Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Night of the Living Deb, or: Horror? Comedy?

The last film of Horror Month is upon us with perhaps the most dubious of all horror subgenres:  the horror comedy.  It has brought the Blog Collab memorable highs (Grabbers, Housebound, 3-Headed Shark Attack) and devastating lows (All Cheerleaders Die, Ghost Shark).  Which one will it be this time around?

The Film:

Night of the Living Deb

The Premise:

The zombie apocalypse is unleashed on Portland, ME, giving the titular Deb the opportunity she’s been waiting for to meet cute guys and eat froyo.

The Ramble:

It’s Independence Day in Portland…an important day historically for the US to fight off aliens and other hostile non-human life forms.  Deb and her bff Ruby are out drinking with the rest of the town in honor of the 4th.  Because nothing sounds like a better time in the summer than crowding in an enclosed space with a bunch of sweaty strangers.

1.png
’90s game strong.

Ruby encourages Deb to go talk to Ryan, a guy she’s been scoping out all evening.  As soon as Deb works up the courage to flirt really badly with Ryan, his fiancée Stacy interrupts and picks a fight with him.  Apparently Ryan is none too keen to work for and inherit the rather shady family business, thus securing their financial future.  After the fight, Deb and Ryan hook up, which he immediately regrets.

The next day, Deb leaves Ryan’s apartment without fanfare.  Both soon realize that this won’t be a typical 4th as Deb witnesses children feeding on the flesh of their parents and the barista attacks Ryan at his local coffee shop.

2.png
The commute was…murder…

 

Overhearing on the radio that Portland is under a state of emergency, Deb and Ryan team up to find their families.  Ryan’s family is in the city, and Deb’s mother has retired to Virginia Beach.

First, the two check in on Ruby at the Christmas store where she works.  Sadly, Ruby has been zombified, and Deb vows to end her miserable existence.  However, she’s unable to follow through with her plan and instead traps Ruby in the trunk of her car until scientists develop a cure.

Deb and Ryan do make it to his family’s house, where his father, brother, and fiancée are gathered.  As it turns out, Ryan’s father may have played a role in the zombie outbreak, caused by contaminated city water.

4.png
Road trip!  To celebrate your family NOT killing us with contaminated water.

Things get really fucked up from here on out, as Ryan’s brother, who is in love with Stacy confronts her and then lets her die by zombie attack.  Deb has decided to leave after she hears suspicious sounds from Ryan and Stacy’s room.  Once she reaches a certain checkpoint, she realizes Portland is now the equivalent of the Hotel California–she’s not allowed to leave, even with the influential connection to Ryan’s family.  The state has decided to cover up the outbreak, which would’ve sounded more far-fetched to me around 5 years ago or so.

With Ruby’s help, Deb manages to escape with Ryan and enact an admittedly rather brilliant plan.  But is it too late to save their lives or for Deb to (eye roll) fulfill her dreams?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

I initially liked Deb, but it wasn’t even halfway through the film that my opinion reversed dramatically.  Her awkwardness is endearing until it feels like it tries too hard, though I do love her rather ’90s inspired wardrobe complete with jelly sandals and a scrunchie.  She’s a hastily constructed character at best, jumping from supposed lifelong dream to another, whether it’s finding love or becoming a news anchor.

The worst, however, are the men (of course).  Ryan’s entire fucking family must be a bunch of sociopaths because (1).  His father caused the goddamn zombie apocalypse in Portland and coasts by pretty easily without consequence (perhaps the most realistic element of this film), (2).  His brother is really trigger happy and lets Stacy, a woman he claims to love, get eaten by zombies, (3).  Ryan has no reaction to Stacy’s death AT ALL and lies to her about what happened with Deb.  Also, can I point out that Ruby just sort of wanders off into the woods, never to be heard from again?

Considering how horrible 90% of the characters in this film are, the way the zombie apocalypse is played off as a joke in order to wrap things up happily is infuriating.  The happy ending (oops, spoiler?) doesn’t feel earned, and I hope Ruby comes back to town to burn it all down.

Would Christa save this one in the trunk or put it out of its misery ASAP?  Find out here!

Advertisements
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Cockneys vs. Zombies, or: It’s All Bubble and Squeak to Me

I can’t believe Horror Month, aka October, is drawing to a close. We lightened things up a bit this time around with what is destined to become a classic of British cinema. Christa’s review, as always, is here!

