30 Days of Night

This review has been sitting on my desk unfinished for more than a week. I kept wracking my brain to try and figure out what exactly I should say about the movie, but I couldn't really work up the desire to do so. Tonight I realized that my apathy about the review, and by extension the movie, was an excellent place to start. It's just not good enough to really care about, and it's not bad enough to really enjoy. It just kinda...is.

Some of the problems I have with the movie stem from the source material, as I wasn't the biggest fan of co-screenwriter Steve Nile's original comic. The idea is certainly ripe for some creepiness: Vampires decend on the town of Barrow, Alaska for a month-long safari/feeding frenzy during the winter nightfall that lasts, unsurprisingly, for 30-days.  The problem in the comic is that it just dives into it with little setup, and never generates any real atmosphere. In the movie they spend more time establishing the world, but it still never gets pervasive enough to generate any real sense of DOOM.

The Vamps are of the "Boo!" variety, popping up out of nowhere in quick flashes, tackling their prey like Terry Tate, office linebacker. It's definitely less about suspense, and more about sudden bursts of action. Again, undercutting any real sense of atmosphere.

Speaking of the Vamps, they're very much of the "leech" school, straight down to their circular mouths full of sharp teeth. I can't really call them "bloodsuckers" though, as they get most of the red stuff on their chins, clothes, the floor, ceiling, the street,  hell... they do everything except drink. I had this problem with the comic too, and there it was mostly an artistic decision, here it's just kinda silly.

Director David Slade's direction is solid, even stylishly effective at times. Sadly, the editing of the attacks fails to generate any of the  "Gaaah! Whatthecrapwasthat!" moments they're going for. This strikes me as a huge letdown because his earlier Hard Candy (2005) had you rocking the edge of your seat. However, having said that, I will mention that I have the movie re-running in the background while I write this, and there was one genuinely creeptastic scene involving a lone woman used as bait to draw out the heroes... and the ramifications of her failure.

I'm looking through the last few paragraphs, and I feel I've been more harsh than the movie deserves.  It has some genuinely cool moments in between the bland bits, and I have to admit, if I was stuck in the situation presented, I'd be crapping my pants. These are not fluffy snuggle-bunny Vampires. So to give a better idea of the movie, I'll rip a quote from Roger Ebert's review of the Shaft remake: "The movie is what it is, but more than it needs to be." It's fairly well-crafted, but unfortunately never seems to quite come together, and is completely torpedoed by some major logic/continuity issues in the third act, which, ironically enough, is when the Cavalcaders started to really enjoy the movie because they finally had something they could, if you'll forgive me, sink their teeth into.

As far as recommendations for screening this for an event, you could certainly do far worse, but you can also do better. Both in terms of schlock, or in terms of actual horror. Lastly, a note: The Blu-Ray for this movie is really quite the spectacular, especially in terms of picture quality.

Evil Breed: The Legend of Samhain

Today we're going to break a bit with tradition and do something a little different. Normally when we review movies for the site, they are tied to a particular Cavalcade Event. These last few weeks have been catch-up as we steamroll through the past events we've held. However this movie requires special notice be paid.

Originally slated to be part of the October 2008 Halloween Cavalcade, the company we purchased the DVD from was unable to get it to us in time for a showing. Originally, we were fairly disappointed. Just look at the cast for the picture: Ginger Lynn Allen, Chasey Lain, Taylor Hayes, and Jenna Jameson. Ok, there are some of you who might not immediately know who those people are, and even those that do might pretend otherwise to save face, so allow me to clear things up: They are some of the biggest names of late-80's to 90's porn (Don't worry, the links are work safe). Throw in 21 Jumpstreet's Richard Grieco, and we have a recipe for awesome. Sadly however, this recipe doesn't take into account one thing: Christian Viel. Writer, Director, sick motherf*@%er.

I've seen films with nudity and enjoyed them. I've seen movies with disembowelments and still had fun. I've seen cinema with violence/gore/mayhem and laughed, cheered, and overall had a good time with friends and loved ones. You know what? This ain't any of those times. As a matter of fact, this movie is one of the single most morally reprehensible pieces of trash that I have ever forced myself to sit through.

The movie takes place in back woods of Ireland and while there are hints of witchery and mentions of Samhain but don't let that fool you, it's really a stupid rip off of The Hills Have Eyes and the mutant cannibal story.

Let's get down to brass tacks, shall we?

