Redneck Zombies (1989)

kinopoisk.ru

Directed by Pericles Lewnes [Other horror films: N/A]

I am somewhat ashamed to say that I actually have a pretty good time with this movie, mostly due to the fact of how utterly stupid so much of it.

For some reason, I’ve seen this at least twice before, and some scenes are pretty damn memorable, such as the introduction of the Tobacco Man (sort of a parody of the neighborhood staple ice cream man) and a rather odd, yet ominous, sequence at a local butcher’s house. Other scenes stand out also, such as the LSD-inspired zombie sequence, along with the autopsy scene which, while ultimately silly, was entertaining if only due to Anthony Burlington-Smith’s over-the-top antics.

Being a lower-budget film, the gore is pretty damn good, in a Nathan Schiff way. I rather liked the scene in which a zombie pushed his thumbs through another’s eyes and a solid decapitation toward the end. Obviously, this movie was aiming to be gory, and they certainly did a good job with what they had.

Most of the actors and actresses here weren’t in anything else, which probably isn’t surprising due to the nature of the film. It’s difficult to judge many of them, too, because they sort of tried to make this a traditionally bad film. Lisa DeHaven doesn’t really seem like final girl material (which isn’t a spoiler, as it’s shown at the very beginning of the film she survives), and didn’t particularly stand out. I did like James Housely, but he didn’t add all that much to the story. Bucky Santini was something else entirely.

There were times when the silly nature of the film was too much for me, such as the almost line-for-line parody of the hitchhiker from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Also, the high levels of stupidity the rednecks had was, again, a bit much (though the “Don’t open ’till Christmas” line did make me sort of chuckle). It’s not an easy film to necessarily like, but if you can get past some of the really stupid scenes, I do think it’s a movie you can enjoy.

Redneck Zombies is classic Troma entertainment. Great gore, horrible acting, and a somewhat interesting taking on a often-told story. Just think of it as a low-budget and politically incorrect (the Jew joke at the beginning got me laughing, I admit) version of The Return of the Living Dead, but even then, you’ll not really understand what this film’s like until you chance a watch. For as stupid as it is, I do enjoy it, and that certainly counts for something. It’s indeed the epitome of horror.

6.5/10

Le notti del terrore (1981)

Le notti

Directed by Andrea Bianchi [Other horror films: La tua presenza nuda! (1972), Nude per l’assassino (1975), Malabimba (1979), Maniac Killer (1987), Incontri in case private (1988), Massacre (1989), Gioco di seduzione (1990)]

This Italian zombie offering (commonly known best as Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror) has some fantastic special effects in both their zombie design and exuberant amounts of gore. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really offer up much aside from that.

Really, it’s hard for zombies movies to not feel derivative – at times, this felt like fellow Euro-horror forebears such as Tombs of the Blind Dead and Let Sleeping Corpses Lie/The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (though in somewhat unique fashion, the former is a Spanish film while the latter an Italian-Spanish production), and of course emulated Fulci’s Zombi 2 and City of the Living Dead, along with taking some elements from Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare City.

All of this is to say that you pretty much know what you’re going to get: a thread-bare story but great gore and effects, and by God, Burial Ground delivers.

Obviously, perhaps one of the most memorable scenes is a woman getting her nipple and breast tip gnawed off, but there are also plenty of scenes of zombies digging through peoples’ entrails (thinking Night of the Living Dead, only in glorious color), along with just general great use of gore. The zombies themselves have a great design too, looking both overly decayed, dried out, and decrepit, along with being inundated with maggots and seeping brownish liquid (which one can only imagine would be quite foul) when punctured.

Most of the performances here aren’t really note-worthy in any way. One that just has to be mentioned, though, is Pietro Barzocchini (credited as Peter Bark in the film). Because of Italian laws that restricted the use of children in violent and sexual scenes, Barzocchini (age 25 at the time) was cast as a young child (I’m guessing he was supposed to be between the ages of seven and ten), which added such a strange, surreal feel to the scenes he was present in. It also allowed for a rather creepy scene where he tried to seduce his mother.

Oh, fun times indeed.

On a small side-note, I rather liked the somewhat low-key way this film ended. I can imagine it bothering some viewers, but it also plays into the whole hopelessness the characters felt throughout the whole film.

For a fan of classic horror, there’s a lot to appreciate about this movie, but Zombi 2 will always be my go-to when it comes to Italian zombie movies, no matter how good some of the effects here tend to be. Still, I definitely recommend giving this one a look, as really, you can’t go wrong with Italian zombie flicks from that golden era.

7/10

Blood Hook (1986)

Blood Hook

Directed by Jim Mallon [Other horror films: N/A]

While I generally enjoy slashers and slasher-like flicks from the 1980’s, something about this one didn’t quite work for me. Dare I say, I wasn’t hooked.

One thing I do appreciate about this film is the story – while they had characters who never really did much, I did like the characterization of some of the main performances, and though it was sort of muddled due to the low-budget quality of the film, I think the backstory on some of the characters here was interesting and a bit deeper than you might expect.