The Film:

Cockneys vs. Zombies

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

You don’t need a synopsis to understand what this film is about.  I believe in you.

The Uncondensed Version:

Things aren’t off to a great start for construction workers who uncover a plague pit while working. It’s probably not the best idea to explore the plague pit, but I would’ve done the same thing. How many opportunities will you really have to explore a plague pit in your lifetime?

One, as it turns out, esp. if the plague victims are zombies.

Our film really follows brothers Terry and Andy as they attempt to make an honest living, which is a challenge when their primary source of income is delivering meals on wheels. Added obstacle: their grandfather may be left homeless when his retirement home is demolished to make way for luxury apartments.

Though Grandpa stresses the value of hard, honest work, the Terry and Andy decide to rob a bank with the help of a questionable group of friends and family. This, of course, goes horribly wrong, but the swift and sudden outbreak of the zombie apocalypse is pretty convenient, honestly.

3
Disguises could use some work…

Meanwhile, zombies crash a birthday party at the retirement home. Grandpa is a WWII vet, so he’s reasonably prepared to wage war against the zombies. The film follows the bank robbers as they try to make it to the retirement home to save Grandpa.

6

Along the way, we lose quite a few of our filler characters who were really only here to die. I felt a teensy bit bad that I didn’t care when any of these characters died. However, I blame the film for failing to resonate emotionally. Or I’m a sociopath, whatever. IDGAF.

Ultimately, the bank robbers stockpile weapons and drive to the retirement home in a double-decker bus. It’s just like that scene in Spice World.

The Critique (back by popular demand):

Honestly, what’s not to like? Zombies + Cockney rhyming slang.

I may be reading too much into this one, but I think it was quite empowering regarding the more mature generation. Granddad drops the f bomb A LOT and uses his military strategies to keep himself and the others alive. In his words, “We’re old age pensioners—we’ve got to take care of ourselves!”

It’s a shame there aren’t more films in which old people use the word “fuck,” isn’t it? I feel that’s a more honest depiction of the elderly; I will be an incredibly foul-mouthed old cat lady with at least one cat named Lady Fuckoffanddie. Hopefully Judi Dench will make a movie where she cusses a lot and fights zombies. Or maybe Julie Walters. Julie Walters seems more the type, doesn’t she?

The downside was lack of character depth and how deliberately the film tried to be gross/offensive at times. As a whole, the older characters were more interesting and deserved more screen time.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherHalf Pink Panther head 3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

My mind kept going back to Grabbers, my fave horror-comedy we’ve reviewed, and this film isn’t quite as magnificent. I expected way more terrible dialogue, and I’m not sure if I’m more disappointed or relieved that it was mostly absent.

Goose’s Gregory Peck aahhht Christa’s review ‘ere. Rather, check out Christa’s here!

Obviously I had way too much fun with this Cockney rhyming slang translator.

Last stanza of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” for example:

“I ‘ave Pearly Queen them ridin’ seaward on the chuffin’ waves combin’ the bloomin’ white Barnet Fair of the waves blahn Hammer and Tack when the wind blows the Ten Furlongs white and black. We ‘ave lingered in the chambers of the Housemaid’s Knee by sea-girls wreathed wif seaweed red and brown till ‘uman voices wake us, and we drahn.”

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Antisocial, Not a Description of This Blogger (For Once)

Horror Month, part 3! This week’s film is Christa’s pick. Do I really have to tell you where to find her excellent review? Here. It’s here.

The Film:

Antisocial

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

A zombie plague spreads very politely through social media in Canada.

The Uncondensed Version:

First of all, on a scale of 1 to Canadian, this movie is really fucking Canadian.

Instances of the word “aboot” instead of “about”: 86,357

Number of sweaters worn: 5,114

Apologies: countless

I guess you might want to know more about this film than that. Right? Maybe?

So there are these teen vloggers who have this sort of fashion vlog (I’ll stop using that word now, Christa). It all seems to be going rather swimmingly and one of them even looks like a character from Orphan Black, so I’m already on board. However, one suddenly attacks the other, who commits violent murder in self-defense.

Cut to Sam, who dresses exactly like Sarah from Orphan Black but with less eyeliner. Or maybe it’s just the way Canadians dress? It’s the same old storyline but via Skype: she’s pregnant, her boyfriend wants to take a break. Sick of this shit, Sam deletes a thinly disguised version of Facebook, the Social Red Room (which is a terrible name for a social media platform).