We have:

  • A woman ripped in half, intestines spilling out all over the place.
  • An armless/legless man on a spinning on a spit, penis still attached and swaying in the breeze.
  • An hour of padding for time.
  • Not one, but three impalements.
  • A man strangled by his own intestine, ripped out through his bunghole.
  • A woman stabbed in the chest, and her breast implant removed by the cannibals and squished around for the camera.
  • A woman raped by multiple cannibals, giving exposition while a bloody dead fetus lies in the middle of the floor with the umbilical cord still attached.

Not only is the movie disgusting, it doesn't make any damn sense. The ending is ripped out of another movie entirely and doesn't seem to have any real purpose other than to, you know what? I didn't care, I was just happy that the damn thing was over. It's editing is bad enough and the end product is such that the sick M-F that wrote and directed the movie actually posted a written apology on IMDB. Of course, he's apologizing for most of the nudity and gore being removed from the flick.

Don't screen this for anyone. Don't buy this from anyone. Treat this movie like the leprosy that it is. There are much better choices for campy crap horror movies with retired porn stars. A personal favorite: Evil Toons

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

In 1995 I sat down in the cruddy studio apartment I shared with my girlfriend with a shiny new videotape I picked up from the video store in the mall across the street. The Anime phenom was still a couple of years out,  and we were still only getting tidbits here and there from the one or two studios that would import the biggest titles over to our shores... Well, that and the Hentai which, for those of you who might not know, is animated porn. Horaay freaky tentacles! But that's getting off the subject, where was I?

Oh. Yes. The cyber-steampunk-western-horror story  that was the first Vampire Hunter D. It a mash-up story that was unlike anything I'd ever seen outside of the best comics of the 80's, which, as it turned out, was the time period the movie was originally released (1985, to be exact). The tale of the half-human/half-vampire (Damphir), hunter-for-hire, constantly battling his nature in a spaghetti-western themed post apocalyptic wasteland filled with vampires, demons, mutants, and other monsters, relying heavily on his trusty sword to mete out swift and bloody retribution. resonated even more loudly when large portions of it appeared a few years later in the Wesley Snipes vehicle, Blade, which was the story of a half-human/half-vampire hunter, constantly battling his own nature in a ultra-modern urban cityscape filled with vampires, demons, and mutants, relying heavily on his trusty sword to mete out swift and bloody retribution.

Oh sure, there were some huge differences. For instance: Blade didn't have a smartmouth symbiote living in his left hand or a bitchin' cybernetic horse, but the parallels are there to be drawn. However, this review isn't about Blade, this review is about my boy, D. As the years passed and anime grew in popularity, so too did the popularity of Vampire Hunter D. Eventually a sequel would be green-lighted, and that sequel would be one of the biggest little releases in Anime fandom.

The story of Charlotte, a young human girl, who is abducted by Count Meier Link, a vampire. Charlotte’s father hires D to find her and kill her humanely if she turns into a vampire. At the same time, her older brother also hires the notorious Marcus brothers for backup. The movie follows D's hunt of Meier, his run-ins with the Marcus brothers, and a confrontation with an ancient enemy.

Let's get the basics out of the way. This is a great movie. As it was a co-production with an American studio, the voice acting is far better than average and the dubbing quality is phenominal. A lot of American dubs sound like a person in a studio reading lines. No matter how well acted, the acoustics say "I'm in a room!" However, the mix here is amazingly well done. I know, not the first thing you notice, but this detail speaks well to the rest of the production. Great art, quality animation in key sequences, and amazing production. The story is convoluted and surreal, but that's the source material, and in all fairness, secondary. This is a worthwhile movie... But that's not why we're here.  We want to determine wether or not it's a worthy addition to the Cavalcade. Unfortunately... I have to say no.

While it's a great film, with some truly impressive set pieces, the pacing is too deliberate to satisfy a hungry audience. As a matter of fact, the quality of the acting makes the melodrama work. It's really not all that mockable. While the world of Anime is filled with opportunity for great party entertainment for the Cavalcade. As much as I love it, and highly recommend you watch it, I can't say it's a good pick for the Cavalcade.


It probably will come as no surprise to any of you reading this when I say that I'm a geek. After all, I write for a website dedicated to B movies, I read about B movies, and in my spare time I even watch B movies. Furthermore, and I know this must come as a shock, but I even read comic books and play video games. I am hereby sacrificing my potential future sex life so that you know that when I say that when this film was released in 2003, I was the full embodiment of its target demographic.

