Pet Sematary (1989)

On the last day of Zombruary, we revisit a Stephen King classic!

One from the re watch pile…

Pet Sematary (1989)

Film: Whilst I am a pretty big horror fan, and I mean movies, comics, video games and books… in all its forms really… I have never been the biggest fan of Stephen King’s books. In the 80s I read horror novels non-stop as my trip to and from work was a long and boring ride. Unfortunately I don’t read as much anymore, but I blame my addiction to video games and the internet for that.

That’s not to say that I don’t like Stephen King though. The many MANY movies that have been based on his books I have always found to be an interesting distraction and occasionally I’ve even liked them. I guess what that means is I’ve always liked his ideas, but don’t like his writing style and find reading his books to be a laborious act.

Pet Sematary was made based on a screenplay that King himself did based on his book of the same name, and was directed by Mary Lambert, the director of a bunch of Madonna’s early videos and of the inevitable sequel Pet Sematary 2.

Pet Sematary tells of the Creed family: Louis (Dale Midkiff), a Doctor, his wife Rachel (Denise Crosby), their daughter Ellie (played by twins Beau and Blaze Berdahl) and son Gage (Mike Hughes) who have just moved to a new house next to a busy highway.

Soon after they move in, their cat Church is hit by a truck, and their neighbour across the street, Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne) tells Louis that there is an old Native American burial ground behind a pet cemetery hidden in the woods. Louis and Jud take Church and bury him, without the rest of the family’s knowledge, and very soon, Church comes back… but now he’s mean, and smells.

A further tragedy hits the family when their boy Gage is hit by a truck, and ignoring Church’s personality change, and the warnings from the spirit of a dead cyclist who he tried to help, Pascow (Brad Greenquist), Louis exhumes his body and takes him to the burial ground. It when he returns he’s no longer their baby boy…

This story, based loosely on The Monkey’s Paw, with its ‘wishes gone wrong’ scenario, is probably one of King’s best. The film benefits from Lambert’s direction as she seems to be really in touch with the family relationships and the quality of acting from all concerned, especially the children, really sells the tale well. The appearance of Gwynne, best known as Herman Munster from The Munsters is a revelation as well, and you don’t think of him as Herman at all through the film.

This is the best type of horror film as the horror really comes from bad decisions and tragedy, rather than an external threat that is completely random.

Score: ***1/2

Format: Pet Sematary was reviewed using the Australian Bluray which runs for approximately 104 minutes and is presented in a decent 1.78:1 image with a matching DTS-HD 5.1 audio.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: A great bunch of extras on this disc:

The Commentary by Mary Lambert was done a while after it was made and so we rely on Lambert’s memory for the details of what happened during the course of the filming. It’s a fairly thorough commentary though I think she may occasionally get distracted by what she is watching s there a moments of quiets from her.

Stephen King Territory sees actors, cast, crew and even King himself discuss the origins of the story.

The Characters dissects all the characters motivations and the actors who play them.

Filming The Horror looks at how the crew got away with doing the effects for the film.

Score: ****

WISIA: Pet Sematary works on many levels and has enough shocks to warrant repeat viewing.


The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974)

One from the re watch pile…

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974)

Film: As with all film fans, there are ‘Holy Grails’ on my mental checklist of ‘need to sees’ and before I had seen it, this was one of mine. This film, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, is also known as Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (which is more or less a translation of the Italian title “Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti” which literally means “You must not desecrate the sleep of the dead”) and Don’t Open the Window. I had these three films on my list, and for some reason I was ignorant of the fact that they were one in the same film.

Imagine my joy when I found out they were one and the same.

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue tells the following tale: George (Ray Lovelock) is an antiques dealer who enjoys his weekends in the country, away from the hustle and bustle and pollution of the big city. One weekend on his way to his retreat, he has a small accident with the gorgeous Edna (Christine Galbo) who is on the way to assist her brother in law Martin (Jose Lifante) in an intervention with her heroin addicted sister, Katie (Jeannine Mestre). Unfortunately his motorbike is wrecked, and so Edna offers to take him to where he has to go in her car.

Typically they get lost, and George stops to ask for directions at a farm that is using a revolutionary pest control technique that has a disturbing side effect: it brings the dead back to life! Whilst George is away from the car, Edna is attacked by one of the living dead, and so begins a descent into madness that finds corpses returning to eat the living, babies showing deadly signs of cannibalism and the local constabulary, led by a hardnosed old-school inspector (Arthur Kennedy) thinking they are a pair of homicidal hippies!

One of the things I really like about this film is what a misogynistic, sexist arsehole the male lead, George (Ray Lovelock) appears to be. He is a condescending, self assured jerkoff, and honestly I can’t tell if he is representing men of the era accurately, or if he is a parody akin to what was seen in something like the MUCH later film The Editor.

Now the female lead is one I really like. Christine Galbo plays her role of Edna like a more realistic Barbara from Night of the Living Dead. She is definitely in shock, but almost completely avoids the dumb-founded catatonia that made Barbara a frustrating piece of furniture to be thrown around by the male protagonists.

Actually I felt this film owed a lot to Night of the Living Dead, and not just due to its walking dead, its machismo fuelled male lead or weak-ankled female lead. There is an all over sense of impending doom, and the more cynical of us might just say the ending is a blatant copy of Romero’s B/W film.

