s active imagination. There is also a nagging wife, Bobbi, and her best girlfriend Harriet. That is about it for our main characters. After quickly being introduced they are tossed into the zombie apocalypse as the dead rise from the grave to attack the living. The rest of the movie is Trevor and Graham going to rescue the ladies and then the four of them trying to survive the night.

I’ve already mentioned Shaun of the Dead in this review and it is sort of the eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the room. You can’t talk British made zombie comedies without eventually comparing them to that movie. I would think that job number one is to distance yourself from that movie, which is exactly what Shed of the Dead doesn’t do. Our heroes are the same kind of loveable losers that we got in that movie. Instead of video games and hanging out at the pub we get wargaming and hanging out in a basement. Not to say Shed of the Dead doesn’t have its moments, because it does. There are some very funny jokes here, the twenty-eight fortnights later gag was great. They just didn’t do enough to make me forget the movies that came before it and get sucked into their story.

Something that Shed of the Dead excels at would be the normally dreaded stunt casting. This movie boasts three onscreen cameos and a fourth audio one. Bill Moseley plays a serial killer who is enjoying the apocalypse a bit too much but is friendly enough to Trevor and his friends. We also get Michael Berryman in a very small role that consists of him basically wearing an awful wig and a butt plug… don’t ask. My favorite is Kane Hodder playing the snobbish and uptight Mr. Parsons. I’ve never seen him in a role like this and it was awesome to see him get to show off some acting chops. That alone is enough for me to like the movie. Brian Blessed does the narration and it was a treat to hear his distinctive voice.

Bill Mosley is awesome in this movie!
The gore is decent for a low budget movie. There is a rake to the head, legs get chopped off, a face gets bitten, a tongue gets munched on, and we have multiple zombie kills. Some of it is CGI, which I don’t love, but the kills are well thought out and creative. These zombies are the fresh type with most of them sporting basic makeup. But if you pay close attention you can see the reason that many of them died. That is a pet peeve of mine and they do a great job of that here. All in all, for a low budget modern zombie flick I have few complaints.

This isn’t going to be a movie that I revisit often or possibly at all. It has a “been there done that” vibe to it that takes away from the experience somewhat. Still many jokes land and the zombies are decent enough looking that I can recommend checking it out once. I’ve seen way worse ways to kill ninety minutes.

 

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

For a Few Zombies More (2015)

 


When I saw the title I expected a weird mashup of Spaghetti Western and zombie movie, which I thought for sure was going to suck. But right from the start I realized that wasn’t at all what this movie was going to be. That grabbed my interest right away.

The movie begins with zombies… duh. We see a man ride up to a store on a horse, decked out like a cowboy. He pokes around and seems excited to find a grocery bag of VHS tapes and DVDs. This is Chuck, a survivor of the zombie apocalypse and a former video store clerk who has made it his mission to save the movies. As he states later on, he figures someone is saving the books and art so saving movies is him doing his part.

Later he meets up with a woman who is fleeing zombie eaters, a gang of people that eat zombies! She refuses to give him her name, so she becomes the Girl with No Name. See where the movie gets its title from? They are followed and Chuck is taken hostage by the zombie eaters which leads them to meeting up with Lee, a militia member with a lot of explosives. Eventually the trio end up on a road trip to save a scientist that just might have a cure to the zombie plague.

Okay first I was expecting to hate the character of Chuck. I mean a video store clerk is going to lead to a lot of references which normally annoys the heck out of me. But here it is done very differently, and the writers cleverly avoid zombie references. Star Wars and Star Trek you get, but they hardly mention a zombie movie. When they do it is 28 Days Later and the characters have a brief but funny exchange about it being an infected movie and not zombies. This is just one example of how well this movie is written.

Another example of the decent writing is the pacing. There isn’t a slow spot in the story. The introduction of the characters is doled out slowly as the action moves along. A fatal flaw that many low budget horror movies have is the scene with everyone talking and explaining who they are, which kills any momentum their movie might have. Here you get to know the characters in a more organic way as the story unfolds. Let me yet again mention how annoyed I get when an independent movie spends no time making sure it has a decent script, which is the one thing they have control over and doesn’t cost money. For a Few Zombies More does an excellent job giving us dialogue and a story that keeps the audience engaged from start to finish.

Some other things I wanted to mention would be the cast which, is solid. The zombies look decent, though many have the pasty face with black circles under their eyes. I don’t expect high end latex effects work when watching a low budget zombie movie and can forgive this. Same goes for the kills, which aren’t bad but are also not explicit. I also rather enjoyed the origins of the zombies in this world. I won’t spoil it here other than to say I’m hoping they make a sequel. Phase II is ZOMBIE WEREWOLVES!!!!!