Of course, the movie throws in a bit of humor too, and it’s not too over-the-top, which is another thing I give Blood Hook props for. Oh, it certainly felt silly at times (just an over-sized fishing hook flying out of the dark, with no indication of someone nearby, felt a bit much), and the ‘loon-woman’ was just hilariously ridiculous, but the light-hearted tone, if anything, was far more muted than I expected (especially for a film distributed by Troma).

Speaking on that point, actually, there is a longer version of the movie out there, clocking in around two hours, while I saw the more common Troma release, which cut out quite a bit, from my understanding. Given that I didn’t particularly care for what I saw, I sort of doubt I’ll try out the longer version, but it should be stated that, in all fairness, that I didn’t see the ‘most complete’ version of Blood Hook out there.

For a movie of such a low budget, I will say that much of the cast did decent. Most of them appeared just in this single film (which was filmed on location in Wisconsin), such as Christopher Whiting, Sara Hauser, Don Winters (probably one of my favorite performances in the film), and Paul Drake. Others appeared in a handful of other movies and/or episodes, such as Mark Jacobs, Lisa Todd, and Bill Lowrie. Lisa Todd had perhaps one of the funniest scenes, in which she’s trying to connect on a personal level with the killer – something that I generally wouldn’t care for, but worked well here.

As much fun as the movie can occasionally be (personally, I wasn’t feeling all that invested until around the half-way mark), Blood Hook dragged much of the time. The little gore there was struck me as decent for the budget, and like I said, the story itself was actually pretty solid, but this movie didn’t work on some level for me, which is a shame, as it certainly had potential.

Honestly, this may just be one I need to give another shot a few years down the line – I could see my opinion improving a bit if I gave it another chance. As it is now, though, I find Blood Hook a rather sub-par slasher during a time when so many better horror flicks were being released.

5.5/10

The Undying Monster (1942)

Poster

Directed by John Brahm [Other horror films: The Lodger (1944), The Mad Magician (1954)]

Even for the time period, this early werewolf flick didn’t really add much to the genre. That said, it’s a perfectly competent film, and it’s mystery even allows it to harken back to the more classic old-dark house-type films.

None of this is to say the story itself is bad – it’s a somewhat fun little mystery with possibly supernatural aspects thrown in along with more than a few suspects. The movie hits hard on the procedural part of detective work, too, and even throws in a ten-minute coroner inquest. Of course, this wasn’t always the most thrilling material, but it did lend an authentic feel to the film.

John Howard, Bramwell Fletcher, and James Ellison all do pretty well in their roles, though I will say without the mustaches, I’d have likely found the three indistinguishable. Heather Angel was perfectly fine as the leading woman (and even had some strength not often seen in women from older films), though Heather Thatcher came across as annoying most of her time on-screen (likely because she was the comedy relief character). Halliwell Hobbes, though a name I’m not familiar with in the least, was perhaps one of the most memorable performances, playing a life-long butler with a secret.

And of course, this is where a lot of the fun has always come from these types of films – multiple parties throughout the movie, all with deep secrets and their own goals. That’s why films like The Last Warning and The Bat Whispers are films I often speak fondly about when discussing this era, and that’s why this one is a bit better than you might at first suspect.

Truth be told, when I first saw this film, I was somewhat bored, even though the film’s just over an hour long. The issue was that there weren’t nearly as many ‘scary’ sequences as you’d hope, which is still an issue now. However, I appreciate the way they approached this, in an almost-scientific mind-frame, so while it’s not always overly exciting or engaging, there’s still something to see.

Coming out just a year following The Wolf Man, and seven years off Werewolf of London, The Undying Monster does little to add to or really expand on the addition of werewolves to the horror genre, especially when the film plays out like an old dark-house mystery with a werewolf thrown in last minute. Even though it’s not dripping in originality, it’s still a competent film, and the setting, an old mansion near the cliff-side, certainly brings a pleasant atmosphere to it.

7/10

You Might Be the Killer (2018)

Poster

Directed by Brett Simmons [Other horror films: Husk (2011), The Monkey’s Paw (2013), Animal (2014), Chilling Visions: 5 States of Fear (2014)]

For a modern-day slasher, this was refreshingly innovative and ultimately a pretty fun take on what generally is a far too played out story.

Told in a non-linear narrative, much of it in flashback with a framing sequence, this comedy-horror mix was pretty fun. While laugh out loud moments weren’t really all that common, the humor here was still pretty enjoyable, and there was enough decent gore, though not the focus, to also keep slasher fans happy.

The structure of the narrative ends up making the film not only more unique, but more memorable also. I enjoyed how the beginning was told via flashback, but then we sort of caught up to the present, and went from there. It helped greatly with Alyson Hannigan’s inactive role, and gave her, despite lack of action, a lot to contribute.

Of course, Hannigan’s presence is perhaps one of the reasons this movie’s gotten more attention than it otherwise might have. Hannigan does great here, and while I basically only know her from the American Pie movies (I’ve never seen any How I Met Your Mother), I think she gave a great performance. As a lead, Franz Kranz (Marty the stoner from The Cabin in the Woods) was fantastic also, and brought a fun performance to the film. Brittany S. Hall and Jenna Harvey did well also, Harvey especially as the innocent, final-girl type.