The script, by Sandro Continenza, is both retro and revolutionary at the same time. It has hippie-hating cops and the women are of the shrinking violet variety, but it also looks at ‘new’ clean pest-rid technologies. It’s anti-pollution, looks briefly (and amusingly) at heroin addiction and demonstrates a high level of environmental awareness.

An absolute cracker. It precedes George Romero’s ideas of the dead’s instincts presented in Dawn of the Dead by several years, and its anti-pollution, pro-eco stance is well ahead of its time. As for Blue Underground’s disc, well it is chock-a-block full of more extras than you could shake a grave marker at. I never thought I would see a film to rival Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, and while I still may not have, this comes real close

Score: *****

Format: This review was performed on the Blue Underground, two-disc Set from about ten years ago. The DVD has a delightful image: bright, vibrant, detailed, and is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen. The cover claims the image has been remastered in Hi Definition from the original camera negative, and I am guessing it is that process which gives it…ahem… new life. The film is presented in a choice of 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, Dolby Surround 2.0 and Original Mono. I reviewed this as 5.1 and was impressed by the quality. Of course, the voices do not always match the speaker’s lips but this may be due to dual language tracks rather than a fault of the disc mastering.

Score: ***1/5

Extras: This being a 2 discer means we are treated to a coffin full of extras.

Disc 1 treats us to the International trailer (which identifies the film as The Living Dead at THE Manchester Morgue, but gets away with it by providing a COOL music track), the U.S. trailer (under the title of Don’t Open the Window, and is one of those SEE!!! HEAR!!! Type trailers), TV Spot (another US trailer for Don’t Open The Window), Radio Spots (a collection of radio adverts with a collection of posters played over the screen…excellent) and Poster and Still Gallery (a collection of pixelated pictures and posters and stills from the film).

Disc 2 has a great series of featurettes:

Back To the Morgue – On Location With Jorge Grau sees director Grau revisit locations in Derbyshire and Manchester and talk about the production, location and filming of the movie. The revisitation of Southgate hospital shows it to be a condemned building…shame but the visit to the graveyard is fantastic (especially to a grave yard explorer like me) as it is the graveyard that contains the grave of Robin Hood’s Lieutenant Little John!! The visits are accompanied by amusing reminiscences from Grau. A favourite would have to be his justification of having the streaker in the opening part of the film; while he admits it wasn’t in the script, he believed it was ‘suggested’ by the scriptwriter.

Zombie Fighter – Interview with Star Ray Lovelock is an interesting interview with the actor where he basically recounts his career.

Zombie Maker – Interview with Special Effects Artist Gianetto De Rossi is an interesting look not just at the effects of this film and the effect’s artist’s body of work, but also a brief history of effects artists in European cinema.

2000 Interview with Jorge Grau is a more personal interview with Grau, and he discusses his life and influences, and the making of the film.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s an amazing zombie film and well worth repeated viewings!

The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

Zombruary 2 continues…

One from the re watch pile…

The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

Film: I’ve always been a Hammer Horror film fan over a Universal Monsters fan. Yes the images of the Universal character designs are the most loved, but I have always preferred the design, the direction, the scores, the stories and yes, the ‘Hammer Glamour’ as the women of these films are occasionally referred.

The cinematically early splashes of blood and violence don’t hurt either.

This film, The Plague of the Zombies, was filmed back-to-back with another Hammer film, The Reptile, and shared most of its cast, and were both directed by John Gilling, who also directed Trog and The Mummy’s Shroud. It was written by Peter Bryan who also wrote The Hound of the Baskerville and The Brides of Dracula. The interesting thing about the films is they were both part of double features, but not together as the sets and cast may have confused audiences! This was original presented with Dracula: Prince of Darkness.

This film is set in August 1860, and tells of Sir James Forbes (André Morrell) and his daughter Sylvia (Diane Claire) who travel to a small Cornish town to assist their friend, Peter Tompson (Brook Williams), the town Doctor who is unable to halt what seems to be a plague effecting the townspeople. His wife, Alice (Jacqueline Pearce) seems to be succumbing to this disease as well.

One recently buried corpse had no autopsy performed on it so Tompson and Forbes dig up the coffin, only to find it empty! Upon further investigation they find that the dead walk the moors around the town, and that maybe, just maybe, the town squire, Clive Hamilton (John Carson) is using voodoo that he learned in Haiti to perform these wicked deeds… but why? What is his horrible scheme?

This film is a well constructed and entertaining look at voodoo, albeit not necessarily a very accurate portrayal. The acting is over the top and very theatrical but that just adds to the drama of the proceedings! Gilling has created a fascinating look to the film too, as most of the film has a cramped, oppressive, claustrophobic feel to it. When you combine that appearance with the score, which is a combination of traditional dramatic horns mixed with tribal beats, it creates a unique feel throughout the film.

This all makes for an effective horror film, not scary, but a totally entertaining film that sits high in my favourite Hammer films.

Score: ****

Format: This movie was reviewed using the region B Bluray which runs for approximately 90 minutes (87 if you watch the DVD in this collection). It is presented in a wonderful, considering the age, 1.66:1 and a matching mono 2.0 audio track. It should be good considering the process of restoration, which is explored somewhat in the extras.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: A bunch of excellent extras on this disc:

World of Hammer Episode: Mummies, Werewolves and the Living Dead is an episode of The World of Hammer (as the title suggests) narrated by Oliver Reed explores the various films of Hammer than explored… yes, you guessed it…. Mummies, Werewolves and the Living Dead, relevant here as The Plague of the Zombies makes an appearance.

