Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

Movie Reviews 304 – Night of the Living Dorks (2004)

June 24, 2017

The Germans were at the vanguard of horror movies in the silent era of the early 1920’s and even the cinema industry as a whole until Hollywood took over. Turning out classics like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu and The Golem, they trailblazed the path for future horrormeisters to follow. But after that seminal spurt and soon preoccupied with other irritants like inciting World Wars, the Germans contributions fell silent as others moved the stakes. It took until the turn of the century and the Zombie revival craze to bring them back into game with the surprise comedy Night of the Living Dorks (original title “Die Nacht der lebenden Loser”).

The story begins with a Haitian family besieged by a stalking zombie which gets sizzled by the torch wielding mother. The family are about to inter the zombies ashes when the burial urn is snatched and we follow it being exchanged from one trader’s hands to another as it makes it’s way to Europe.

There we are introduced to three dorks, Philip Fleischhacker (Tino Mewes), Weenie (Manuel Cortez) and Konrad (Thomas Schmieder), part of the ‘out’ crowd at their high school. Konrad is the most pitiful of the trio, keeping a valise full of spare eyeglasses as they get broken so often by bullies. He also keeps a detailed diary recording of every person who has harassed him over the years. Weenie is the chemically unbalanced and horny one who pilots a stolen van. And then there is our protagonist Philip, the common everyman who is infatuated by the high school princess Uschi (Nadine Germann) and clueless that his longtime friend and neighbor Rebecca (Collien Fernandes) – now hanging out with the Goth crowd – is secretly harboring a mad crush on him.

Desperate to get Uschi to go to the prom with him, Philip asks Rebecca and her Goth friends if they have any mystical love potion that can help him. As it so happens Rebecca and her Satan worshiping friends had a cemetery ceremony planned for that evening having gotten their hands on a urn (yeah, that one) and were planning on reviving the spirit of Kurt Cobain. But when the dorksome trio arrive at the graveyard that night they find that Rebecca’s friends Gunther and Frederik are more hopeless than themselves and the ashes wind up being blown onto the dorks entire bodies.

The next thing the boys know is that they are waking up in a morgue but chalk it up to being a dream or prank. When the boys finally realize that they are in fact now ‘living dead’ they first have a little fun with their newfound strength and abilities. But soon body parts start falling off and they get busy with staple machines keeping them together as Philip tries to get them out of the mess. Konrad on the other hand has decided that revenge can be sweet when you’re a zombie and after a falling out with the others begins tracking down all his former tormentors. Eventually Rebecca’s Necronomicon-like spell book gives them hope for a cure but for that to happen the boys have to handle hurdles that include Philip’s parents coming home, Uschi’s boyfriend and getting Konrad back.

The social media reviewers and ratings have not been kind to this film for some reason, but having seen scores of these ‘Zombedies’ myself (including Shaun of the Dead, the yardstick by which all such movies are compared to) I put it way ahead of most of those peers. While some of the sequences are predictable I found most of the gags to be genuinely funny and with a lot of originality as well. The goofy Goths are hilarious as they take Satanic ceremony shortcuts. The zombified dorks end up hosting an impromptu house party as Weenie lusts over a MILF teacher who incessantly brings up her past drug-fueled orgies. Philip is constantly harassed by Wolfe, Uschi’s jock boyfriend, and then there are his parents to deal with, a straight laced, stern father and a mom who wants Philip to get laid as long as it’s with Rebecca.

I also found there were a number of ‘easter egg’ type of gags such as Philip’s family name being Fleischhacker (Fleisch is German for meat), his friend being call “Weenie” but in the original German version his name is “Wurst” which means sausage (hence the English translation to Weenie). And I got a good laugh reading the sign for the school gym, the “Friedrich Nietzsche Gymnasium”.

Don’t let the ratings fool you, this one is worth watching.

To all my German cinefiles I say “Ich bin ein Zombie”!

Movie Reviews 302 – Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971)

June 10, 2017

The Horror genre can be broken down into various categories that are vastly different from one another in ways to deliver the anticipated scares. Most horror movies rely on physical aspects, be they creatures or human attributable violence. The more ephemeral ones employ ghosts as a foundation, but even those can be overt ghostly apparitions or mere observation of ghostly influence on surroundings. The subtle brands of horror are the psychological films that have scant jump scares and rely on emotion and implied dread. Let’s Scare Jessica to Death adds another dimension to this latter form of horror giving us a protagonist that has a questionable state of sanity to begin with before introducing the horror at hand.