At times, the humor was a bit much, such as the final few seconds, but even that was foreshadowed, so it didn’t come across nearly as bad as it otherwise would have. Really, for a modern-day horror-comedy, this was a pretty solid mix without the comedy coming across as either overbearing or too still, which was sort of nice.

The director of this film, Brett Simmons, also directed a flick called Husk from 2011, which had been one of the few scarecrow horror films I’ve found worth watching (along with the more classic Dark Night of the Scarecrow from 1981 and Scarecrows from 1988), but that film, as much as I recall liking it, didn’t reach the unique level this one did, so it’s great to see the director’s improving his craft.

You Might Be the Killer may not win any awards, but it’s a movie with a solid main cast (most of the cast not mentioned are interchangeable, but that sort of fits with the nature of the film), an occasional retro-feel, enjoyable humor, and most importantly, an innovative narrative. Definitely a movie I’d recommend to any slasher fans.

8/10

Investigation 13 (2019)

Investigation 13

Directed by Krisstian de Lara [Other horror films: N/A]

So this movie took me moderately by surprise, but it wasn’t a surprise that by any means made the film better. At a cursory glance, I was expecting a found footage film, and while there are elements of found footage here, Investigation 13 is more ambitious than that. Like I said, though, it doesn’t make for a better viewing experience.

I have a handful of problems with this one. Most importantly, and most damning, I didn’t get the sense that the actors and actresses had their heart in the script. It felt soulless, and that can be a hard detriment to overcome, primarily because my perception may be off, and that colored my view deeply of the film.

Also, Investigation 13 utilized some rough animation sequences when going into the origins of the antagonistic Mole Man (no, not the classic Fantastic Four foe). I don’t mind throwing in animation for stylistic variety, but none of the animated portions (including the post-credits one) really did much in the way of moving the story along. I guess we got an origin, but it didn’t really matter whatsoever.

Another thing that bothered me – this group of paranormal investigators have done twelve previous investigations into the supposed supernatural. The twelfth is brought up a handful of time as a failure, yet never does the film go into what went wrong with it, which just bugged me. Why bring it up at all (multiple times) if you’ve no intention on touching on it later in detail?

Stephanie Hernandez didn’t do great, but she was the only cast-member who is even partially memorable. I don’t really blame the performances for my dislike of the film, because had the story been better, or more interesting, or different (and sorry, animated origins spread throughout the film don’t classify as sufficiently different), it might have been worth something, but that’s not the case.

I didn’t much care for the Mole Man here. I guess he got an okay kill in near the end (complete with a scalping), but he’s pretty forgettable, and that ‘twist’ near the end (which isn’t really explained that well) didn’t help matters out.

However, I will give it this much credit – they easily could have made this fully in the found footage style, and had that been the route they took, I think the movie probably would have been worse and even more generic. That said, it’s not like the way they ultimately went was all that more original, but hey, there are worse movies out there.

When all’s said and done, Investigation 13 just felt hollow, and while the setting is okay, and maybe the story had some potential somewhere, the movie just wasn’t anywhere near what I’d call good, or even average.

4/10

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Sweeney Todd

Directed by Tim Burton [Other horror films: Sleepy Hollow (1999), Dark Shadows (2012)]

This Tim Burton movie is pretty much the type of musical you’d expect from him – overly dark and depressing, gory, and pretty damn tragic when the credits begin rolling, which all work to it’s credit.

Since this is a Burton movie, the cast is just as good as you’d hope for. Of course Johnny Depp does an amazing job playing a man who is very quickly losing the little sanity he had to begin with (the whole of the finale was a fantastically gory and manic conclusion), and is a treat to see, as are Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham Carter. Jayne Wisener doesn’t do much, but the story doesn’t really give her much to do, so that’s excusable. Two smaller performances I really liked here were Timothy Spall and Jamie Campbell Bower, as Spall gave that slimy, smarmy performance I liked from his portrayal of Pettigrew, and Bower gave us a fresh, innocent face which contrasted nicely with everything else on screen.

Given that there are so few musicals with horror elements mixed in, it’s hard to compare this one to the ideal horror-musical. I do know I liked the songs better in this one than I did from Repo! The Genetic Opera, but that’s more due to stylistic differences above anything else. That said, I don’t know how memorable most of the songs here are – something that is of mild concern.

Regardless, the story of revenge was well-done, and the splatter of gore, for a mainstream movie like this, was surprisingly good. There wasn’t much variety in the death scenes, which were generally just slit throats, but the blood did flow generously, which was good enough to me.

The tone of this one is just dark, and while the ending isn’t entirely down-hearted, it certainly lives up to it’s somber feel. Also worth noting, while the movie’s almost two hours, it doesn’t feel that long at all, mainly, I suspect, because of the songs. If you’re a fan of Burton, I don’t see why this film would let you down over any of his others, unless you couldn’t stomach the multiple slit throats. It’s an experience that’s not overly surprising if you’re a fan of Burton’s, but it is rewarding despite it’s tragic conclusion, even upon multiple viewings.

8/10