1
Welcome to Clone Club.

Obviously with no social media to share her fabulous New Year’s plans on, Sam opts for pity party over party with friends. However, her friends have other plans and decide to throw a party at her place. There’s a lot of drinking, social media-ing, and burning of sparklers in the house (which is extremely unsafe and I do not condone).

2
YOU’RE GOING TO BURN THE HOUSE DOWN. IN THE LITERAL SENSE.

Everyone seems to be having a nice time until Jed, social media guru and Most Likely to Have Paranoid Conspiracy Theory to Explain Everything, starts tracking multiple updates about what is basically a zombie plague. Zombie people break up the party because obv they do, and 9-1-1 gives essentially a keep calm and carry on message.

The remainder of the film is Sam and her friends trapped inside, getting the virus one by one. Coincidentally, getting trapped at a party and not being able to leave is one of my phobias. Death by zombie plague would be a relief, honestly.

Other things that happen in this film:

  1. One of the characters gets a call from an unknown number and picks up; I call bullshit. Everyone knows you let that shit go to voicemail b/c it’s probably someone trying to tell you you’ve won a cruise.
  2. Jed loses his shit.
  3. One of the characters gets zombified and dies by hanging…from Christmas lights (I’m not nuts about Christmas either).

Guys, I just didn’t really get into this one, plus I’m having…not my favorite Monday ever. The sort of “social media will kill us all” theme felt kind of tired to me and just annoyed me. Will it? Will it really?

Am I too much of a millennial? IDGAF. I am who I am.

Ready for sleep. Seacrest out.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Compare with Christa’s notes here!

Film Reviews

Fido, a Romantic Zomedy

Hello blogging compadres!  I’ll be heading to merry old England for a couple of weeks and probably won’t post much while I’m away.  I realized my last couple of posts have been about movies I’ve hated, so I thought I’d leave you on a positive note (for once) with a movie I adore.  Part satire, part romantic comedy.  With zombies (of course).

The Film:

Fido

Where to Watch:

Netflix, Prime

The Premise:

A boy forms an unlikely friendship with the family’s new pet zombie, Fido, in an alternate 1950s.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

Our film opens with a 1950s-style educational video about the Zombie Wars. The discovery that zombies could be controlled through remote-controlled collars made by Zomcon turned the Zombie Wars around. When zombies wear the collar, they become docile servants, and thus can be trained to perform basic household chores. Zomcon also provides burials complete with a head coffin, guaranteeing a burial you won’t wake up from.

The educational video alone makes this movie worth watching.
The educational video alone makes this movie worth watching.

Like all 1950s-set movies made after Grease (and, in my opinion, including Grease [shudder]), there is something dark and sinister lurking beneath the seemingly perfect suburban life. Timmy, our protagonist, and the other elementary school children receive training on loading and firing guns. He can’t help noticing Cindy, the daughter of Zomcon’s new security chief, is a total badass. Timmy, on the other hand, is pretty terrible at target practice, which earns him some teasing from the class bullies, two Zomcon cadets.

Though a zombie is a status symbol, Timmy’s father, Bill is strongly opposed to having a zombie after traumatic experiences in the Zombie Wars (it’s later revealed that he had to kill his father at the age of 11 when he turned into a zombie). However, in an effort to impress the new neighbors, Timmy’s mother, Helen acquires a zombie, the titular Fido (played by Billy Connolly!).

At first, Timmy treats Fido like a servant or pet with no feelings. Soon, however, Fido is Timmy’s only companion, as he has no friends at school and his parents have little time for him.

Screenshot_2014-10-22-23-24-46
This has to be the most adorable zombie movie ever made.

One day, Timmy takes Fido to the park. Fido defends him when the bullies arrive and threaten to shoot him with a BB gun. Timmy and Fido play catch, which ends in tragedy when Fido’s collar malfunctions, leading him to kill and eat Mrs. Henderson, the elderly woman who lives across the street. Luckily, when Timmy finds him, his collar has switched back on.

That night, Mrs. Henderson rises and kills a man out walking his dog, beginning a minor zombie outbreak. Timmy returns to the park and manages to find and decapitate Mrs. Henderson with a shovel, burying her under a flowerbed.