So when I say that this is one of the dumber movies I've ever had to sit through, then you know it's not because of some high-handed thought process. I mean, when I hear there's a movie that's all about Werewolves (or "Lycans", rather) and Vampires (err-"Death Dealers") kicking each others asses, I get all kinds of excited. And to be fair, the movie does deliver on the monster mash, at least in terms of the Werewolves. Very cool transformation sequences, coupled with the fuzzy whirling dervishes of death walking on walls and ceilings makes for one cool dog.

The vampires don't come off nearly as well, however. As near as I could make out, being a vampire in this universe means that you have sharp pointy teeth, pale skin, and have to wear freaky fetish gear. They are only as strong as a human, and be killed as easily as any human. The only time they demonstrate any kind of abilities is when they jump really high and occasionally stick to ceilings. Oh, and while they do drink blood, it seems to be more for plot related reasons than for sustenance. I spent most of the movie trying to figure out why the werewolves, who are stronger, faster, and a hell of a lot more durable, didn't wipe out the vampires years before the movie takes place.

I had the time to think about this because while the action set pieces are reasonably impressive, and the movie is certainly pretty, there is absolutely nothing going on in the plot that is interesting, or even makes much sense for that matter. Kate Bekinsale plays Selene, who is the big bad-ass Death Dealer in the movie, though that seems to be more for her ability to look hot in a leather catsuit and the fact that she doesn't just stand there and scream when the werewolves come a-knocking than anything else. She ends up in a Romeo-Juliet situation with Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman). When I wasn't wondering why the vampires weren't already extinct, I was trying to figure out why Selene felt the need to sacrifice everything for Michael, as it went from one scene of "I don't care about you" to the next, where she suddenly loves him and is therefore gonna kill every motherf#$ker that gets in her way. It doesn't help that they have about the same chemistry as Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman did in the Star Wars prequels.

Scratch that. Mother Theresa and Ghandi have more chemistry than those two. This movie's central romantic story is pure Remains of the Day in comparison.

Director Len Wiseman (who also co-wrote the script) managed to put together a stylish looking movie, of that there is no doubt. But it's stretched so thinly over a plot that has a more interesting backstory than actual story, so that by the end, you don't really care what happens to anybody in the movie.

You know, I was getting worried there. After quality screenings of 28 Days Later, and An American Werewolf in London, I was worried that an "A-List blockbuster" like Underworld might be yet another good film sneaking it's way into the Cavalcade. It turns out there was nothing to worry about. It's perfect for talking over, since nobody says anything of interest, and as already stated, it can't really make much less sense, so nobody will feel especially lost watching it. Be sure to include this one!

Howling, The

Having hit my teenage, hormone-induced, T&A littered, monster movie loving phase somewhere in the early 1990's, I grew up listening to the legends of the great horror movie classics of the 70's and 80's.  By the time I was old enough to go see these movies in the theater, I was getting the watered-down recycled formulas of Nightmare on Elm Street 4 or Jason Goes to Hell. Gone were the days of wildly original movies like Scanners and its exploding heads or the sheer intensity of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

One of the movies that I heard the most about was The Howling. After all, It had an amazing poster, and by 1991 there were already 6 movies in the franchise, one of which being the weirdly outlandish Howling III: The Marsupials, which I saw late night on HBO when I was 12 and was not terribly impressed (though I think I'd now want to screen it for the Cavalcade). Unfortunately, after that I never made it a priority to go back and see the one that started it all, no mater what my friends said about it. They would go on and on about the transformation sequences, how scary the whole thing was, and how it was even better than the later An American Werewolf in London at mixing comedy with horror. Eventually however, as video tape gave way to DVD and the Special Edition of the movie fell into my lap, I gathered the minions of the Cavalcade and set down to watch.

After having done so I have to wonder, what was all the hype about?

This film was directed by Joe Dante, who had by this point in his career helmed the Schlocktastic Jaws knock-off, Piranha, and would later go on to direct Gremlins, which was produced by none-other than Jaws director, Steven Spielberg. A staple of Dante's work is a mixture of Comedy and Horror along with numerous references to other films, things that are in full effect in The Howling. The scenes in the bookstore, with veteran actor and frequent Dante collaborator, Dick Miller as the store owner are some of the funniest. After providing the key explanations about the rules of the werewolves of the movie, he's asked,  "Do you really believe all of this?" only to respond, "What? Do I look crazy to you?"