Recently released from a stay at psychiatric institution, Jessica (Zohra Lampert), her husband Duncan (Barton Heyman) and their friend Woody (Kevin O’Connor) make a brief stopover in the Connecticut town that is near a farmhouse the couple recently purchased. Beginning with a tepid reception from the ferryman once he learns of their destination they get even more abrasive encounter from the townsmen hovering the porch of the local goods store.

Ostensibly the couple bought the house to get away from the big city but the underlying reason was for a fresh start  for Jessica and hoping she is really over her mental issues. But even before arriving at their new home Jessica has visions of a young girl and also begins hearing whispers, all of which she keeps to herself while beginning to question her sanity.

Once their hippie painted hearse arrives at the fog enshrouded, turreted Victorian house they are surprised by Emily (Mariclare Costello) a young homeless vagabond. Evident that Woody has taken a shine to her, Jessica convinces Duncan to let Emily to stay for a while. Jessica soon regrets this noticing an attraction between Emily and her husband. Jessica is further strained when they hold a seance that night as suggested by Emily hoping to contact those that have died in the house.

Low on funds as the trio intend to farm the grounds around the house, the couple pilfer the house contents and furnishings to see if they can sell some of the stuff to a local antique dealer. One particular item that catches Jessica’s eyes is an old silver framed picture she finds in the attic. In the picture are long departed residents of the house, the Bishop family. The picture includes the Bishop’s daughter Abigail who legend has it died on her wedding day and is now a vampire roaming the area. Notable is the fact that Emily is the striking image of long dead Abigail.

Soon after learning the story, Jessica notices that all the townsfolk are physically marked or impaired in some manner. The one ‘normal’ person they met, the antique dealer is soon found dead by Jessica after being lured to the body by the girl in her apparitions. But when Jessica drags Duncan to the location of the body it is no longer there. This convinces Duncan that Jessica needs to return to see her doctor, which splits the couple apart. Each new revelation further traumatizes Jessica, bit by bit, until she reaches the breaking point.

What makes the movie effective is the heavy handed and unrelenting strain on Jessica. While the main actors are all in top form, Lampert’s portrayal of Jessica is unnerving. Jessica is always smiling but it’s a tension filled smile. Viewers feel her vulnerability and self doubt. The film enhances this effect by sharing her thoughts as audible dialog along with the constant whispers, “I’m still here. You’ll never get better…”.

While clearly a vampire movie, that aspect is almost inconsequential from the horror perspective as it takes a back seat to the horror in Jessica’s mind. The movie has a ‘distant’ feel that makes it an underrated classic. The title says it all and it highlights the horror in the film. Thankfully the filmmakers did not use the original title they were considering. I suspect the movie would not be as cherished today if it was called “It Drinks Hippy Blood”.

Movie Reviews 300 – Demons (1985)

May 26, 2017

This being my 300th movie review post, the number three has been on my mind of late. I have often referred to members of the triumvirate of Italian horror divinity, namely Mario Bava, Dario Argento, and last but not least Lucio Fulci, in some of my past reviews. They not only defined the slasher genre before Hollywood jumped on that bandwagon, but also resurrected the “giallo” style of murder mysteries. But their far reaching influence not only inspired others, but also fostered projects among themselves and their extended family of collaborators and relatives.

Demons, directed and co-written by Lamberto Bava – Mario’s son and horror meister in his own right – and produced and also co-written by Dario is a cult favorite of the 80’s salvo of European flavoured horror and appropriately begins with a young girl (Natasha Hovey) travelling within Berlin’s marbled foyer subways. Believing she is being followed by a youth sporting a half-face mirror mask, he surprisingly hands Cheryl an invitation card to a free movie event that very evening for which she convinces her friend to accompany her.

The “Metropol” movie venue is an old gothic cathedral whose interiors have been converted into a quasi-museum with neo art sculptures and art pieces woven between the traditional movie posters. The clientele for the evening’s movie is just as eclectic. A boisterous, pimpish dude with his two disco divas (one even sporting a ‘Rick James’ corn row braided coif), a teen couple more interested in making out that viewing anything that will appear on the screen, the blind and spectacled Verner with his lascivious looking wife Liz, Liz’s maistre who is just as interested in making out with Liz as the teens, and two young boys who immediately take a shine to Cheryl and her friend.

