Wednesday, August 30, 2006


A heated argument between man and woman ends in a jolting act of violence, jump-starting Insane-O-Rama's latest excursion into the world of the undead, following their 2003 vampire feature STRANGE THINGS HAPPEN AT SUNDOWN. Right away, intense and sweat-drenched believable performances by the cast, accompanied by loud music and unsettling cinematography usher in what is in my opinion the most relevant and powerful entry in zombie film history since Scooter McCrae's criminally under-seen SHATTER DEAD (1994).

In LAST RITES OF THE DEAD, the living co-exist with zombies, but things are very problematic to say the least. The living dead are spat upon, seen as some kind of disgusting lower class by the general population, given the most menial and shitty jobs possible, and are routinely beaten by violent hoodlums. Life as a zombie sucks hard, to the point where voluntary euthanasia sites are set up for any who want to unburden themselves by having their brains blown out by masked psychopaths with shotguns. The story focuses on the recently-deceased Angela (Gina Ramsden), who is trying to adjust to life after death by attending a zombie support group whose members are literally falling apart, and the efforts of ex-boyfriend Josh (Joshua Nelson) and his pals to join a squad of exterminators hellbent on putting a bullet through the skull of every last piece of undead scum on the planet. Lead by a tough-as-hell woman known only as The Commandant (Christa McNamee) and armed to the teeth, the unit preaches a message of seperatism and superiority that's a stark contrast to the touchy-feely bubble Angela's support group tries to create. When she meets up with a cult of militant zombies who see themselves as the next evolutionary step above humans, the stakes increase and all-out war between the living and the dead seems eminent.

LAST RITES is on the one hand absolutely dark and brutal, spilling over with exploding heads and intestines and gore-soaked walls, and on the other, emotionally riveting and action-packed. The pacing is perfect, the acting is amazing, and every single act of violence resonated deeply with me. While the effects, performances and fight sequences are indeed top-notch, the story and characters remain in the foreground at all times. Not once do you get lost in the carnage, not once is it without meaning and point, not once does it seem gratuitous or showy. Ramsden, Nelson and McNamee are always on volume 10, keeping the audience connected and believing what they are seeing isn't some retarded gore movie, but rather events that are actually happening to actual people. I was seeing zombies get their heads cut off and placed on stakes, then blown apart with shotguns, and I honestly felt bad for them. This is how I know the movie works on the level it was meant to.

Writer-Director Mark Fratto gets right with this film what even zombie master George Romero didn't with either of his follow-ups to the classic DAWN OF THE DEAD; in both the underdone DAY OF THE DEAD and the overcooked LAND OF THE DEAD, special effects and hit-you-over-the-head political commentary both ultimately caused the elements that made NIGHT and DAWN work so well to take a backseat. LAST RITES OF THE DEAD is a movie about the very nature of our race, and how easily we let petty differences cloud the fact that we are all human. Why are you this important person, this privileged being when you're alive, and then as soon as you die, you're this disgusting piece of meat? What makes you different all of a sudden? The two camps in the film are both on the extreme side, and neither one is right. Their solutions only involve violence, separation, and superiority. Their supposed strength is in fact cowardice and ignorance, exposing the root problem of man's centuries-old inability to take a step outside and take a hard look at himself.

My favorite thing about LAST RITES is that it isn't making any one clear statement, but instead asks you to look around and ask your own questions, see similarities to the world around you, and draw your own conclusions. It may very well be the last zombie movie I ever need to watch, because in many ways it's the one I've always been waiting for.

Monday, August 28, 2006


Writer/Director David Quitmeyer pairs up again with his SLAUGHTER DISC star Caroline Pierce for another tale about an unlucky-in-love loser who turns to mail order to get his romantic jollies off, this time going the more comedic route and letting the hardcore horror stuff rest. The 36-minute short MAIL ORDER BRIDE concerns Steve (Corey Foxx), a guy who has endured one failed relationship after another and turns to more desperate means after a Myspace-type hookup goes horribly wrong. Steve's solution to his problems is the "Personal Concubine 2000", a $3,000 lingerie-clad blond android he sees in a late-night TV commercial. When the PC 2000 arrives, she looks more like BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR, covered in stitches and sporting bizarre pupil-less eyes. Amazingly, Steve reads the instructions and follows the proper procedures for charging the battery and programming the android to please him in any pornographic ways he desires. All he's got to do is let her absorb data by watching videotapes, as long as he's super-careful what kind of movies she sees! Any horror fan can probably guess where this is headed, especially when numerous mentions are made of an "all-night horror movie marathon" happening on TV while the android is at home, but this film, like SLAUGHTER DISC, hinges on another amazing performance by Caroline Pierce. She plays the PC 2000 with absolute skill and chilling accuracy, to the point where even though you suspect what she might do to Steve, there's no way you'll be able to predict just how things end up.