My only complaints are that occasionally the music intrudes on the scene and is far louder than it needs to be. I also didn’t understand the need for the band they run into that is hanging out recording an album in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. Sure, they end up trading the tape later, but then I could have also done without the D.J. Dan bit as well. Both of these scenes seemed forced and felt like a favor to someone. But if that is the worst thing that I can say about your movie then you have done a good job. I’m going to recommend For a Few Zombies More. This is the sort of independent movie that makes me sitting thru all the horrible ones worth the effort.

 

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Monday, October 5, 2020

Undead (2003)

 


The zombie movies keep coming with this low budget Australian entry into the genre. The small fishing village of Berkeley becomes the unfortunate target of a series of meteorite strikes. As if the damage isn’t bad enough anyone killed by them immediately comes back as a zombie and starts to chow down on their friends and family! Things quickly get out of hand and soon the town is overrun. You might think that is the worst thing that happens to them. But soon after the zombies rise some aliens show up and build a huge wall around the town trapping the survivors in with the walking corpses attacking them. Aliens and zombies! That will ruin your day.

Our main characters are a beauty queen named Rene and a survivalist named Marion. Rene waited one day too long to leave town as she and her agent were headed to the big city when things went to hell. Marion on the other hand has known all along that something like this was coming. You know since he was the town crazy that kept talking about his abduction by aliens. Together with some other survivors they spend the movie running away from zombies, being attacked by them, abducted by aliens, covered in the acid rain that starts pouring from the sky, and generally being terrorized. Do any of them survive? Why are the aliens hanging around? Is Marion a badass action star name in Australia? Some of these questions are answered by the time the end credits roll.

Before I begin the review, it must be pointed out that Undead is not a straight horror movie and is instead played for laughs. This is important because if it weren’t, I’d be much harder on some of the dialogue and characters. For example, the senior constable basically spends the entire movie shouting his lines which are filled with all sorts of creative profanity. Captain Rhodes he is not. But since this is more or less a comedy with zombies, I found the character to be funny rather than annoying. The same goes for the cartoonish violence which includes some of the most absurd Gun Fu that you will ever see. Marion pulls guns from nowhere, hangs upside down, wields a silly three barreled shotgun, and even has an epic fight with a zombie fish! Things get absurd and I have to say I love it.

The special effects work is a mix of bad CGI and decent practical effects work. The spaceship, aliens, and some of the ambitious zombie effects are mediocre at best and sometimes cringeworthy. This was common in low budget movies that were trying to stretch their funds when Undead was made and I don’t miss it. But they also do some good practical work. Heads go flying, a can of soda explodes a head, a brain gets punched out of the back of a noggin’, and we get to see a face come off. The movie gives gore hounds something to sink their teeth into and deserves to be seen for that alone. There is even some work done with an improvised saw blade/broom handle weapon that was bloody and fun.

The movie ends with a twist that itself has another twist added onto it. It doesn’t feel forced and is sort of clever. We are also left with the feeling that there could be a sequel to sort things out, but after sixteen years I suppose that isn’t coming, which is a bummer. If you haven’t caught on yet I’m recommending Undead.

 

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Saturday, October 3, 2020

The Night Eats the World (2018)


A French zombie movie… Okay that is a new one for me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a take on zombie genre from France before so what the heck. I mean they couldn’t possibly make it artsy, could they? Then again they are French…

Sam is a musician who has broken up with his girlfriend but chooses to show up at her place to pick up his tapes while she is having a big party. Though that might be her setting him up since it is hinted that they broke up because he prefers to live a solitary life. That plays into the plot of the movie later. Anyway, he falls asleep in a backroom and when he wakes up the world has gone to hell. Everyone is either dead or the living dead. Yep zombies took over while he napped! The rest of the movie is Sam securing the building, gathering up food, and enjoying being alone. That is until he isn’t. I guess not having to deal with other people isn’t so great when you never get to deal with anyone. 

This is an interesting movie. It starts off with Sam at first locking himself into the apartment before eventually being forced out to look for food. He isn’t your typical zombie movie character and doesn’t immediately become a cinematic badass. Instead we get a guy that struggles hurting the zombies and would rather trap them or run away. Eventually he is forced to take over the entire building, so he has enough food to survive on. Since he is alone much of this story is told quietly without dialogue. This leads to a sense of isolation that initially we see Sam enjoying, but that eventually wears on him, and because of how the movie is staged it also wears on the viewer. That was a nifty bit of storytelling. But then things go a bit wonky.