Fido’s collar stops functioning again later that night, and Timmy is trying to calm him down when Mr. Theopolis appears and helps Timmy fix the collar. One of the more eccentric neighbors, Mr. Theopolis, used to work for Zomcon. His zombie, Tammy, is pretty much his girlfriend, though Zomcon discourages people from getting overly attached to their zombies. I think he gets turned on whenever she tries to eat him?

Later, Timmy goes on a long walk with Fido through a meadow when they encounter the bullies, who are armed. They tie Timmy and Fido to trees and break Fido’s collar. Their plan is to set Fido free and kill him before he reaches Timmy in an effort to paint themselves as heroes; however, one is shot accidentally, and Fido kills the other. Fido returns to Timmy and tries to set him free, but is too clumsy to unknot the ropes. Fido brings Helen to help.

When she notices his collar isn’t working and wonders why, he makes significant eye contact. I think this may be the first romantic zombie movie. Helen and Fido arrive, locking the zombie boys in a shed and setting it on fire (I promise this movie is much funnier than it sounds. If you have a very twisted sense of humor like me).

Nothing brings a family together like killing zombies and lighting their corpses on fire.
Nothing brings a family together like killing zombies and lighting their corpses on fire.

Meanwhile, Zomcon discovers the body of Mrs. Henderson in the park, and Cindy’s dad, Mr. Bottoms realizes Fido is responsible for the outbreak. Fido is taken away to be put down.

Bill tries to give Timmy some words of wisdom, but this backfires horribly because he is the typical 1950s male who doesn’t know how to talk about emotions. “I know when you’re a kid you feel things. A lot of…feelings. But you have to get over that.” TRUTH. At this point, Bill gives up and gives Timmy his first handgun.

Cindy, who has befriended Timmy, tells him that Fido is still alive in Zomcon headquarters. They enlist the help of Mr. Theopolis to break Fido out. Mr. Bottoms discovers what Timmy has done and locks him outside of the fence, in the wild zone. Meanwhile, Bill discovers Timmy’s plan and rushes to Zomcon to help him. After Mr. Bottoms shoots Bill, Fido attacks and kills Mr. Bottoms.

Bill, who had a mortal fear of becoming a zombie, gets a funeral complete with head coffin as he requested. Mr. Bottoms becomes a zombie and a much nicer human being.

And they all lived happily ever after.  Or whatever it is zombies do.
And they all lived happily ever after. Or whatever it is zombies do.

The Critique:

The concept sounds terrible, but the satire and dark humor of this movie work really well.

It’s also interspersed with these 1950s-style commercials for horrific things like funerals with head coffins and the Zomcon version of Life Alert. “The elderly—they seem friendly enough, but can you really trust them? No.” That’s why you need Life Alert, which contacts Zomcon as soon as the heart stops.

The only thing that still puzzles me about this film is the logic behind Zomcon’s cover-ups. I suppose in a satirical film, government cover-ups can occur for no apparent reason, but it was still an unsatisfactory element of the movie. After the outbreak at Zomcon, the news reports that a random security guard was responsible. Why blame the security guard? To maintain the status quo and uphold the idea that Zomcon always has its shit together?

Maybe I’m overanalyzing. But that’s unlikely because I NEVER do that. EVER. It just felt like there was some kind of conspiracy theory in the script that was either cut or never fully developed.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther4/5 Pink Panther heads

I flipping love this movie. It’s like Lassie or maybe Pleasantville with zombies. What’s not to love?

Film Reviews

Pontypool: Or, Quebec Rises Again

The Film:

Pontypool

Where to Watch:

Netflix

The Premise:

A talk radio show host begins receiving calls as strange events (aka the zombie apocalypse) unfold in a small Canadian town.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

Our film opens with a Twilight Zone-esque radio broadcast. The narrator tells us ominously, “Something’s about to happen. But then, something’s always about to happen.”

This narrator turns out to be Grant Mazzy, controversial talk radio host just about to begin broadcasting on a small-town radio station after being fired from his hit show.

Grant is driving to work in a blizzard when he stops to answer his phone. (Canadians are so responsible.) As he’s pulled over, a woman suddenly appears, bangs on the passenger window, and disappears. Grant is kind of freaked out, but continues on to work anyway.

When Grant arrives at the radio station, his assistant, Laurel-Ann is already there. It’s apparently Valentine’s Day, a detail I really appreciate. He begins a rant on-air about people growing pot in their basements until his boss, Sydney, abruptly cuts him off. Grant then makes an announcement that Honey the cat is missing.