MAIL ORDER BRIDE is actually four movies in one, as Quitmeyer had to create not only the main film, but two television shows, three horror movies, a porno and the PC 2000 commercial as well. All this is very well put together, and makes for a quick-paced and entertaining viewing experience. Anyone who is familiar with knows that MAIL ORDER BRIDE has roots in real life (that website inspired the underrated horror flick LOVE OBJECT a couple years back), and like SLAUGHTER DISC, it's a cautionary tale about the dangers involved in trying to replace human interaction with technology. In our text message e-mail based culture, face-to-face communication is slipping away daily, and people are becoming less able to function the way humans are supposed to. It may seem easier to go the cyber route, seemingly avoiding the pain and disappointment that relationships can bring, but ultimately you're only gonna fuck yourself up. To me, this is what Quitmeyer's films are about, and he and the amazing Caroline Pierce have come up with another horror movie that holds a mirror up to the parts of ourselves we would rather admit don't exist.


Everyone who recommended SILENT HILL to me also happened to be big fans of the video game it's based on. As weird as this may sound, I think the film would have been better if they HADN'T stayed so true to the game. I realize the filmmakers would have risked pissing off basically everyone who was gonna go see the movie, but ultimately the film would have been much much more enjoyable for the average horror movie fan or movie-watcher. SILENT HILL is in many ways a really great movie, it has a stunning visual style, great music, outstanding cinematography, and gorgeous creepy sets. It's full of actors I like a lot (such as Deborah Kara Unger and Alice Krige), it's a female-driven movie, and the script was written by Roger (RULES OF ATTRACTION) Avary. So why did I find myself becoming very restless watching this film? Why was it more fun to make jokes about it?

The answer is, watching SILENT HILL is exactly like watching someone else play a video game for 2 hours. Not exactly my idea of a fun evening. Video games have gotten so cinematic and, at times, scary, that producers get this idea that a literal translation from console to silver screen (including the exact same look of the computer-animated monsters) will result in a good movie. While I think director Christophe Gans's film BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF was highly overrated, I expected a bit more out of Roger Avary, one of my favorite writer/directors. There are times when it does indeed feel like you're watching a movie, but for the majority of the 125-minute running time of SILENT HILL, you're watching a woman run around and find stuff in different rooms, just like a video game. Some jolt or drastic change occurs every so often, and then it's back to run around and find stuff again.

I will say the climax in the town church is very intense and effective, unquestionably the best scene in the film. It brings the gore and the freak-outs and the payoffs, but the wait is near-agonizing. I felt Laurie Holden's expert performance as the female police officer deserved to have been written as more than a one-dimensional game character, actually none of the actors (save for maybe Krige) had much at all to work with in terms of character development. I'd expect this kind of thing from a video game, but not from a horror film with this much talent involved.


Sorority house: CHECK. Pretty girl with glasses as nerdy heroine: CHECK. Horrible creature effects: CHECK. Nudity and gore: CHECK. Lesbians: CHECK. Cleavage: CHECK. Kung-fu: CHECK. All that's missing is a chainsaw.

Seriously - INSECTICIDAL stacks up as one of the best b-movies I've seen in a very long time. This is how it's done, folks. When likeable science nerd Cami (Meghan Heffern) accidentally loses an experimental mutant bug in the sorority house, you can probably guess this leads to a night of some slimy, gooey, creepy goings-on. What might surprise you is the way the filmmakers executed the precise right balance between camp, comedy, and sci-fi to create an entirely satisfying low-budget movie experience. And while the computer-generated giant bugs are REALLY crappy (they make Sci-Fi Channel Original Movies' fx look like ILM) the makeup and gore are outstanding, and the acting is actually pretty good too. The standout performance of the film for me was Rhoda Dent as uber-bitch Josi, the head of the sorority house. It's definitely the best role of the film, and gives Dent a chance to really dig into a dynamic part that requires a lot of overacting. A lot. And to boot, she sometimes looks like Brinke Stevens!