A woman using climbing gear shows up and scares Sam, so he shoots her! This is a bummer since by this time he is craving human company and you think that he has killed his once chance at it. Though he nurses her back to health with the meager First Aid kit at his disposal. At first it was nice to have another character for him to interact with because honestly the movie had slowed way down before this happens. But then there is an odd twist with his new friend and the movie goes complete off the rails. I guess some might consider it clever, but it just annoyed me. Not going to spoil it just in case you want to check The Night Eats the World out. 

My final thoughts on the movie are this. It has an interesting story that quickly gets bogged down with a plot that meanders thru our main character collecting canned goods and other such thrilling action. That might be a realistic take on what would happen, but this is a movie and is supposed to be entertaining. Sam does nothing except get progressively crazier from the isolation. When the movie does toss a life ring to the main character and we the audience in the form of the woman it quickly screws that up. While beautifully shot there isn’t enough story to recommend it. If you do watch it, I can’t imagine a second viewing ever being needed so try and catch it on a streaming service or rental. 


© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer


Friday, October 2, 2020

Fairfield (2014)

 


The movie begins with Gabriel playing around with his new camera while talking to his girlfriend and his big brother Michael. Everything seems to be great and you can see that they really get along well. But then the action switches to sometime later. We find the brothers packing in a dark house while something horrible is clearly happening outside. That thing is zombies, though at times they seem to be more infected, but they call them zombies. Michael is killed, and Gabriel makes his way to the high school where he meets up with some seniors who are hiding in the library. They deal with zombies, high school shenanigans, an almost rape, and infection in their midst. Oh, and an infected nurse played by Juliet Landau who has a small but memorable role.

The first thing that I thought when the movie started was that I was in store for another found footage zombie flick. Thankfully while the camera plays an important role this is a traditionally shot movie. Not only that but they did an excellent job with the lighting and camerawork so that it is dark enough to be creepy but also is easy to see what is going on. It was nice to see that my first impression was going to be wrong and that I would be surprised by what I ended up with. That will become a common theme in this review.

The first part of the movie with Gabriel in his house and then traveling to the school is boring and looks cheap. This doesn’t look like the end of the world but instead like they shot in the early hours of a Sunday morning when no one would be around. I have issues with independent filmmakers trying to shoot stories that they don’t have the resources for. Write the script and tailor the story to fit what you can afford to shoot. To do otherwise dooms you to failure.

The cast was decent
I was prepared to be disappointed by the rest of Fairfield but then Gabriel meets up with the other survivors and things get interesting. At first these characters seem to fit certain tropes that you would expect. The Jock, the pretty airhead girl, the nice girl, and the smart guy are all on display. But the writing takes them and turns them into actual people with issues and depth. Even the jock, who we all know is going to be trouble, has a vulnerable side that when rebuffed sets off his rage. He is infected by then, but we know had anger issues before.

Fairfield is an interesting movie in that it isn’t about the zombies but is instead focuses on the kids trying to survive and deal with each other. Now there are zombies and they do chase them, and violence happens. However, that isn’t the point here and that is sort of cool. Now if you are looking for a lot of gore or nonstop action this isn’t the one you should watch. On the other hand, if like me you have watched too many low budget zombie movies trying and failing to be epic and instead want to see something more contained and different then I can recommend Fairfield to you. Just make sure you have the correct expectations and I think you will dig it.

 

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Thursday, October 1, 2020

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)



I think that most horror fans were intrigued by the trailer for The Dead Don’t Die when it first dropped. There were a lot of familiar faces with both Oscar nominees and winners in the movie. It was odd to see a genre flick have this cast. I was even suspicious that it was all some sort of big joke. But it wasn’t and the movie was released. I watch a lot of bad independent zombie movies so why not this one?

Fracking has caused the planet to shift on its axis causing weird issues where the day lasts much longer as well as some other strange stuff. One of those things also happens to be that the dead come back to life. At least I think they must be zombies because they do shuffle around eating people. The radio and television reports make it seem like the world is ending and oddly enough our characters don’t seem to be too freaked out by that. Well except for Officer Mindy, played by Chloe Sevigny, who does have some concerns. Some more stuff happens and then there are aliens, and everyone dies. Except Hermit Bob who serves as the narrator at the end of the movie.