As the night’s film reel begins to be projected onto the theater screen ‘this’ film alternates its point of view from the cinema goers to being the film they are seeing themselves which is a horror movie featuring teens in a graveyard and tomb. As the teens discuss Nostradamus’ foretelling of events and find a mask just like that worn by the ticket dispenser Cheryl encountered, the ‘on screen’ movie soon becomes a creature infested slaughter. At that same time one of ‘real world’ the disco divas is having a bit of a problem of her own in the bathroom and is soon screeching, fanged and oozing pulsating puss which is the beginning a infestation that will soon have the entire movie audience scrambling and avoiding one another as the malediction spreads.

Before long theater seats are flying, bodies are piling up and there seems to be endless chases within the stairways, hidden rooms and passageways. To spice things up a bunch of drugged up punks roaming the city also end up breaking into the Metropol in order to avoid some polizei hot on their tails after some late night hijinx.

The action comes to a crescendo with an in-theater, limb slashing, Samurai sword swirling motorcycle chase that would make The Great Escape’s Steve McQueen proud. And that’s before the helicopter drops in! If that does not categorize this as ‘must watch’ I don’t know what will.

While not featuring Goblin music it does include some notable 80’s heavyweight bands and songs while Claudio Simonetti’s score hits elevates the energy.  The masked ticket man was played by Michele Soavi who was assistant director and a frequent collaborator of Argento’s. While Argento’s daughter Asia later became a scream queen (debuting in Demons 2 no less), here his lesser known daughter Fiore has a small role.

Argento and Bava would reprise their production roles for the sequel Demons 2 a year later and while I have yet to track down that movie to assess it myself, based on the Demons 2 trailer on this disk I take it to be much of the same madness.

Movie Reviews 299 – Cronos (1993)

May 14, 2017

Director Guillermo del Toro is one of those creators who rose from the ranks of fandom, honing his craft over the years to ultimately become one of the greatest directors of horror and fantasy genre movies. With notable entries that include The Devil’s Backbone, Mimic, the Hellboy series and his magnum opus; Pan’s Labyrinth, del Toro has garnered the respect of colleagues and fans alike by having a solid story foundation and then having solid characters to drive them. As auteur taking on the roles of writer, director and producer, his creations are thoughtful, imaginative, compassionate and always contain some element of horror.

And all this began with Cronos, his first feature film at the tender age of 27 which immediately caught notice and garnered accolades that gave him ever increasing leverage and budgets to do more. Fans of his other films will notice that it is also the movie that lays other foundations that will be familiar in his later career, be it professionals team ups with actor Ron Perlman, cinematographer Guillermo Navarro and a penchant for insect and bugs and steampunk mechanics – before steampunk was a fad.

When elderly antique shop dealer Jesús Gris (Federico Luppi) observes that one of his shoppers has taken notice of a particular angelic statuette his curiosity is aroused. As soon as the shopper leaves he scrutinizes the figurine more closely and discovers an ornamental gold scarab-like device hidden inside. Clutching the palm sized jewelry it momentarily comes to mechanical life gripping his hand with clenching legs and extruding a scorpion like stinger that pinches him.

The momentary pain is followed by a euphoric sensation but in the following days he also notices a return to vigor and even his wife Mercedes (Margarita Isabel) notices a slightly more youthful appearance. Doting over his pride and joy, granddaughter Aurora (Tamara Shanath), he begins regularly – sting sessions which he believes to be a fountain of youth.

But the shopper that first lead his attention to the statuette was no regular customer but in fact one of many hired scouts searching for just such a figure at the behest of one Mr. De la Guardia (Claudio Brook), a dying rich man living in a sterile room. Upon hearing of the newfound statuette De la Guardia sends his nephew Angel (Ron Perlman) to purchase it, but is dismayed to learn that not only has the device he was seeking gone, but that Gris was draining the source of its powers.

Now, not only does Jesus have to deal with Angel trying to force him to give up the device, but he also learns it’s true secret, which is not exactly the nirvana he thought he had stumbled upon.

Rife with symbolism and allegory – in case you did not pick up on the suggestive religious connotations of the character names amongst other hints – the film is both profound and suspenseful. The secret of the device built by a 16th century alchemist and it’s internal workings shown in detail are both amazing and shocking.

