Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dead Snow (2009)

Dead Snow (2009)
Starring: Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen, Charlotte Frogner, Lasse Valdal, Evy Kasseth Rosten, Jeppe Beck Laursen, Jenny Skavlan
Directed by: Tommy Wirkola
Tagline: Ein! Zwie! Die!
Running time: 91 Minutes

Quick summary (from IMDB): A ski vacation turns horrific for a group of medical students, as they find themselves confronted by an unimaginable menace: Nazi zombies.

Dead Snow was one of those movies I kept coming across on Netflix and telling myself I had to see. I mean, Nazi Zombies! How could I not watch that? But like so many other movies, I kept putting it off either because I wasn’t in the mood for horror or zombies or because I didn’t want to spend 90 minutes reading a movie. But with only three days left in Halloween Horror Movie Month, my wife and I decided it was now or never for Dead Snow and gave it a shot. On the plus side were the generally positive reviews (nearly a full five stars on Netflix) and a glowing endorsement from my brother and at worst, it would be a gory, campy horror movie. It was win-win.

Zombies by themselves are pretty terrifying, but adding in the fact that these were Nazi zombies makes them even worse. In addition to rising from the dead with a hunger for human flesh, these zombies are also racist a-holes. Horror movie zombies are normally regular people who died and came back, with the zombification pretty much wiping out whatever person they were beforehand, but not even becoming zombies can negate the fact that these dudes were Nazis first.

Unlike most other zombie movies, Tommy Wirkola’s Nazi zombies aren’t the product of a virus or a plague, but rather a curse placed upon them by the Norwegian people of the village they were occupying. Because of the curse, these zombies are much more driven than their virus-infected counterparts in The Living Dead movies. These Nazis are out for revenge, not to mention their stolen gold, and (probably) a desire to continue their original horrible mission. And they were soldiers, are organized and have helmets on, making killing them all the more difficult.

I really enjoy watching foreign horror movies when you can see the clear influence of classic American horror movies. Not only do the characters talk about Friday the 13th and The Evil Dead series, but they also copy a couple of those movies trademarks, namely Ash and his chainsaw from Evil Dead and zombies emerging from the water a la Jason Vorhees in Friday the 13th. It shows that the Tommy Wirkola is truly a fan of the genre and loves the movies and was inspired by them to make his own horror comedy.

And Dead Snow is a funny movie. How can a movie about Nazi zombies not be at least a little bit funny? But more than being funny, Dead Snow was actually a pretty effective horror movie too. The scene with the hiker outside of his tent was especially effective. We really only see the hiker and his flashlight as he searches the snowy darkness for the source of the noise. We don’t really ever see the zombie attack him until it’s too late. In fact, we don’t really get a good look a zombie for a good thirty or forty minutes, which only heightens the suspense and makes the zombies that much more terrifying.

Just a few months ago, Wirkola and Co. released Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead, and I really want to see that now that I’ve finally seen the first movie.

4.5 out of 5 stars


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Grabbers (2012)

Grabbers (2012)
Not Rated
Starring: Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley, Russell Tovey, Lalor Roddy
Directed by: Jon Wright
Tagline: Last call at the bar.
Running time: 94 Minutes

Quick summary (from IMDB): When an island off the coast of Ireland is invaded by bloodsucking aliens, the heroes discover that getting drunk is the only way to survive.

Like many of the horror movies I keep in my Netflix Queue, Grabbers was added months and months ago when my brother mentioned liking it. Then I forgot about it or skipped over it when looking for horror movies to watch because I knew my wife wouldn’t like it and the name made it seem less than interesting to me. That second one is a pretty dumb reason to skip a movie, especially when you consider a movie like Tremors. Grabbers is basically Irish Tremors, which is kind of awesome.

My brother mentioned it was like Shaun of the Dead or at the very least reminiscent of it, which is a pretty solid endorsement, but my wife hated that movie so there was no way I was going to talk her into Grabbers. Maybe if I had thrown out the Tremors similarities she might have been more interested, but I doubt it.

Seeing as how none of the horror movies I’ve reviewed this month have been alien-based, it was a nice change-up. I love zombie movies and slasher-flicks, but after a little while they can get boring, especially watching all of the sequels, remakes and reboots of the various franchises. An unknown commodity and story like Grabbers was refreshing. Even if it did end up sharing some similarities to the Simon Pegg-Edgar Wright-Nick Frost movies Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End, like drinking, being set primarily in a pub, aliens, references to Night of the Living Dead and featuring actors from The United Kingdom.

It’s really not fair to compare Grabbers to either of those movies, but with all those similarities, it’s almost impossible not to. Grabbers is not quite on the same level as Shaun of the Dead or even The World’s End, but it’s still a pretty funny and entertaining horror comedy.