Raising the Dead is a retrospective making of the film and is incredibly informative, mixing film historians, fans and actual cast comments makes for a quite thorough recollection of the film.

The restoration comparison is fascinating as it shows the footage of the film before and after restoration, sometimes in a split screen so you can accurately see just how much work was done, not just with colour, but with telecine wobble, artefacts and even complete rips in the original negative.

Finally we have a trailer for the film.

This release also came with a DVD copy of the film (unreviewed)

Score: ****

WISIA: It’s certainly high level Hammer Horror so it definitely will get repeat viewings!

Planet Terror (2007)

One from the re watch pile for Zombruary…

Planet Terror (2007)

Film: I have to admit to being a pretty huge Robert Rodriguez fan. There is something about the hot Texan look and the cool not-really-70s vibe that really resonates with me. I am neither old enough nor have I ever lived in American, so the whole Grindhouse experience isn’t really one of mine, but being a teen in the 80s, I get how a film can seem more violent or sexy from the ‘dirtiness’ of the image.

According to Rodriguez’s forward in the book ‘Grindhouse: The Sleaze-Filled Saga of an Exploitation Double Feature’, he came up with idea of a double feature before he filmed Sin City, but put it on hold until he presented the idea to Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino loved the idea and eventually the two decided to of make two brand new films that were made to look like 70s exploitation flicks. Those two film became RR’s Planet Terror and QT’s Death Proof as tragically the experiment failed, and the distributors, the Weinstein Brothers withdrew it from release, only to release each film as single feature, double disc blurays, this one being Planet Terror.

Planet Terror tells of scientist Abby (Naveen Andrews) who releases a bio-chemical into the atmosphere when he is double-crossed by Lt. Muldoon (Bruce Willis), a marine with whom he has been supplying the same drug to, which has been used to keep at bay horrible mutations. The chemical infects almost everyone it comes across, turning them into bloated, pustule covered flesh eating zombie-things. A ragtag group of survivors, including mysterious El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez), Go Go dancer amputee Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan), sexy Doctor Dakota Block (Marley Shelton, doing her very best Barbara Crampton in From Beyond impression), tough guy police officer Hague (Michael Biehn), his brother J.T. (Jeff Fahey) and several others use any abilities they have to find a way to get away from the town, coming not just up against the zombies-things, but also the marines, and even worse, fighting amongst themselves! Will they make it to safety? Only time and a LOT of firepower will tell!!

There is no doubt this film is a fantastic piece of gore laden horror. The story is a pure eighties ‘bio-chemical weapon’ story, like The Return of the Living Dead, but with the visuals of a Lucio Fulci pic. The soundtrack is an interesting one, with Carpenter like synthy bits mixed with RR’s Mexican influence guitar pieces. From the opening scene, which is like a C-cup version of a Russ Meyer’s filmed Go-Go dance, this film has you entranced. Every line is pure Rodriguez in top form.

Rodriguez’s use of the ‘Grindhouse’ effect is interesting as well, the intensity of the artificial ‘print damage’ gets worse in more intense scenes, adding both to the tension of the scene, and also bringing back memories of watching old VHS tapes where the tape was stretched and distorted over excessively sexy or gory bits, from where previous viewers watched that bit over and over again or paused to have a good look at boobs or blood. Another highlight of the ‘Grindhouse’ effect is the so-called ‘missing reel’ which has a saucy sex scene jump to another scene that looks like it takes place a good ten minutes later, which makes the viewer feel like part of the ‘What happened?’ factor.

Of course, this film is probably best known for the iconic image of Rose McGowan, who is fantastic in this, with the machine gun prosthetic leg. She’s been in a lot of stuff, but that silhouette will remain a Hollywood icon for years.

When I first saw this film it sent me to a place that only 70s and 80s gore films send me to, so I suppose the experiment, for me, was a resounding success. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve enjoyed it.

Score: *****

Format: This film was reviewed on the American region free Bluray which contains an awful artifact-y 1.77:1 presentation that is covered in all sorts of hairs and cigarette burns: it jumps, has telecine wobble and the color drops out more than once… but it is supposed to be like that, so I guess it is perfect!! Like the picture, the sound is imperfect and is filled with little crackle-y bits, but it’s SUPPOSED to be like that! Presented in Dolby 5.1 surround sound.

Score: ****

Extras: As usual, Robert Rodriguez has a well-stacked pantry of extras on this Bluray.

Disc 1 opens with one if the ‘fake trailers’ that were to site inbetween the two films when packaged as Grindhouse. This fake trailer, Machete, of course has since become an action film in its own right, with a sequel!

The first extra is the ability To Watch the film in a “clean’ version that doesn’t have any of the scratches and stuff on the screen. Honestly I don’t know why you would watch the film like this.

Feature Commentary by Robert Rodriguez is as you would expect a commentary by Rodriguez. He is passionate about his work, and presents a detailed commentary on all aspects of the filming of Planet Terror (occasionally repeating himself from the extras).