This movie really has everything that del Toro fans have come to love without skimping on detail despite not having the budget of his later films. Now he and Perlman can just give us one more Hellboy

Movie Reviews 298 – Destroy All Monsters (1968)

May 6, 2017

I can’t believe I’ve almost reached 300 movie reviews and have yet to pen a review of even one Godzilla movie. I’ve seen all but two or three of the more than thirty movies starring the Big G, starting with his 1954 debut in Gojira (both the Hollywood ‘politically enhanced’ version where they inserted scenes with Raymond Burr and the much more somber Japanese original) continuing all the way to last year’s Shin Godzilla.

I’ve seen him battle King Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster, a smog monster, his American cousin King Kong, giant crustaceans, the pterodactyl like Rodan, lepidoptera Mothra (as adult and in his larval stage), space monsters and even metallic robot replicas of himself. Many of those foes he’s fought, twice, thrice and even more!

I’ve seen him grow from a 50 meter tall gargantuan to a monstrosity over twice that height over the span of a few movies. He’s had a son to join him in his city stomping endeavors (quite a feat considering Godzilla being a male), and then bastardized by an American version that not only had him look like a T-Rex on steroids but even had the gall to have ‘him’ be a ‘her’ to spawn yet another brood. (Still trying to forget that one).

I’ve even seen him die a few times only to magically come back to life when the creators at Toho studios decided he was ripe for a new series of movies, and a presumably to also magically create an inflow of yen for the studio coffers  His on again, off again periodic spurts – academically cited as the Shōwa (1954–1975), Heisei (1984–1995), and Millennium series (1999–2004) before this latest incarnation- have distinct qualities that not only reflect the special effects technologies available at the time, but also reflect the contemporary audiences they were aimed at.

But as a kid growing up with a black and white TV with 4 channels to chose from (two of which were in French), the opportunities to catch a Godzilla movie were rare. As much as the lure of Godzilla tugged on my conscience, I was equally intrigued by the progression of supporting cast of Kaiju creatures he battled as his legacy grew, some of whom ended up starring in their own films. So when I learn about Destroy All Monsters while reading about it in The Monster Times –  a mid seventies newspaper format monthly that sated my horror fix for 60 cents a pop – it was a dream come true. The first real monster melee and with a bunch of those I had not had the chance to see yet. His son Minilla (sometimes called Minya), Anguirus, Rodan, Mothra, Kumonga, Gorosaurus, Varan, Baragon, Manda, King Ghidorah, they were all here in one movie!

I had to wait until 1996 when the very first Fantasia film fest in Montreal included the film on it’s roster for me to finally see Destroy All Monsters in all it’s rubber suit glory for the first time.  Watching it again this week I have to confess that while living up to the hype of having the whole gang, plot wise it wasn’t quite the best.

As all these monsters had rampaged and been dealt with in previous movies, this one begins with all of them secured and living on an isolated island called “monsterland” which has controls and restraining mechanism geared for each of the behemoths. Suddenly they are all unleashed by aliens – the Kilaaks – and each monster appears over and begins tearing appart some major city in the world – France, Moscow, New York and finally Godzilla himself in Tokyo. It’s all part of a world domination plan by the Kilaaks. But in order to stop the monsters, Earth authorities first have to find where the Kilaaks are in order to destroy their controlling machine which by now also has some humans under control.

Riddled with forgettable dialogue, military officials and other world leaders seek guidance from a group of Japanese science specialists wearing Bruce Lee yellow jumpsuits. The white sequin wearing Kilaaks are finally found but in a last attempt to salvage their mission they unleash one final secret weapon. Predictably in the end the world is heroically saved at the last minute by the greatest monster of them all, Godzilla.

You can certainly do better if you’re going to watch only one or two Godzilla movies, but any real fan has to watch this one at least once in their lives.  “Skreeonk!”

Movie Reviews 297 – Won Ton Baby! (2011)

April 28, 2017

Madam Won Ton has a secret. Her idle-minded daughter Little Wing (Suzi Lorraine) who speaks only in baby-talk Chinese is not of Chinese descent at all but the result of a drug and alcohol fueled night of tomfoolery with a doped up, sweat suit wearing, Elvis impersonator who wears his flamboyant gold rimmed sunglasses to bed. In a role that only Scream Queen Debbie Rochon has the thespian acumen to make believable, Madam Won Ton, a former brothel Madam tries to keep her Chinese restaurant afloat, while drinking away her past life and her current problems.