Sadly, these scenes are few and far between, with the best reserved for the ending. So we have to rely on the horror and suspense to keep us going... which is where the film completely falls apart. Aside from one cheap scare with a dog, and one really effective stalking sequence, this movie fails at generating any level of excitement on the suspense. Long, television soap opera scenes with Dee Wallace and her on-screen (and soon to be real-life) husband Christopher Stone are the order of the day. This is something that was completely left out of the tales I was told of how "awesome" this movie was by my friends as a teenager, all I heard was:

"Dude! Freaky Werewolves!"

"Dude! Freaky Sex!"

"Dude! Freaky Werewolf Sex!"

I should mention that a lot of the kids I knew as a teenager did a lot of drugs.

While they didn't lie-this film does indeed contain a great transformation sequence and some on-screen doggy style (and not in the traditional sense), it's also filled to the brim with the worst thing possible in a low-budget movie... Padding for time.

Over the years, The Howling has become a revered cult classic, with many hailing it as best of the staple of werewolf movies to come out of the 80's. Not only do I have to disagree, I can't even argue that it was all that good. Though when you're comparing it to other werewolf movies like Silver Bullet, Teen Wolf Too, or it's own sequels, this film is pure gold...

But still not recommended for a Cavalcade.

An American Werewolf In London

You ever wake up after a night out on the town and not remember everything that happened, including how you got to wherever you woke up? There was once a time when I was 17 and woke up in my best friend's front yard, with my Dad sitting in a minivan parked on the street, yelling at me. It could have been worse though, my friend was throwing up in his neighbor's bushes at the time, wishing he was dead. But still, I suppose we got off easy.

There's a point in An American Werewolf in London where our hero David Kessler (David Naughton) wakes up naked in a zoo... in a habitat, with no idea of how he got there.  Considering the circumstances, he handles the situation with aplomb, running from tree-to-tree, until he can find suitable "cover". His ability to remain calm in this situation is rather easy to understand: He think's he's lost his mind. To be fair, it's been a hard couple of days, and this isn't the first time he's woken up in a strange place. This all follows the scene where wakes up in a hospital and finds out his best friend (Griffin Dunne) was killed by a lunatic while he survived with some cuts and scratches ...A fact his friend doesn't really hold against him when he shows shortly after, looking like "a meatloaf". But while his friend is rather nonplussed about being a decomposing undead meatsack messenger, he still wishes David would do everybody a favor and kill himself before he turns into a monster.

To say that this is a quirky film is a gross understatement. Directed by John Landis, who was just coming off of The Blues Brothers, and had previously done Animal House, and The Kentucky Fried Movie, this film is filled with comedic moments that make the gory ones all the more shocking and unexpected. Make no bones about it: this is a horror movie, and a good one at that. But part of the reason it works is that the comedy is handled so deftly by the Director, script, and all the principles. There's a thin line between scaring people and making them laugh. The Cavalcade is built around the idea of watching movies that often have one happen where the other was intended by the filmmakers. There are Nazi Werewolves in this movie, and it works. That's saying something right there.

That said, this film is far from perfect. To start, the ending just doesn't work. It's every bit as rushed and anticlimactic as a teenage boy's first time, and when it's over, you're just kind of staring at the screen going "that's it?"

The middle section of the movie drags in certain sections as it jumps from point to point. Though that didn't bother, as several of the scenes felt like they were lifted from 30's horror classics, like The Wolf Man, with which most of the characters in this movie are familiar. By the time you get to the first transformation sequence, a full hour into the movie, it comes at just the moment the audience is starting to get antsy. Even now, more than 25 years since it's release, that scene is still very effective at making the audience go "wow!"

This film comes highly recommended for a screening, but make it the second or third show, as you'll want the crowd settled in and prepared. You know, considering that this is supposed to be a Cavalcade of Schlock, we've been lucky to have 28 Days Later, and this film in successive events, no?

Return of the Living Dead

By the time the synth-rock laced theme kicks in under the opening credits ten-minutes into the movie, you've already had 10 puns, 5 "hip" punk teenagers (with 1 clean-cut "girl next door" thrown in for good measure), bare breasts, 3 references to Night of the Living Dead , 2 pratfalls, and an animatronic dead guy shoved in a canister who can convert gooey flesh into zombie making gas.

*Sniff* that's right ladies. That smell isn't rotting corpses, it's the 80's!

Written and Directed by Alien -scribe Dan O'Bannon , the film takes a much lighter tone with the material than the bleak seriousness found in the Romero picture, which I keep referencing because of the odd relationship Return has with the 1968 classic.