The Audience Reaction Track is a feature length track that plays the audiences reaction during a showing of the film along with the actual soundtrack…. Like seeing the film ‘live’. Rodriguez did this with Sin City as well, and it is certainly a great way to watch a ‘Grindhouse’ movie. My favourite part is the audience’ s reaction to the appearance of Bruce Willis!

Disc 2

10 Minute Film School is one of Rodriguez’s usual extras, and shows how he did some of the effects for Planet Terror using both live action and cheap methods. This extra is a great tool if you are a tragic wanna be film director.

The Badass Babes of Planet Terror tells of the female casting choices of the film. There are interviews, and interesting anecdotes from Robert Rodriguez, Rose McGowan, Marley Shelton, the Crazy Babysitter Twins and Stacy Ferguson.

The Guys of Planet Terror tells of the male casting choice of the film. This has interviews and anecdotes with Rodriguez, Tarantino, McGowan, Shelton, Freddy Rodriguez, Josh Brolin, Naveen Andrews, Tom Savini, Michael Biehn and Jeff Fahey.

Casting Rebel is a short bit about the casting of Rodriguez’s son Rebel in a main role. Shelton, Brolin and Rodriguez all discuss his abilities.

Sickos, Bullets and Explosions: The Stunts of Planet Terror is all about the big bangs and multiple mayhem of Planet Terror. This is an interesting look at the stunts and features interviews with Stunt Supervisor Jeff Dashnaw, with additional comments from Rodriguez, McGowan, Shelton and F. Rodriguez.

The Friend, The Doctor and The Real Estate Agent is a pretty funny piece about the casting of Rodriguez’s friend Tommy Nix, his doctor, Dr. Felix Sabates and his realtor, Skip Reissig.

There is a trailer for the film, and a bunch of international posters for the film.

Score: *****

WISIA: I’ve watched this so many times I can practically recite it.

Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971)

Zombruary 2 The Zombening continues….

One from the re watch pile…

Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971)

Film: This film was a late love for me. I had never seen any of the 4 Blind Dead films until I actually won a box set collection of the UK release of the series several years ago, and I instantly fell in love with the films and director Armando De Ossorio’s directorial vision for them. This also led me to De Ossorio’s amazing film The Loreley’s Grasp, which is so wonderfully ridiculous that one can’t help but loving it.

This film, The Tombs of the Blind Dead aka La Noche Del Terror Ciego, tells of Betty (Lone Fleming) and Roger (César Burner) who, after a tantrum, are concerned for their mutual friend Virginia (María Elena Arpón) who bailed from the train ride they were on whilst in transit to a weekend getaway destination.

Virginia is found dead in a castle in the middle of nowhere and an investigation begins to find out what happened, but what has happened is that at this particular abandoned castle, is that undead Knights Templar, blinded whilst alive for crimes against god including sacrifice and blood-drinking, have risen from the grave to kill anyone who disturbs their unholy slumber… and now that their castle is full of people investigating Virginia’s death, they have plenty to feast upon!

The really cool thing about this release from Blue Underground is the fact that there is both the edited UK release of the film The Blind Dead and also the uncut Spanish version of La Noche Del Terror Ciego, which ads four whole chapters to the film and tells a different, raunchier story than the UK version. It is subtitled so be warned for those who don’t want to read a movie, if you want the boobies, you are going to have to work for them.

The film is paced really strangely, but it totally works! The whole story of Virginia leaving her friends and her eventual demise is a whole third of the film and sets it up beautifully for the roller coaster ride of the rest of it.

It’s really a heap of fun and I can’t express what a treat this film is, make sure you check it out.

Score: ****

Format: As I mentioned there are two versions of the film on this DVD from Blue Underground. The English dubbed one runs for about 83 minutes but the Spanish with subtitles version runs for 101 minutes. The film is presented in a 1.66:1 image with a mono audio track, and the Spanish version is certainly the superior image. If I were to score each individually, The English would be 2 and the Spanish would get a 3, so I’ll average the score for the disc between the two.

Score: **1/2

Extras: There is a few interesting extras on this disc.

Alternate opening: Revenge from Planet Ape which is an alternate beginning attempting to capitalise on the popularity of Planet of the Apes, and the somewhat simian appearance of the make up on the Templar Knights. The quality of this isn’t great but it’s an interesting watch.

Theatrical Trailer is just that. It’s a pretty awesome trailer though!

Poster and Still Gallery which has an amazing selection of posters, lobby cards, video covers and press books of the film intercut with the occasional still from the film.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I really like Tombs of the Blind Dead and it gets a regular revisit at my place. It’s not brilliant, but it’s both charming and hokey enough to warrant regular viewing.

House of the Dead 2 (2005)

Another day, more zombies for Zombruary!

One from the re watch pile…

House of the Dead 2 (2005)

Film: When it comes to video games, I am mainly a Call of Duty player, but being a horror fan, I have a grand affection for horror games too. One of the reasons I like CoD is due to the Zombies section of the game, but I like stuff like The Evil Within, and Resident Evil and even Sega’s House of the Dead.

Now this film, House of the Dead 2, was to be a sequel directed by dodgy director and film-reviewer puncher, Uwe Boll, but he was directing another video game property, Bloodrayne and couldn’t do it… or wasn’t asked. He was also responsible for the first House of the Dead, a cinematic travesty of the highest order, so maybe he WASN’T!