One of those problems is the enormous growth on her pregnant  looking daughter’s abdomen as she clumsily waitresses in the restaurant, continually expressing “So solly. Me so solly.” as she drops food and drinks on the customers. When Little Wing suddenly feels pangs of pain and is brought to the hospital doctors determine that her protruding glob is a living parasitic twin which they excise and hand over to her with revulsion. Little Wing adopts her ‘brother’ as her own, oblivious to the trailing, dexterous umbilical cord and clawed hands. Sporting a shambling Elvis hairdo, the puppet like Won Ton Baby! monstrosity begins speaking within two days and starts hunting mice on the third. Then the bodies start piling up.

While Madam Won Ton charms the detective on the case (Lou Martini Jr.) her son Ben, a Jet Li wannabe, philosophically waxes Chinese ideology between hits of weed. In the meantime we get to see Baby jacking off to soft-core porn, smoke a few doobies himself and eventually having an unholy union with a drunk girl.

Undeniably twisted, this tale (co-written by “Little Wing” Lorraine) has us guessing what the baby will be like from the moment the camera zooms in on the bedside pill bottle with the “Risk of Birth Defects” warning. But no warning could be strong enough for the story that unfolds that includes scenes with “The King” in a sumo thong. It’s a poor man’s It’s Alive which includes Baby P.O.V. crawls and kills and a cameo by Leatherface himself, the late Gunnar Hansen.

Watch this one but I have to add one last warning. You don’t want to know what some of those cooks really serve as Chinese food in restaurants and the answer has nothing to do with the baby.

Movie Reviews 296 – Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)

April 21, 2017

While William Shatner is an actor everyone is familiar with, his career is denoted by his role as Captain James T. Kirk and a number of TV series. Not counting any of the Star Trek movies, you’d be hard pressed to name a feature film in which he starred. For myself Kingdom of the Spiders immediately comes to mind.

Released two years after Jaws, I suspect this film was partly aiming to tap into that “natural animal gone amok” theme, immediately opening with a similar prey Point of View killing shot where we have a spider walking a beeline towards a cow and then hearing its last panicked Moo. OK, it doesn’t have quite the same dramatic effect as a Shark swimming in for a kill, but this was but one of many thinly veiled swipes from Jaws. As the troublesome taratula carnage spreads just before the town’s highly anticipated County Fair is about to begin the Sheriff wants to make sure that the nearby ranch (which we are supposed to believe is a large tourist draw) is not going to be closed down and put into quarantine. Sound familiar?

But let’s get back to The Shat in the role of Rack Hansen (how’s that for a character name) who plays a doctor ‘playing doctor’ if you get my drift. Well a veterinarian anyhow whose lotharian longings are directed towards both his brother’s widow and Diane (Tiffany Bolling) the big city arachnologist who comes to help when the local tarantulas begin grouping in the hundreds and start killing large prey including people. Rack is the one who sent in a dead calf’s blood for analysis prompting Diane to arrive with the distressing and unbelievable news that the venom found in the blood sample was hundreds of times more potent than normal tarantula bites. With Rack’s eyes are on her as much as the spiders I suspect that he too wished he had eight eyes so he could scope in more than one woman at a time. In typical Shat fashion he is literally all over the women, rolling on the ground with his sister-in-law after a horse ride in which he lassos her and then proposing Diane at every opportunity.

But the spiders are the draw of the movie and you won’t be disappointed in that regard. Numbering in the hundreds for many shots, I suspect many were fake replicas. But the close up scenes used the real buggers and I have to give credit to the cast as most of the actors had them crawling over them at some point and quite a few even handle a bunch of the eight legged crawlers in their hands.

The story sums up the reason for the invasion as DDT killing the spider’s sources of food leading them to be more aggressive and seek out new subsistence supplies. But who cares, right? We came for The Shat who gets to entertain us in a scene which he gets to overact while seemingly in his death throes. Now for real acting the movie does deliver with the roles of the rancher couple that are the initial hosts of the spiders, played by the great Woody Strode and Altovise Davis, Sammy Davis Jr’s wife, in what turned out to be her most memorable role.

As was the case for the movie Squirm, all I could get my hands on was the novelization of the movie to read.  Why was it so hard for me to watch all these bug movies? Perhaps that is why I appreciate them so much today? In any case if you do have a chance to watch this one be sure to stick around until the very last frame for a monumental matte painting shot that’ll be sure to give you the creeps.