The effects aren’t great and I’m still not 100% on the mechanics of the aliens, how they moved and reproduced and why they didn’t just go back into the ocean if they needed water to survive, but it was still fun to watch. And having all those drunken Irish people made things a little more interesting. And I liked the idea that something as simple as alcohol would be able to keep the monsters at bay and that getting drunk was the best course of action for the people on the island to survive the attack.

Grabbers is a fun way to spend an hour and a half, especially if you like dumb alien horror comedies from the UK.

3.5 out of 5 stars


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Club Dread (2004)

Club Dread (2004)
Starring: Steve Lemme, Kevin Heffernan, Eric Stolhanske, Paul Soter, Jay Chandrasekhar, Brittany Daniel, Jordan Ladd, Samm Levine, LindsayPrice, Bill Paxton, MC Gainey, Nat Faxon
Directed by: Jay Chandrasekhar
Tagline: A vacation to die for!
Running time: 104 Minutes
Quick summary (from IMDB): When a serial killer interrupts the fun at the swanky Coconut Pete's Coconut Beach Resort -- a hedonistic island paradise for swingers --- it's up to the club's staff to stop the violence ... or at least hide it!
More and more, I’m beginning to regret my Decluttring from a few months ago. In my haste to get rid of some space-stealing DVDs I never watched and to scrounge up some extra cash, I sold off a large chunk of my movie collection. I thought I did a pretty good job of keeping certain movies I couldn’t part with. The movies that mean something to me (Joe Dirt, Not Another Teen Movie, Pootie Tang), were my wife’s (Motel Hell, House of 1000 Corpses, Boogie Nights) or weren’t available on Netflix all got a chance to stay. I guess I got a little tired of checking every single movie against Netflix and Hulu and decided to just sell off a bunch of movies I’d probably want to watch again. Club Dread was one of those movies. It’s definitely worth more to me than the measley $0.50 I got for it and certainly worth more to me thant Thir13en Ghosts, which I inexplicably kept.
Back in college, I kept thinking Club Dread was going to be the next Super Troopers. And not just because both were made by and starring the same people, I genuinely thought Club Dread was on the same level, comedy-wise, as Super Troopers. In the numerous viewings of both movies since then, I realize that this was wrong. Super Troopers is the far better and funnier movie, but Club Dread is still a really funny horror spoof. I tried several times to get my friends and the guys in the dorms into it, but it never worked out.
There are at least three things in Club Dread that make me laugh every single time:

1.    Steve Lemme’s character’s pronunciation of the name Penelope (Peenalope). To this day, that’s how I pronounce that name (I know 0 people named Penelope) and also how I pronounce pineapple (because I am weird).

2.    Bill Paxton as Coconut Pete. Everything about the Jimmy Buffet rip-off is perfect. The song titles (Pina Coladaburg) and the songs themselves are fantastic. And Bill Paxton is hilarious, I especially love his rant on the girl who requests Margaritaville.

3.    And the intro scene featuring Kevin Heffernan as Lars the masseur. The first is early on in the movie, when Paul Soter complains that Lars is replacing the 6 ft tall female Swedish masseuse and Lars responds "I'm 6'1." It gets me every time. I have no idea what it is about that line that gets me but I love it.

While re-watching the movie reminded me of all of those things, it also reminded me of the one thing I hated about Club Dread, and that is the accent Jay Chandrasekhar uses for Putman. The British accent he uses has always annoyed me, and I don’t really know why. It might be the accent combined with the character a little, but I just hate it.
As a horror movie spoof/satire, Club Dread is far better than Scary Movie (or any of the crap spun off from that). There’s an actual story and a plot here, not just a collection of gags and stupid jokes. There are plenty of stupid jokes in Club Dread, but they are much funnier than anything in Scary Movie. And rather than make fun of horror movies, Club Dread pays homage, utilizing several horror movie clich├ęs throughout the movie. I really enjoyed the way they kept the identity of the killer hidden for so long in the movie. There was so much misdirection and a bunch of false alarms; at some point in the movie, the killer very well could have been anyone and it would have worked out.
I might be alone in my feeling for Club Dread, but I think it’s the second best Broken Lizard movie, just behind Super Troopers. Granted, I haven’t seen Beerfest or The Slammin’ Salmon near as many times as I’ve seen Super Troopers and Club Dread, but I still don’t think they’re as good or as funny.
4 out of 5 stars

Friday, October 24, 2014

C.H.U.D. (1984)