This is a real ass-kicker, people. An example of just what you can do if you really understand the ingredients of the greatest exploitation and b-movies ever made. Highly recommended!


Anyone who's attracted to women described as chunky, fat, plump, rubenesque, chubby or BBW and has spent any time on the web checking them out has probably run into the whole "feeders/gainers" thing at one point or another. Personally, I find it a bit fucked-up, just because the whole relationship is based on someone with low self-esteem doing awful things to their body just to feel wanted and loved by men who get off on holding that kind of power over a woman. Unlike websites that celebrate natural beauty and acceptance, the idea behind this stuff is just as dangerous and starving yourself and/or puking because you wanna be skinny. However, I gotta admit, this made an intriguing premise for a horror/crime thriller, so I was extremely curious about Brett (LAWNMOWER MAN, VIRTUOSITY) Leonard's latest flick, FEED.

Unfortunately after a solid, intense, freaky-as-all-get-out opening sequence that wowed me to no end in terms of content, photography and editing, FEED turned into a pretty standard cop chasing psycho kind of a film that doesn't make with the good stuff again until the climax of the movie, which contains a very shocking moment of unexpected violence. It's a shame Leonard and company couldn't maintain the intensity and tone they'd pulled off so well in the beginning and end scenes. The special fx makeup on the "gainer" (Gabby Millgate, "Joanie" from MURIEL'S WEDDING) is just convincing enough to really really work, and her performance is nice and over-the-top just like I like 'em. And again, the idea of someone eating and eating until they're so huge they can't even get out of bed is just really disturbing. Google it - this shit is real.

Those of you looking for a creative entry in the tired crime thriller genre might enjoy this, especially if you've never heard of or are curious about the wild world of fetish on the web. Horror fans who are considering picking this up based on the quotes on the cover box raving about how "sick" this film is are gonna find themselves disappointed. It was worth the rental for the beginning and end, and for all the scenes involving the fake fat woman. Don't watch while eating!


In my review of Brett Kelly's SPACEMEN, GO-GO GIRLS AND THE TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS, I praised him for finally making a comedy. Brett is truly one of the funniest individuals on the indie film scene, but his film work has primarily been of the straightforward, horror-thriller, dramatic variety, so it was great to see him produce something more in line with his personality. His latest film MY DEAD GIRLFRIEND is a truly satisfying marriage of what Kelly does best - it's a horror comedy. Alright, man.

Steve (Kelly) is a teacher who has just moved in with his girlfriend Amy, a student with a seemingly educational interest in the occult. The couple have scarcely begun unpacking their belongings when a freak accident leaves Amy dead in Steve's panicked arms, leading him to a desperate effort at reviving her though a black magic recipe from one of her weird books. In keeping with the classic rules laid out in "The Monkey's Paw", Amy comes back to life, but she's definitely not her old self.

These days, it takes a talent like Brett Kelly to make any sort of blip on the zombie movie radar, a plot device that is exceedingly over-used, especially in the low-budget film world. Thankfully, MY DEAD GIRLFRIEND shares traits with both SHAUN OF THE DEAD and the original EVIL DEAD in terms of theme, setting and execution, and is quite entertaining. The film is most definitely a romantic comedy, just with the undead thrown in, a love story above all else, and takes place in minimal setting: a cabin in the middle of the dark woods, to be exact. This makes for close quarters that really allow the movie's strongest points to shine, a small group of well-written characters performed by a capable ensemble, all of whom are endlessly watchable. Kelly is of course perfect as the bungling Steve, trying to cover up the fact that Amy is a flesh-eater when all his buddies can see there is clearly something quite wrong with her. Caitlin Delaney's performance as the zombified title character is fittingly just as dynamic and amazing to watch, as she goes from sweet and idealistic to bloodthirsty and rotted, all the while remaining likeable and sympathetic.

MY DEAD GIRLFRIEND is, for lack of a thesaurus, fucking brilliant independent filmmaking. Delaney is a revelation, and Kelly has his craft down to a science, showcasing his firm grasp on multiple genres, but most importantly, how to glue them together without losing what is essential to both. On a personal note, I'd like to thank him for one of the best, most effective vomit sequences I've seen in a long time. Smooth. Chunky. Tasty.

According to the website (I don't have the final disc)- Cast & crew audio commentary, interviews, deleted scenes, bloopers, "the Pretty Lie" short, and trailers.