Movie Reviews 294 – Shrooms (2007)

April 7, 2017

When prim and proper Tara (Lindsey Haun) joins a bunch of friends on a trip to Ireland her real goal was to strike a romance with a foreign friend of the gang, the Irish local Jake (Jack Huston, the latest entrant in the Huston thespian dynasty). Her friends on the other hand have a slightly more mischievous goal of having Jake, a connoisseur of the hallucinogenic fungi, host them to a wild ‘Magic” mushroom camping trip.

As Jake drives the vacationers deep into lush and damp forests of the Emerald Isle the trip is temporarily marred when their camper van runs into a wild goat only to have a pair of hillbillies gladly scamper off with the roadkill, presumably for dinner. Later while harvesting the psilocybin mushrooms Jake neglects to inform everyone in the party that they are to avoid the similar looking “Death’s Head” Shrooms as their effects go way beyond mere head trips and can lead to paralysis and even death. Unaware of this little fact Tara ingests a Death’s Head and has a near deadly convulsing episode.

As Tara recovers later that night Jake entertains the others with a campfire tale of the Legend of the Black Brothers a religious order who ran a young offenders institution in the area. Suffice to say that local legend has it that the lone surviving victim of the most sadistic of the Black Brothers is said to roam to forests. Tara begins to experience both sightings of shadowy figures while at the same time having premonitions of ill fated demises of her friends as they begin to disperse and disappear in the backwoods. Is the legend true or are Tara’s experiences all in her head?

You would think that the filmmakers would capitalize on the possibility that Tara may merely be experiencing a distorted perception of events and her surroundings as it is made clear that that is one of the effects of the mushrooms. But unfortunately this is only hinted at briefly and then discarded as the plot evolves into a ‘by the numbers’ horror in the woods suspense with the archetypal Scooby gang as fodder (jock, primadonna, stoner, outsider, etc.) Worse yet, we have little empathy for the group of snot nosed friends as they can barely tolerate and take every opportunity to backstab one another. The hillbillies do figure in the plot but only as a distraction that further complicates the viewers take on what’s really going on. What we do get is a lot of running around, glimpses and hints of some feral child or animal, and a lot of psychotropic visuals.

The film’s marketing tagline is “Get ready to be wasted” but I didn’t realize that that would include my time watching this tale from the Land of Leprechauns. This is one bad trip and you’d be better of settling for a bowl of Lucky Charms.  At least “They’re Magically Delicious!”

Movie Reviews 291 – Garden of the Dead (1972)

March 17, 2017

If you think that this movie is geared to horticulturalists seeking to prolong the lifespan of their petunias or azaleas, drop your hoe right now. Although manure does figure prominently in my assessment of the film there is a seed of low budget wholesomeness that levitates Garden of the Dead for the bottom of the barrel, but only by a fraction.

Credit DVD distributor Retromedia for including a drawing of a bombshell to create an nontraditional FBI DVD warning, but I had to question the introduction with Ohio horror host “Son of Ghoul’ who lambastes the film before egging Retromedia founder and B movie producer, director Fred Olen Ray to hurl a bowling ball through a TV set before we get to see the opening credits. This was not an option on the DVD mind you but built right into the Play command. Not sure what all that was about but whatever.

A snazzy, catchy Jazz beat gets things rolling with a bunch of prisoners hauling formaldehyde barrels around a worksite, as we cut to some of them hiding from their guards and sniffing the stuff as they plan for their not so great escape.

Clearly divided into groups that want to partake and others that want to know nothing about the impending outbreak, those determined soon make their getaway. With one of bumbling escapees taking in one last whiff of the noxious gas, he soon stumbles, alerting the guards which leads to an inevitable motor chase, the end result of which is the convicts crashing into a graveyard and having formaldehyde spill across the plots.

Within seconds hands of the living dead are bursting through the soil grabbing ankles amidst a futile shootout with the prison guards. So what do the zombies do? Why they head for the garden tools in the getaway pickup of course as they merrily chant “Destroy the living”. I only mention this since honestly it’s the only tie in to a garden that could explain the title.

The plot includes one ‘good’ prisoner named Paul who has an emotion filled visit from his lascivious lady Carol. After a few zombie battles that take out some of the neighbors and the perpetually gloved warden, those that are still alive, prisoners and guards alike, get holed up in a standoff on the prison grounds. In the end, twas beauty in the guise of Carol that killed the … zombies.