This is a new, fresh zombie movie, with an all new look at House of the Dead, where highly trained soldiers battle the undead in a gore-fest for all ages…well all ages over the age of 18 or accompanied by an adult anyway.

The tale of House of the Dead 2 goes like this: during a collegiate hazing, a young girl falls afoul of the villainous Professor Curien (Sid Haig), who is trying to bring the dead back to life, until one of his experiments escapes, causing a virus to be released on a campus, infecting the students.

Sig Haig is delighted by his friends choice of zombie costume.

29 days later, two experts in the field of zombie hunting, Alex (Emmanuelle Vaugier) and Ellis (Ed Quinn) accompany a crack team of soldiers onto the campus to collect blood from the source of the virus, the original zombie, so they can create a vaccine to protect the world against the spreading menace. Unfortunately, even though the Special Forces team is made up of experts in the field of war, a campus overrun by zombies isn’t their field, and things fall apart…

Let’s start off with one aspect of this film that was also a problem with the first one: where is the freaking house? The movie is called House of the Dead, the game on which this film is based featured a damned BIG house, so where is the house? The first film had a house whose exterior was so small it should have been called “Shed of the Dead’, and this one takes place on an ‘isolated college campus’ (who isolates a college, wouldn’t it be smarter to put it in a town so the local community would benefit from the kids as a part of their social and financial infrastructure?), so shouldn’t it be called ‘Isolated College Campus of the Dead’?

Continuity faults abound in this film, so much so that it becomes annoyingly ridiculous. Almost every character gets covered in a blood splatters which move around from shot to shot, and occasionally zombies that attack on one part of the canvas miraculously appear at other ends of the campus even though it took the protagonists a truck ride to get there. That is not just sloppy editing, it is plain out bad filmmaking.

The solders in this film are described as ‘Special Forces’, but i don’t think they mean ‘special’ as ‘better’ or ‘greater’ as these soldiers were such a bunch of badly organized clowns, they wouldn’t have even gotten a job at a school fete. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect a film about zombies to be ‘realistic’ or the situations to be ‘sensible’, but for Romero’s sake, I expect the soldiers to at least act like soldiers. I am no military expert, but these guys weren’t even following basic HUMAN instinct, let alone those of a highly trained soldier. Funnily enough, the first House of the Dead was criticized for having college kids acting like army trained professionals, and this one has army trained professional who act like college kids.

At some points the movie tries to be deadly serious, but the acting isn’t the greatest, so it comes off as forced, and some of the horror homage’s (Sid Haig refers to being left ‘Alone in the Dark’, and most of the action takes place ’29 Days Later’ after the prologue) are so obviously placed, that I kept expecting someone to elbow me and say ‘Geddit? Geddit?’. The zombie fan will find a hell of a lot of the set pieces in this film reminiscent of other zombie genre pics.

Another thing I found a bit dumb about this film is in the liner notes, which is a four page booklet…ok, it is a piece of glossy paper folded in half, writer/ producer Mark A. Altman hangs a bit of well deserved rubbish on the first movie (which HE wrote as well) and on the ‘teen horror’ genre as well, while praising this film, which he describes as ‘The Wrath of Khan of zombie movies’, when in actual fact, this isn’t even the ‘Spock’s Brain’ of zombie movies.

There is no doubt this film is better than the first House of the Dead, but that is like saying you like your Mum better than your Dad coz’ when she cuts you, she doesn’t make you roll in salt. There are some positives about this film though: nudity, some decent zombie make up, and Sid Haig…and that’s about it.

Score: **


This review was performed on an Australian Ex-rental DVD whose 1.77:1 image has a bit of artefact interference, but basically a good picture with a clear image…which is probably a bad thing. I wasn’t really impressed with the sound on this picture: it did utilize the 5.1 to some effect, but not wholly. It lacked atmosphere!

Score: **


There is a director’s commentary, which has input from director Mike Hurst and writer Mark A. Altman. They talk a lot about the genesis of this film, and how Altman wanted to make Starship Troopers on a college campus. It is also mentioned that this is a part of a trilogy, the final part being about the destruction of mankind…. please help us. I think that these gentlemen think they have a new ‘zombie trilogy’ on their hands. I pray for them that the legions of Romero fans don’t get their hands on their mobile numbers.

There are 4 deleted scenes titled Panty Raid 51, Football Practice, Library Scene and Exterior Dorm. These scenes neither add nor take anything away from the film, although it is disappointing to see that there was more sorority girl tom-foolery that was edited from the final cut.

Re-inventing the House: Making a Bloody Sequel is a basic making of with interviews with various cast and crew members.

There are trailers on this disc for Lion’s Gate Films’ House of the Dead 2, Alone in the Dark, Attack of the Sabretooth, The Triangle and Fierce People.

Score: ***

WISIA: Hell no, I’m NOT doing this ever again!

The Girl With All The Gifts (2016)

One from the to watch pile and the next of 2018’s Zombruary celebration…

The Girl With All The Gifts (2016)

Film: Possibly the thing I like the most about zombie films is that there is no real ‘traditional’ lore that has created a rule set so when you see something contrary to ‘tradition’ it seems out of place, or it puts you off. You know, a vampire film with the vampires walking in the day (especially if they are sparkling) or a werewolf who can change at will.