A bigger story breaks, however, when Ken in the Sunshine Chopper reveals that a large group of people have gathered downtown outside of a doctor’s office. Military vehicles are also present. A group of people suddenly explodes from the building, and chaos ensues. Then Grant loses contact with Ken.

Not the most exciting screen cap in the history of blogging, but I didn't have a whole lot of options.
Not the most exciting screen cap in the history of blogging, but I didn’t have a whole lot of options since the majority of the film takes place inside the studio.

Meanwhile, Grant is scheduled to interview a group who will put on a musical version of Lawrence of Arabia (which, coincidentally, would make an excellent bad movie). The interview goes pretty well until one kid starts babbling, “I can’t remember how it ends. It just keeps repeating.” Not good.

After the interview, Grant begins taking calls from those who are first-hand witnesses to the events. They describe masses of people repeating bizarre chants and cannibalizing other people. These calls all end with screaming and a suddenly lost connection. Some suspect it’s the Quebec separatists because, I mean, it’s always the French.

Ken in the Sunshine Chopper calls back and reports it’s not safe outside. He sees someone he knows who is just making weird alien baby sounds. Grant advises him not to approach and, of course, Ken doesn’t listen. RIP Ken.

Suddenly, a French announcement interrupts the broadcast: stay inside, avoid contact with close family members, terms of endearment, and the English language as a whole.

At this point, Grant starts losing it. He storms out of the recording studio, yelling at Laurel-Ann and Sydney as he prepares to exit the building. His yelling draws the zombies, who start repeating the words he’s said. Ultimately, he is forced to stay as the zombies trap everyone inside. Laurel-Ann becomes infected, repeating “m” words to herself. The doctor mentioned earlier breaks into the building, and they all barricade themselves in the recording studio. Well, except for Laurel-Ann, who is locked out and keeps throwing herself against the glass.

It's not good to be Laurel-Ann.  Or really any kind of assistant in a movie.
It’s not good to be Laurel-Ann. Or really any kind of assistant in a movie.

The doctor explains that the virus is transmitted by infected words in the English language (this film seriously is Quebec separatist propaganda). When the word is understood, the virus takes over and copies itself in our understanding. It’s in the language and thus has the ability to reach into reality (THIS is why we had that Twilight Zone intro earlier).

We finally get some of the blood and guts required in basically every zombie movie when Laurel-Ann EXPLODES. The other zombies also manage to break in, but are drawn back outside when Grant and Sydney broadcast a recorded message over the loudspeaker: “Sydney Briar is alive.” This message is repeated so many times that it doesn’t even sound like words after a while. Then “O Canada” suddenly blares in the room Grant and Sydney are hiding in (I’m onto you, Quebec separatists).

The doctor starts to lose it, going out into the blizzard, and later returning. He says that if the disease is in the words, the cure must be in words too. When it becomes obvious the doctor is infected, Grant and Sydney leave him and barricade themselves in another room. Then Sydney becomes infected, and both she and Grant attempt to disassociate words from their meanings in an effort to cure her. For example, “kiss” becomes “kill.” So when Grant says to Sydney, “Kill me,” they begin an end-of-the-world, linguistic experimentation make-out session. Because nothing brings people together like a zombie plague.

"I'm so turned on right now.  Kill me." Uh...what?
“I’m so turned on right now. Kill me.”
Uh…what?

Grant goes back on the air and spreads the word, telling people to stop understanding what they’re saying: “Yellow is crowded, friends are verbs.”  And he’s not even a New Age poet.

The cure may all be in vain, however, as the government begins bombing the infected.

EL FIN.

The Critique:

I think this is a really cool concept—a linguistic zombie plague. The symptoms of the disease are loss of language and repetition of certain bizarre phrases (along with the standard slow, mindless walk and craving of human flesh).  As a blogger and librarian, I believe words are perhaps the most powerful tool we possess. The failure to communicate is an under-emphasized consequence of zombification.  Probably because being a rotting corpse that kills and eats people usually takes first place on the “Reasons It Sucks to be a Zombie” list.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 3/5 Pink Panther heads

Nice concept, but the film suffered from some execution problems.  It’s interesting that the action occurs almost entirely in the radio station; however, I got really sick of staring at those cold, gray walls.  And there were also limited opportunities for screen capping.