This movie is okay. It is trying hard to be weird and clever.  Early on it succeeds but after a while it seems forced. Bill Murray and Adam Driver have some very funny dialogue while sitting in the front seat of the police cruiser (Murry is the sheriff and Driver one of his deputies). Their delivery is very dry and kind of works for the scenes. They also break the fourth wall and talk about the script and the director randomly in the middle of the dialogue. I thought that was quirky and sort of fun. Again, I’m not totally sold on it, but I liked that this was something different. Tilda Swinton is fun to watch as the awkwardly strange undertaker who is fascinated with Samurai swords. Iggy Pop is also entertaining as the coffee loving zombie. Like I said though after a while the story seems to run out of gas and weird for the sake of weird is unable to sustain it.

There are some clever references to Romero’s work which I appreciated. There is a bit where Hermit Bob makes some comments about consumerism as well as some zombies who seem intent on finding their Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections. Be warned the zombies here talk a bit. Selena Gomez’s character even drives a familiar car, which I sort of wish they didn’t mention in the dialogue and kept on the down low. There is also a monster obsessed character who runs a convivence store filled with Creepy Magazines and Ghoulardi stickers! That last one might only be fun for those of us who grew up in Northeast Ohio like the director Jim Jarmusch.

Iggy Pop makes for a good zombie!
So clearly there are some things that I really liked about this movie. But the biggest problem is how much it meanders thru the story. There are long stretches were the thing drags and is painfully slow. We get characters like the kids in the detention center that don’t seem to have a purpose at all. Even the Selena Gomez character and her friends only exist to drive the car in the movie. Well that and to make an excuse for the line about “Cleveland Hipsters”. The movie is over a hundred minutes long and could have used a bit of editing.

If you like a lot of gore in your zombie movies, and really who doesn’t, this isn’t the movie for you. The zombies are filled with black dust so not much going on there. There are a couple of moments of gut munching that is decent, but most of the good stuff happens off screen and/or is done with CGI. All of the zombies are very fresh even the ones that are dressed as if they have been dead for a very long time.

I feel like The Dead Don’t Die is a hipster zombie movie made by people who like the genre but maybe don’t understand it too well. All the things that horror fans are expecting to see just aren’t here. Then again maybe they weren’t making the movie for horror fans. But if they weren’t then are they making fun of us? I’m just not sure. In the end is this worth a look? I’d say maybe. Consider that a recommendation with ample warning.

 

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

The Shitty Shark Show

Welcome to the Shitty Shark Show, the only podcast that I know of that focuses exclusively on shark movies. Your co-hosts are John, Maddie, Keith, and Monster aka. Donovan. Each episode we will do a deep dive on the cinematic misadventures of everyone's favorite apex predator the shark! Sometimes they are mutants, sometimes they have many heads, sometimes in the sand, and other times in the snow. It doesn't matter to us! 



It was Maddie's pick for the next show and she decided it was time to watch Sharks of the Corn. Will we see a shark named Malachai terrorizing Linda Hamilton? Probably not... but this could still be fun. See you in a couple of weeks with another exciting episode! And as always hit us up on Facebook if you want the crew to answer any shark or not shark related questions. 




Episode 1: Post Apocalyptic Commando Shark (2018)

In this first episode the Shitty Shark crew checks out this independent movie from director Sam Qualiana. Ever wonder what would happen if there was a nuclear war and afterwards the Soviet Union invaded the United States with genetically mutated shark soldiers? Well then I have the movie for you. If that wasn't enough for you Monster also sat down with Qualiana for an interview. Toss in some shark trivia and small talk for what I hope you think is a fun time. 



This time around the Shitty Shark Show crew travels to a magical time of wood paneled bars and live swimming shows. Yes it is the '70s and we are checking out Mako Jaws of Death. This bit of regional drive-in fun stars Richard Jaeckel and was directed by William Grefe. So button up your bell bottoms and sit back for some old school shark action! As always we hit you up with some shark trivia and have fun. 




Since it is that spooky time of year the Shitty Shark Show crew decided to check out this haunting feature... get it? Ghost Shark tells the tale of some rednecks who blow up the wrong shark or at least try to blow it up. Since the shark is able to swim to a nearby magical cave that lets its ghost come back to mess with things. Yeah it gets complicated. 





This time the crew checks out a movie that is likely to describe a lot of flicks that we have watched and will watch in the future for this show. Yeah we are taking a look at Bad CGI Sharks. Though this isn't at all the kind of movie that most fans would expect with that title. We can't wait to talk about it on the show. As an added bonus Maddie conducted an excellent interview with the guys responsible for the movie Jason and Matthew Ellsworth and Matteo Molinari. 



On this 5th installment of the show we check out Bait aka. Jaws in a grocery store! I know that sounds cheesy but this turned out to be a really great movie. As always we also toss in some Shark Bites like trivia and funny shark stories. Heck we even spitball the plot to our own epic... Ghost Gator Shark! 