Creative license is obviously fine and occasionally can be put to good use for the sake of the story, but I am sure all of us who are horror fans just get a small twinge of ‘what the..?’ when we see one of these anomalies on screen.

Zombie films though don’t come under all that though as the mythologies are all different and most of us assume zombies to be a part of the rules laid down by George Romero’s Original Dead Trilogy, but films like Re-animator, Return of the Living Dead, the Dawn of the Dead remake and 28 Days Later shrug those rules and do their own thing, to varying degrees of success.

This film, based on the novel by Mike Carey and from a script by him, was directed by Colm McCarthy, director of Outcast and who has directed heaps of Tv including episodes of the aforementioned Black Mirror, Peaky Blinders and Doctor Who.

This synopsis may sound like Romero’s Day of the Dead and honestly, it does feel like that at the start, but where it ends up is completely different.

A group of children are being kept at a facility which is run by Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close) and controlled by Sgt Parks (Paddy Considine) and are being taught in a school where they are strapped into wheelchairs and moved around. The smartest and most intuitive of these children is Melanie (Sennia Nanua), the favourite student of Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton).

We very quickly find out though that these are not children, but instead subjects infected with a fungus that has turned them into flesh-eating monsters if they smell human skin. The humans who work at the facility use a cream on their skin which blocks their scent, preventing the children from ‘turning’.

Unfortunately the rest of the world has gone to pot with this infection and the creatures are everywhere, and when they manage to break into the facility, a small group, including the aforementioned bunch, manage to get away, but to where? How will they survive? Is there something even worse happening?

This cast…oh BOY, this cast are something special. Close and Considine are at the very tops of their game. Considine’s sergeant is a hard hitting bastard and Close is the no-nonsense Doctor and they are both powerhouses in their roles. Arterton’s character is wholly the heart and soul of the film and she plays it solidly. The real revelation in this film though is Nanua: she plays this delicate monster who doesn’t know what she is like an acting veteran. The whole movie had to be sold on her performance, and she sells it like an absolute professional.

I really like the make up on the zombies, or ‘the hungries’ and they are called in the film. The make up is reminiscent of the ones for Umberto Lenzi’s Incubo Sulla Città Contaminata aka Nightmare City but as this is a fungal infection that is causing the apocalypse, the hungries clothes have a real ‘overgrown’ look to them which is explored as the film goes on.

Typically, as I am a soundtrack collector, I noticed what an amazing hypnotic soundtrack this film has, composed by Cristobal Tapia De Veer, who also did an episode of Black Mirror and a few episodes of Phillip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams Tv series’s.

The best thing about this film though is just how broad the story is. This isn’t just a zombie film, this isn’t just about survival, this isn’t just about tribalism and obsession. It’s about all of those things and it’s a cohesive brilliant piece of horror/ science fiction.

I absolutely loved this film and its shot right into my favourite films of all time list. Super recommended.

Score: *****

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian Bluray release which runs for approximately 111 minutes and is presented in a perfect 2.00:1 image with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Score: *****

Extras: The only thing wrong with this film is the lack of extras. Bummer.

Score: 0

WISIA: There is so much width and depth to this film it’s going to be watched several more times over the next few months!

Zombieland (2009) Review

Welcome to Zombruary, our celebration of all things undead and unburied. Every review this month will in some way be related to a zombie or undead film. I hope you enjoy as we revisit some old ones, and find a few new ones to take off the To Watch Pile.

One from the re watch pile…

Zombieland (2009)

Film: I‘m not the biggest fan of horror comedies, and that’s mainly because there is an inconsistency in how good they are. For every Return of the Living Dead’s there are, there is 4 that go between being ok, and just sucking. Thankfully, on occasion, you will get gems like Shaun of the Dead, or A Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse or this film, Zombieland.

Zombieland is the tale of a phobia-driven young man (Jessie Eisenberg) who lives no longer in the United States of America, but instead in a world he likes to call Zombieland, a world overrun by the infected style of running zombie that purists seem to hate.

Our young hero has rules about surviving Zombieland, things like Rule Number 1: Cardio. Apparently the overweight were the first to die as they couldn’t escape the zombies. There are several others like Rule Number 7: Travel Light and Rule Number 31: Check the back seat. Basically his rules are the same ones we, the horror fans, shout at the screen whenever a young girl is left alone for any reason. I won’t go further into the other rules as it would spoil some terrible funny and funnily terrible scenes of carnage.

Anyway, on his way back to his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, where he hopes to be reunited with his estranged parents, he meets another seemingly bonkers survivor (Woody Harrelson) and the pair join up for safeties sake. This man tells him that names are unnecessary in Zombieland as attachments can lead to fatalities, and they refer to each other by their destinations: Columbus, the young man and Tallahassee, the nut-job redneck with a love of guns and cars.

The two stop in a mini-market so that Tallahassee can soothe his unstoppable need for Hostess Twinkies, and after they dispatch a few zombies in creative ways, they meet up with two young ladies, the soon to be known as Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) and the four decide to make their way to California together, and so after a gargantuan amount of personality clashes, and several con-jobs later, they all realise that being loners may not be the way to survive Zombieland.