Clocking in at a merciful 58 minutes, this will never make anyone’s top ten zombie movie list. Or top twenty. But I’ve seen far worse so I’ll leave it at that.

One last thing about the Retromedia DVD. The trailer included as the only extra is for the wrong film. But the trailer that was included which was for the co-feature Grave of the Vampire actually looked more interesting than this movie.

Movie Reviews 289 – Discopath (2013)

March 3, 2017

DiscopatheWhen the guys from Black Fawn films discussed and ran the trailer for Discopath (original French title Discopathe) at a comic con nearly three years ago I was stoked. Shot mostly in Montreal and featuring a Disco era slasher, the trailer highlighted lofty production values that accurately captured the mid 70’s smoke filled discotheques, funky duds, and gleaming chrome bumpered wheels. I was even kind pissed not being able to get a copy then and there and was only able to buy my DVD from them the following year.

A few DVD synch issues resolved, I finally got around to spinning this disc anticipating a nostalgic reprise of movies like Joe Spinell’s Maniac, or perhaps another musically inclined light horror like Phantom of the Paradise. The premise was rife with possibilities, the trailer looked promising, how could things go wrong? But somewhere along the way a few ‘mis-steps’ were made on this dancefloor and the end result was no chart-topper or even a one-hit-wonder.

The disquieting ripples begin with the first scene where we find Duane (Jérémie Earp-Lavergne) chatting with Valerie (Katherine Cleland) in full roller skating regalia. The wardrobes are perfect but the ‘New Yawk’ accents are grating. The two are chatting in what is obviously a modern day cement sloped skateboard park because back in the 70’s no such public parks existed for roller skaters. Valerie becomes Duane’s first victim that night at the local discotheque which befuddles the NYPD officer Paul Stevens (Ivan Freud) as the case remains unsolved.

Leap ahead five years later to a religious all girl residential school in Montreal  where Duane, now using an assumed name is handyman. When two of the girls sneak back into the dorm as all the other students head home for a long weekend, the music they play on their rickety 45 RPM record player touches off Duane’s memory of his father being electrocuted by his HI FI stereo system when he was a child. Transfixed by the traumatic sonic memory, Duane viciously slaughters the girls, and miraculously the news reaches the ears of detective Stevens who must plead with his supervisor to allow him to revisit the cold case on his own dime.

By the time Stevens arrives in Montreal to work with local inspector Sirois (François Aubin), Duane has nabbed one of the teachers, Francine (Sandrine Bisson), that has caught Duane’s eye. Unknown to all, the sultry and flashy Francine was also having an affair with Sister Mirielle (Ingrid Falaise), the straight laced and bun coiffed head teacher. After a car crunching and body strewn car chase, Duane finally gets cornered for a Dyno-O-Mite denouement.

While the film has a lot going for it, it does suffers from a ridiculous script, lame acting by lead Earp-Lavergne, and other factors that could have been easily addressed. From a plot point of view the worst assault is the fact that Stevens takes the merest of hints that his original killer was triggered by music – music was playing in the background – and then links it to another murder in another country five years later simply because the killer diced victims with 45’s. As for the acting one could argue that the role of Duane is arguably impassive when in a semi-trance state committing his crimes, but Earp-Lavergne’s portrayal is as rigid as a vinyl disc throughout.

An example of the nuisance factor are the choices made for the score. You’d think that with a disco themed film the musical selection would be pretty obvious. Expecting only an original soundtrack reminiscent of the disco sound, I was a bit surprised that the budget even allowed for procuring the rights to one or two bona fide hit songs of the time. Hearing K.C. and the Sunshine Band’s “I’m your boogie man” was fine, but was totally stumped as to why the main featured track ended up being Kiss’ “I was made for lovin you”. Great sound mind you, a huge hit, but hardly disco.

One the positive side, both Mirielle and Francine are credible and downright appealing as they coo and tease over the phone about their clandestine lesbian affair while Sirois is great playing the cop with just the right touch of humour. The costumes reign with period clothing featuring wide collars, tank tops and skin tight gym shorts. Aside from the aforementioned ‘Death by 45’s’ there is also an appropriate strobe lit kill and other fair carnage effects, some done notably by Rémi Couture, who gained notoriety for having so vivid artwork he was prosecuted.

With apologies to my disco trotting friends the final verdict is the same as that applied to the disco music of that era. Disco(path) sucks.