On episode 6 we take a break from our normal mayhem to review a Christmas movie... with a Goddamn shark! Yeah we are going to cover Santa Jaws on this most festive time of the year. So crush up the Christmas cookies and bust out the Egg Nog because we are about to chum these festive waters!




Episode 7 has us taking a look at the classic shark movie that adds an entirely new dimension to the shark subgenre. Yes I'm talking about Jaws III in 3D! See what I did there with the new dimension? Heh I made a funny... This may be the greatest throwdown between a great white shark and Louis Gosset Jr. So tune in and hear our thoughts on this classic. 




Episode 8 has us spending the first show of 2021 looking at the newer shark flick, The Reef. Okay it isn't that new being 11 years old, but I've never seen it so it is new to me. Plus it is Australian and they seem to have a magic formula for making bad ass genre movies. So tune in and see what the crew has to say about The Reef on the next episode of the Shitty Shark Show. 



Episode 9 has us finally getting around to some proper Italian Jawsploitation. Yes we are going to check out Cruel Jaws aka. Jaws 5. This gem, directed by Bruno Mattei, has to be seen to be believed. But is it good? You will just have to listen to the show to find out what we think. Head on over to our Facebook page linked below to ask us any questions.




Our 10th episode has us checking out something a bit different. First up is I'm fairly certain it doesn't take place in the water. Second it has a shark man in it, so part man part shark. Of course I'm talking about the Sci-Fi channel jam Sharkman! This one stars Jeffrey Combs and William Forsythe so you know it has to be good!




It was John's pick and again he dove into the '70s for The Shark Hunter. This bit of Italian cinema doesn't have bootleg Hulk Hogan in it but does star Franco Nero and was directed by Enzo Castellari. More of a crime drama then shark movie it still does have the requisite munching of limbs by our fine finned friends. It should be a good time. 




What do we have in store for you this time? What do you get when you have the less famous brother of an acting family searching for hidden treasure? Well it was Keith's turn to pick a movie and he decided to go for 2008's Sharks in Venice, so there is your answer. It stars Stephen Baldwin so you know it has to be good. 





It was Maddie's pick this time around and she chose to inflict Shark Attack 3: Megalodon on us. This "gem" from 2002 stars John Barrowman whom most of you probably know from either Doctor Who or Arrow. The movie is best known for his improvised line that was supposed to be a joke but stayed in the movie. I'll not ruin that here, so tune in next time and hear our thoughts on this shittiest of shark movies. 




It was Monster's turn and he decided to pick from a series I think we all knew was going to pop up sooner or later. Yes we are finally diving into the Sharknado series with Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! Ever wanted to see the Hoff do battle with sharks being tossed around in a tornado? Well then my friends this is the movie for you. This ought to be a fun show. 





Well this time around it was John's pick. Since the disappointment of not getting the proper time travel Sharknado starring Dolph Lundgren was still fresh in his mind after watching Sharknado 3 it seemed appropriate to pick Shark Lake from 2015. It stars Dolph and promises some sharky goodness. 




Keith is up next and has decided that we need to cover Sand Sharks. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water you can't even make it off the beach! Brooke Hogan is in it so yeah... we are probably in trouble. But that is what you have come to expect from us right? I mean we are the Shitty Shark Show!




It was Maddie's pick this time around and she decided we should watch Deep Blood from 1990. It looks like another fun bit of Italian filmmaking. Sadly no bootleg Hulk Hogan this time around. So check out what we think of this odd movie about a creepy old guy giving some kids a quiver with a bunch of carvings on it that may or may not be important later.



This time around it was Monster's pick and he decided to do something different and had us watch a documentary called Shark Water Extinction. So I guess there is zero chance of a bootleg Hulk Hogan sighting. But we do get some interesting and rather disturbing visuals of how sharks are harvested. Though some shenanigans are called with a few things in the movie. Check out the episode linked above for more info. 



Well it was John's turn to pick a shark movie and his love of Roger Corman led him to picking Sharktopus. Hey it is at least it is half shark! Plus we get to see Eric Roberts not totally phoning in his performance for maybe the last time. Toss in some Ralph Garmin and a fun Roger Corman cameo for a good time. 




We have been covering a lot of older movies or independent flicks here on the show. I suppose it was time to cover a big budget new release, so Great White it is! This movie has been getting a lot of negative buzz so tune in to hear what we think. Plus John picks a fight with the internet and we play a game show!




It was Keith's turn to pick a movie and he decided we should watch Dam Sharks. Hey it couldn't be worse than Shark in Venice... could it? I mean how bad could the damn movie about these damn sharks building a dam be?