This film is directed by first time feature director Ruben Fleischer, from a script by Rhett Reece and Paul Wernick that was originally devised as the pilot for a TV series, which apparently by its timeframe, it would have been the first zombie TV series. Interestingly, since the advent of streaming TV, apparently there has been discussions of it returning as a series, a sequel is also in discussions.

The cast in this film were excellent. Jessie Eisenberg, who I normally am no fan of as he occasionally feels like a discount Michael Cera (or vice versa), was perfect in this role. Woody Harrelson is a classic as always as a gun-toting crackpot who has no problem sharing a few tears, even if just for his interesting ways of sending off the zombies. Emma Stone never ceases to amaze me: I loved her in Superbad, and as the hyper-nerd in House Bunny she was probably the funniest thing, but here she really makes this role her own: a femme fatale who is spending the rest of her life defending her younger sister. She is the straight man to Eisenberg’s phobias and Harrelson’s nuttiness, and pulls it off with ease. She is also a cracking good sort!! Abigail Breslin, who was nominated for a best Supporting Actress Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine is excellent as well, and holds her own against the other three personalities which could easily have overpowered her.

The cameo by Bill Murray is a classic as well. Especially with the tips of the hat they provide to things like Caddyshack and Ghostbusters.

The special effects are mostly average, though occasionally the CGI is so good that you won’t even notice half of it unless you watch the ‘making of’ stuff. I was stunned by some of the scenes that weren’t on location. There is a couple of ‘zombies get hit by stuff’ bits that are showing their age though. One really cool thing is that even when one of the rules isn’t mentioned, but is acted upon, you will see the rule written somewhere slightly hidden in the scene, with a solidity usually only seen in a David Fincher title sequence.

All in all it’s a fun film, but there are other films of its type that are better. The win for this film is the cast work together really well and form a funny yet warm-hearted cohesive ad-hoc family unit.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian Bluray, whose image nothing short of spectacular and presented in 2.40:1 widescreen and with plenty of gunshots and a touch of heavy metal, this English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 kick MASSIVE arse.

Score: *****

Extras: Heaps of extras on this set, and in the set. This was the first release of the film and it came in a cardboard outer box, and featured a Bluray, DVD and digital copy of the film.

Beyond the Graveyard: Picture in Picture Track is a great extra, with a smaller window opening up in the main screen showing how effects were done, or amusing anecdotes from cast and crew.

Commentary by actors Woody Harrelson and Jessie Eisenberg, Director Ruben Fleischer and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick is a great one as those involved regularly ask each other questions about their aspects of the creation of the film, which keeps the conversation running.

In Search of Zombieland looks at the making of the film, and explores all aspects of its production.

Zombieland Is Your Land is more or less similar in tone to In Search of Zombieland, but seems to have more behind the scenes footage. If it had have been me, I would have combined these two together to make one really tremendous making of documentary.

Deleted Scenes is a bunch of scenes removed from the movie. They are: Zip Lock Bags, This Did Not Just Happen, Mum and Dad Would have To Wait, The jokes on Them, The Slow and the Weak, Girls Play at the park and You Always Think Of Something. Usually when I see deleted scenes I am quite happy to have seen them removed from the film, but some of these, particularly Zip Lock bags and you Always think Of Something, could have happily remained, though the rule number of Zip Lock Bags would have had to have been changed from number 2, which ended up being Double Tap.

Visual Effect Regression Scenes looks at the technical break up of four special effects scenes of the film, specifically Washington, Seat Belts, Banjo Zombie and Falling Zombie.

Theatrical Promo Trailers are a series of trailers that features Woody Harrelson and Jessie Eisenberg’s characters giving hints and tips on how to survive the zombie apocalypse. These interstitials are titled Bounty Towels, Bowling Ball, Buddy System, Skillet and Swiss Army. Quite funny.

This disc also featured trailers for Bluray as a format, 2012, Year One, Zombieland and Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day.

Score: *****

WISIA: Zombieland is almost as funny as Shaun of the Dead which for me is the gold standard of horror-comedy-zombie films but maybe has just a little more heart. I enjoyed every second of it, though I believe that Shaun has far more rewatch value than this.

Zombeavers (2014) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Zombeavers (2014)

Zombeavers Australian Bluray cover

Film: Yeah. You read that right. Zombeavers. The film that takes all the very best from Zombies, and adds it to beavers.

Beavers. You know, the dam building, buck toothed water-dwelling mammals.

Yeah. Them.

Our story begins as Eight Legged Freaks and Return of the Living Dead 2 did, and probably hundreds of other horror films, with a truck accidentally dropping chemical/ medical waste into a river, which unfortunately changes a few members of the local wildlife into undead killing machines… ok, it’s beavers.

It’s where the film gets it’s clever title from.

Zombeavers: Mary, Zoe and Jenn.

Unfortunately for sorority sisters Mary (Rachel Melvin), Zoe (Courtney Palm) and Jenn (Lexi Atkins), the mutated zombie-beavers take up residence in the lake just outside of her cousin’s house where they have decided to take a weekend sabbatical, without their boyfriends.

Of course, their obnoxious boyfriends Sam (Hutch Dano), Tommy (Jake Weary) and Buck (Peter Gilroy) turn up and their sabbatical turns into a weekend of sex and odious behaviour… sounds awesome!