Writer-Director Keith Boron certainly isn't into wasting any time. For his first feature, rather than go the "safe" route of producing a formulaic, easy-to-digest horror film that's easily classifiable and sell-able, Keith instead chose to tell a very unconventional, twisted, funny, and brutally honest story that easily ranks up there with the most unique movies I've ever seen, and definitely something that only the independent film world could produce (but seldom does, unfortunately).

MURDER IS LIKE SEX centers on Kevin Wright (Jayson Garity), a chronic masturbator (!!!) toiling away as a record store clerk, the kind of guy who never really adjusted to life after high school. He wants more out of life, but has no idea how to go about getting it, so instead he just spends his time watching movies, hanging out with his buddies, and incessantly jerking off. Not long after we meet Kevin, his sexual frustration reaches such a palpable zenith that it physically manifests itself in the form of the murderous Lisa (Robyn Griggs), who first enters his life as an innocent-enough next door neighbor, but soon becomes much, much more. It's not long before Kevin finds himself at the center of a murder investigation, trying to figure out Lisa's true nature and beat a murder rap all at once. Oh yeah, and he just might find true love. We mustn't forget about true love.

Such a wild concept and daring script can easily be lost in translation from page to screen if not executed properly, and the HTM Films crew prove themselves to be more than capable of pulling it off. MURDER IS LIKE SEX is not only an exceptionally original story, but is also outstanding from a production standpoint. Picture and sound quality are top-notch, it's well photographed and competently scored and edited. This movie could easily play cable television, joining the pantheon of movies you catch at 3am and say to yourself, "I'm only gonna watch like 5 minutes", but you end up entranced and staying awake to finish it, dragging your heels at work the next day, trying desperately to describe to your friends what you've seen. The multiple locations, production value, costumes and shot composition alone place this film high above average for a microbudget release.

And while the movie centers on a male character, it's the lead women in the picture that end up stealing the show. Robyn Griggs is extremely impressive as Lisa, the "heavy" role that could have easily been ruined by a hammy, contrived, by-the-numbers horror villain shtick. Robyn's expert, memorable delivery of dialog in the film's most intense scenes recalls Robbie Lee's legendary performance as Lace in Jack Hill's SWITCHBLADE SISTERS, wide-eyed and teeth firmly clenched. Perfect. However, the surprise hit of the movie for me was newcomer Heather Summers as Kevin's girlfriend, the kind of unremarkable 'chick' role with not a whole lot to do. Heather manages to do something you rarely ever see actors do with a secondary part, regardless of budget, making a distinct impression every time she's on screen. Her facial expressions are always interesting and deep, her choices for line delivery are refreshing, and she says more with just her eyes than some actors do in the span of a career. I walked away endlessly impressed with and happy about the female performances in this film, I knew to expect quality from Robyn, but was pleasantly surprised with Heather Summers, and hope she continues acting.

MURDER IS LIKE SEX is a risky title and an appropriately risky film, a rare find amongst the tired and seen-it-before world of direct to video thrillers, and I send my most sincere thanks to everyone involved for being brave enough to even attempt bringing such a unique tale to the screen. In my view, it's a movie about personal accountability and responsibility in the adult world, about the death of innocence and how you can never go back, but most importantly about the importance of love and healthy relationships. Throw in multiple stab wounds, out-of-body experiences and oral sex, and you got yourself one hell of a great flick.

The super-nice list of features includes audio commentary with the cast and crew, 10-minute outtake/blooper reel, trailer, and "Maximum Satan" music video. The movie audio during the commentary track was a bit loud for my taste, and at times I had difficulty hearing the people talk, but it could have just been my old-ass TV. The overall DVD presentation of MURDER IS LIKE SEX is unusually professional and impressive for a microbudget release. Go buy it!


Well, it finally happened. After 6 years on Yahoo Geocities, I finally maxed out the allowable amount of disk space they grant to free accounts, and had to make a choice. When I started gonzoriffic reviews, it was of the only places on the net where you could find reviews for the kind of cheap films relegated to late-night pay cable TV or the dark corners of roughshod mom & pop video stores, but now there are tons of cult film review web pages (nicer and more frequently updated than mine, I should note) easily available on the web.

However, as long as I keep getting screeners, and as long as I can find time to write about the movies I watch, I'll be posting my thoughts on them here. The Geocities site is still getting a significant number of hits each day, so apparently the old dog still has something to offer.