C.H.U.D. (1984)
Rated R
Starring: John Heard, Daniel Stern, Christopher Curry, Kim Greist
Directed by: Douglas Cheek
Tagline: They’re Not Staying Down There Anymore!
Running time: 88 Minutes
Quick summary (from IMDB): A bizarre series of murders in New York City seems to point toward the existence of a race of mutant cannibals living under the streets.
C.H.U.D. has been on my horror movie radar for a while now, but I never could bring myself to watch it. There’s just something about that acronym that is off-putting to me. Saying it aloud as a word is awful, saying the letters individually isn’t much better, and saying “Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers” is a mouthful. I have no idea how I would bring this movie up in conversation. I’d probably end up saying “Chud”, but I wouldn’t feel good about it. Which is about how I feel about having watched the movie.
C.H.U.D. is a B-Movie through and through and the only reasons I could think of to like it are the terrible story, the plot holes and the unintentional comedy of a mid-80s horror movie with limited special effects. And the added bonus/surprise of realizing that a young John Goodman plays a cop in one scene. That was a big plus for me. It was actually about the only plus, aside from also realizing that Daniel Stern was the guy running the soup kitchen.
There were quite a few things that didn’t make sense about this movie. Like why the NRC felt like transporting toxic waste through Manhattan was a good idea. Or why they would store it in an abandoned subway. Or why a fashion photographer, a cop and a guy who runs a soup kitchen would be the only people capable of figuring it out and stopping it. Those are all problems, but the biggest problem I have is with this scene:

W. T. F? That dude was on Daniel Stern as soon as he picked up the phone. And he just eats quarter and then stares at him. He doesn't say a word. Just stares at him and smirks while eating change. It’s one of the weirder and more puzzling scenes in a movie I have ever seen. Apparently, per Wikipedia, this guy is a thug and a lackey for the Nuclear Regulatory Committee and he actually ends up locking Daniel Stern underground to die by C.H.U.D. I did not catch that at all.  
They made a sequel in 1989, but I can’t think of a single reason I would subject myself to that. It’s enough for me to be able to say I’ve seen C.H.U.D. and that I can finally get all the references in The Simpsons and Futurama.
1 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Monkey Shines (1988)

Monkey Shines (1988)
Rated R
Starring: Jason Beghe, John Pankow, Kate McNeil, Stanley Tucci, Stephen Root
Directed by: George A. Romero
Tagline: Once there was a man whose prison was a chair. The man had a monkey, they made the strangest pair. The monkey ruled the man, it climbed inside his head. And now as fate would have it, one of them is dead.
Running time: 113 Minutes

Quick summary (from IMDB): A quadriplegic man has a trained monkey help him with his paralysis, until the little monkey begins to develop feelings, and rage, against its new master.

That tagline is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever read. It’s even better when you hear it in the voice-over for the trailer. The rhyming, the fact that it gives away the entire plot of the film, everything. It’s just a disaster. And it’s perfect.

It’s easily the best thing about this movie, which is just a terribly boring and unscary “horror” movie. The second best thing about this movie is the sex scene. Because Allan, the main character, is a quadriplegic. It’s uncomfortable to watch and I couldn’t help but wander what the point was. I mean, he can’t feel anything below his neck, and it can’t be as enjoyable as the woman makes it out to be. I think somebody saw the swing bar he uses to get out of bed and thought “that would be perfect for a sex scene!” and then there was a sex scene.

I probably knew that George Romero directed this movie at some point in my life, but either blacked it out or forgot. It’s not about zombies, so I just figured it was some random '80s horror director. Romero is great at zombie movies, and he should probably only write and direct those movies. Apparently there was an issue with the studio, and they ended up editing this movie in a way that wasn’t in line with what Romero was gunning for. I don’t know that any editing magic or shuffling of scenes could have saved this movie. That sex scene would probably still be there, and anytime the monkey attacks someone, it’s very clearly a stuffed animal they are shaking around and pretending to fight off. And no amount of editing can fix the terrible acting.

Outside of a young Stanley Tucci and one of the first film appearances of Stephen Root, I didn’t recognize a single actor in the cast. And they were all pretty bad. I think Boo, the monkey who played Ella, was the best actor in the cast. I don’t know how a monkey could out-act professional actors, but it happened.

Back when I worked at Hollywood Video, I’d see this in the Horror section and skip it every single time. Nothing about it looked interesting to me, and I figured I’d never watch it, and I was fine with that. But then Paul Scheer and co at How Did This Get Made? picked it for their podcast, and I decided to jump at the chance to watch it and review it so I could listen along as they tear it apart. I’m pretty bad about staying current with the podcast, and usually don’t catch what the movie is going to be until it’s already out, so I was pumped to be able to actually watch this one for free on Netflix ahead of the episode.

There are a few funny moments, but they’re not intentional. And they aren’t that funny. This is just a terrible movie. I wanted it to be enjoyable, but it was so boring and stupid that I couldn’t bring myself to like it.

0 out of 5 stars