Very soon, the Zombeavers descend upon the group and no one is safe from the teeth that bite and claws that slash… who will survive the night, and will the virus the Zombeavers spread kill them all?

Zombeavers: a zombeaver.

Who cares? They are all douchebags!

Zombeavers is the only film to date to be directed by Jordan Rubin, who is normally a comedy writer and has worked with people like Conan O’Brian and on TV shows like Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Crank Yankers and The Man Show. It was also written by Rubin along with Al and Jon Kaplan.

It starts with an awesome Scooby Doo styled beginning, is full of some preposterously bad CGI and some real silly practical effects, is full of lame gags and has scenes lifted out of films like Creepshow 2, Black Sheep and the Scary Movie series, and yet still somehow entertained. Not due to fine performances or exquisite wit, but just for the sheer stupidity of the concept and execution.

Make sure you still around for the end credits and the Frank Sinatra styled, crooning Zombeavers song: it’s now been stuck in my head for 2 hours!

Score: *1/2

Zombeavers bluray menu screen

Format: Thankfully, Zombeavers only runs for 77 minutes and is presented, on this Australian region B bluray release, in a good 1.78:1 image with an excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Score: ****1/2

Extras: Nothing, not a sausage.

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s so stupid, and yet with a weird funny charm to it… I hate to admit it, but I may actually watch this again.

Zombeavers: zombeaver/ human hybrid.

Fido (2006) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Fido (2006)

My ex-rental DVD copy of Fido

Film: After Shaun of the Dead came out, it seemed every man and his dog wanted to make a zombie comedy, some of which worked, some of which didn’t. This film, Fido, written by Robert Chomiak, Andrew Currie and Dennis Heaton, and directed by Currie, is one of the lesser celebrated ones, which is unfortunate as it does at least deserve one viewing, though personally, it’s not a huge rewatcher.

In what appears to be an alternate 1950’s America, we are told via an educational (read that as propaganda) film that a radioactive dust fell to earth from space, and caused the dead to rise and try to eat human flesh. Then the zombies wars came, and mankind survived, and through the research of Zomcom, a company who then walled the cities to protect the citizens, a way to domesticate the undead was discovered and they became servants of mankind, taking care of menial tasks.

Fido: Loder as Timmy and Connelly as Fido

We are introduced to our hero Timmy (Kesun Loder), a young man who is the subject of bullying at school and doesn’t have any real friends. His parents, Helen (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Bill (Dylan Baker) have a strained relationship, mainly due to his lack of familial care, which is made even worse when Helen brings home a domesticated zombie, whom Timmy names Fido (Billy Connelly).

Timmy and Fido become great friends, but when Fido’s collar malfunctions and he kills a member of the neighbourhood, Timmy covers up the murder, but not before she kills another and causes a small uprising.

All through this though, Timmy questions various aspects of why zombies are what they are, both from a scientific and theological aspect… can the Living and the Dead co-exist?

Thematically there is a lot going on in this film. It takes a wry look at subjects like freedom vs security, at corporations controlling our lives when the government fails, oppression of minorities… all sorts of stuff.

From a cinematic point of view, there are some real clever elements here. The world of humanity is bright and vibrant and most of the zombies are discoloured so they appear to be in black and white, except for one zombie, Tammy, who’s owner is attempting to make her a surrogate wife. She is a microcosm of the entire film: there is a polished veneer over a society that is rotten to the core. 

It’s a well cast film too; Loder plays the 50s styled kid perfectly and isn’t annoying at all. Baker is the perfect uptight Dad with a few mental problems. Moss is delightful as the keeping up appearances mother, and Henry Czerny is great as the ‘company man’ who wants to contain and clamp down any situation. Connelly somehow plays Fido quite understated, and manages to convey what’s left of his humanity quite well.

Fido: Baker as Bill and Moss as Helen

Essentially what we have here is a funny parody of things like Lassie and Rin Tin Tin, but with zombies instead of dogs as the trusty, non-English speaking hero.

Score: ***1/2

The Fido DVD menu screen

Format: The reviewed copy of this film is an ex-rental Australian DVD which runs for approximately 89 minutes and presented in a below average 2.35:1 image with an excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. 

Score: ***

Extras: Not a wholly bad bunch of extras on this disc:

In the audio section we have a choice to listen to a commentary by director Currie, producer Mary Anne Waterhouse, and actress Moss. It’s a great technical commentary and talks about the entire aspect of script and film. A great film-student commentary.

Fido Family Portraits has conceptual art, make up and stills from the film presented as a slideshow with some accompanying music. I don’t normally go for stills galleries, but this is presented nicely.

There is some DVD-Rom ‘Zombie Me’ creator thing which has not been reviewed. I imagine it is the pre-iPhone app version of

Making of Fido is a short summary of what the film is thematically about.

Blooper reel is short and sweet it just shows a bunch of people not doing their jobs properly. Only kidding. I thought it would be a lot funnier considering, you know, Billy Connelly, but no.

There is a commentary with the score composer Don MacDonald which if, like me, you’re interested in score and cinema music is quite fascinating.

There a six deleted scenes with directors commentary which are interesting, but better off omitted.

In addition, there is a theatrical trailer.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: It’s a cute, light-hearted, with occasional dark elements, zombie comedy but I doubt if I will revisit it.

Fido: when Daddy becomes a zombie….