John Russo , who wrote the novel from which the film takes its inspiration, as well as the first draft of the screenplay, also was a co-screenwriter on Night of the Living Dead. As a matter of fact, Day of the Dead, the second Romero-helmed sequel was slated to come out at the same time as Return, a fact that didn't sit too well with Romero at all. After some legal wrangling, Russo retained the right to use the "Living Dead"name, while giving up the right to reference the original in his marketing.

O'Bannon however, wanted to differentiate himself from Romero's series in a more distinct way: By making it an outright comedy, all the while poking fun at its relationship to the original. Everybody in the movie has seen Night of the Living Dead, and use it as their basis for fighting back the ever increasing numbers of flesh-munchers. Something that doesn't serve them too well, I'm afraid.

These zombies are all together more formidable than than the slow-moving consumer corpses from Night and Dawn of the Dead. When a zombie fails to die (again) from a pick-axe being embedded in its skull, one of the characters exclaims "Well, it worked in the movie!"

As a matter of fact, this movie illustrates some of the first instances of the running zombie. But even better, we have the naked dancing zombie chick. Beeing an 80's teen movie, there is the obligatory scene when the punk rock girl does a naked dance number in the middle of the graveyard for no real reason... only to be mauled to death and spend the next hour walking around naked and eating people with a mouth that would make a porn star jealous.

This film is pure genius for the simple fact that it doesn't pretend to be anything more than it is: utterly (if you'll forgive the expression) brain-dead. Add to that the jammin' 80's rock soundtrack that is peppered with songs like "Eyes Without A Face" by a band called The Flesh Eaters, you know you're in for a good time.

Braindead (A.K.A. Dead-Alive)

Let's start this review off with two words that are perfectly suited to letting you know what kind of movie this is. No, I'm not going to use gory or funny, though those words also apply beautifully. No, the words I'm going to use are Rat Monkey. That's right: Rat. Monkey.

In 28 Days Later, the rage-virus comes from human beings "coming in contact with a chimpanzee" (read: being beaten like they owed him money) in a lab. Here, all the bloodletting stems from the afore-mentioned Rat Monkey. This leads us to our first lesson of the day: Simians = Bad Juju.

I first ran into Peter Jackson's Dead Alive in 1995, when I stumbled across it while I was working at the video store. I had just seen this oddly captivating movie called Heavenly Creatures a few weeks before, and lo, there was another movie from the same guy, and a horror movie no less. I might as well check it out. Man, was I ever unprepared for what I saw.

The film establishes its tone right away. Opening on the island of Sumarta, where the Rat Monkey makes its home. The dangers of the creature are made readily apparent when an explorer returns from an expidition with a bite mark on his right hand, which is quickly amputated by his guides. Then his left arm, as that had another mark. Finally, they notice scratches on his forehead... This whole sequence had the feel of a Warner Brother's cartoon hopped up on PCP.

Which, frankly, describes the rest of the movie pretty well.

The bulk of the movie takes place in Wellington, New Zealand, where the dangerous Rat Monkey was sent for exhibition in a zoo. Now, I fear that up until this point, I may have portrayed this film as a greusome excursion down Goryville Lane. But it's at this point in the story that the film's true heart reveals itself. The fact that it is, indeed, a romantic family comedy.

Our hero, Lionel Cosgrove, lives at home with his overbearing mother, who rules over him with a cast-iron fist in order to keep him close to "mummy". Much to her consternation, Lionel falls in love with a girl in town named Paquita Maria Sanchez. Enter into this formula tale of true love... The Sumartan RAT MONKEY, who takes a nibble of dear ol' "mum", and puts a bit of a spin on the rest of the picture.

Boy meets girl. Boy loves girl. Mom expresses her displeasure... by eating girl's dog. Later mom eats others. Then the others eat still more others. A zombie baby shows up for some crazy hijinks, and everything is resolved with gardening equipment. Wholesome family entertainment. Seriously, there's a sitcom in here somewhere.

A word to the wise: This move is filled to the brim with pus, ooze, ick, splatterifica, disembowelemnts, decapitations, meat smoothie blending, ass-kicking for the lord, vicera, dismemberments, parliaments (ok, I may have made that one up), and all sorts of gorific stuff. While it's so completely over the top to move into screwball territory, it may bother some.

But if it does, they shouldn't be watching a zombie marathon at all anyway, so you can just ask them to get sick in the appropriate porcelin recepticle.