Raiders of the Damned

This week on the live stream, I decided to go back to a genre that is near and dear to all of our hearts: Zombies. In diving through the specialized Zombie sub-section of the Horror category on Netflix, I found any number of potentials, some of whom will definitely be appearing on this website sooner or later. Wiseguys Vs. ZombiesInsane in the Brain, and my personal favorite, Die you Zombie Bastards!

So when it came to choosing today's feature, I decided to keep it simple and reverse the ratings listing. For those unaware, Netflix asks you to give movies a star rating after you watch them. Based on these scores, the service assigns potential ratings on movies in order to give you an idea of how much you'd like it. The more movies you review, the more accurate their predictions (according to their documentation). The first night I was a member, I rated 157 movies. Since then I've lost count.

You can then sort movies in sections based on their predicted rating, and when choosing movies, I tend to look in the 1-2 star area. Today, ladies and gentlemen, we've got a 1/2 star movie.  The single lowest rated movie I could find on the site in the Zombie section.  In other words: pure gold.

Raiders of the Damned tells a tale in the post-apocalyptic wastelands of  the final days of World War III,  where an unleashed biochemical weapon rendered Earth a post-apocalyptic wasteland overrun by cannibalistic zombies. When a helicopter carrying a group of scientists - humanity's last hope for survival - crashes in zombie central, a military ops team led by Dr. Lewis ( played by Richard Grieco, from 21 Jump Street) is dispatched to rescue them. Now it's up to the only soldiers still alive to fight the bloodthirsty zombies for control of the planet - or die trying! The twist, according to the marketing materials for the movie, is that "Their bodies are rotting corpses, but their minds are still hideously alive!"

That's right, smart Zombies.

By now, the reasons for choosing this should be painfully obvious. However, if you still aren't sold, check this trailer-the only trailer that could be found-on Amazon.
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  • We’re 2 minutes away from Raiders of the Damned. I’ll admit, slightly afraid of this one. It’s rated lower than Bloodrayne…
  • Aww man! It’s “formatted to fit my TV”! Wait. Was this shot for television?
  • Oh yeah, THAT’s a rubber mask. We’re in for a treat!
  • Zombie Archers!
  • Zombie general holding an umbrella…giving ORDERS? YES!
  • What’s with the purple faced zombie? With a catapult! Are we sure this isn’t Army of Darkness?
  • Richard Grieco is giving the crazy scientist monologue. Giving exposition. Microsoft made the zombies with Windows 9x.
  • Oh, I’m sorry. AGENT 9x.
  • “Don’t judge us too harshly” In other words: “We’re sorry the script sucks”
  • I dare say the crazy Grieco is wearing Mascara.
  • Crazy Grieco has spontaneously generated a pair of glasses… and has a fur ball.
  • It seems as though he’s trying to be Brad Pitt from 12 Monkeys.
  • This Crenshaw dude, why do they always cut away from him when he talks? You never see his face when he speaks!
  • Hey! They showed him talking! At first I thought it was a style thing. Now I realize it’s just bad editing.
  • They need to find and execute the sound guy for this movie. He fails at little things, like audible dialogue. Or sound effects matching actions on screen
  • Oh, he’s given up now. People keep talking, no sound a -comin’ out of their mouths! Impressive!
  • Good lord, we get it already! They’re all misfits. You don’t need to show the recruitment (with accompanying long scene) of EACH ONE!
  • Now they’re looping repeating dialogue and pretending…wha… huh?
  • Ok, when captured scientist keeps laughing when she’s trying to be afraid? That’s not so good.
  • Seriously, I don’t think I can make fun of this. It actually aspires to be a “B”
    movie. No, never mind. A “C” movie.
  • When your team is half-female, you may want to think about the chauvinistic attitude.
  • The cinematographer is photographing chins. Never quite getting a person in frame. I’d think this was deliberate but…
  • Why does everyone have Katanas? Machete’s I’d understand. But KATANAS?
  • I can’t complain about the sound anymore. I mean, they had somebody off-camera coughing throughout all the dialogue on a scene.
  • Note: There was nobody else around in the scene. The coughing person was obviously someone on the crew.
  • Wait, your badass didn’t even make it to the first battle? She fell off a rope? REALLY?
  • Rather than having squibs, they use strobe lights. Yep. Quality entertainment.
  • Followed by randomly superimposing zombie puppets on the screen. Why did I subject myself to this again?
  • We are moments away from witnessing zombie sex. Yep. Real quality entertainment.
  • Aaaaaaand there we are!
  • And now they’re going with the First-person-shooter cam. How much time left in this movie again?
  • Wait, you can kill a zombie by breaking it’s neck? REALLY?
  • “I’ve never had use for catatonic women, but on you it’s a sexy look”-Ok, THAT was worthwhile!
  • He’s a “sniper”? With a machine gun? Dear god the movie just will NOT END!
  • Sorry to be all quiet here, but the movie has kinda stunned me stupid. I can feel my brain leaking slowly out my ear.
  • Now they want to be an action movie? With zombie kung fu? Ok. Yeah. Sure.
  • I’m willing to lay odds that mis catatonic USA is preggers with a zombie baby.
  • And she’s laughing when trying to be scared again. Fairly positive she slept with the director to get the role.
  • Why is it dead of night on one side of the wall, but broad daylight on the other? It’s a WALL, not a teleporter.
  • Wait, now it’s overcast??
  • And why is a soldier wearing press-on nails?
  • You know what? This movie didn’t make a lick of sense. The ending is just um.. yeah.
  • Well that was Raiders of the Damned. I am going to go shoot myself in the head now

28 Days Later

When a movie opens with a montage of violent revolts playing on monitors and pans over to a chimpanzee strapped to a table with electrodes and wires stuck on its head in a laboratory, you know it's not going to end well.

Nothing good ever comes from chimpanzees strapped to a table.

By the time the PETA hugging eco-terrorists are mauled by the very animals they're there to rescue (much to the amusement of the meat-eaters in the audience), before turning on each other in a blood-soaked rage, you know we're in infected human zombie territory.

In 2002 Danny Boyle , the director of Trainspotting and the under-appreciated Shallow Grave , decided to tackle the end of the world in 28 Days Later. The resultant movie is a film that both pays homage to Romero's original Dead Trilogy (and movies like The Omega Man ) and updates the whole spiel with a nifty twist here and there.

The first change from the classic Zombie formila is the fact that they aren't "Zombies" at all, in the traditional sense. Here there is an outbreak of a "Psychological Virus" that turns those infected into rampaging flesh-mongering homicidal maniacs who vomit gore and scream alot. Being as how they aren't reanimated corpses, the infected here can run, jump, play hop-scotch, and tear you to shreds in a matter of moments. The flip side is that, while they are stronger and faster than the non-infected humans, they are every bit as mortal, so there's no special considerations to killing them... other than making sure you don't get any of their infected blood in yours, which leads us to the other change in the formula.

Another cliche in zombie cinema is the human that gets bitten and slowly dies from the infection, only to turned into a zombie at a dramatic moment. The change here is that a single drop of blood is enough to transform anyone into an infected in a matter of seconds, which leads to a few intense moments in the picture where allies become enemies in the course of a few moments.

Being a Danny Boyle picture, this movie is filled to the brim with slick visuals and great music. The ten-minute sequence where the main character (played by a then-relatively-unknown Cillian Murphy of Batman Begins and Boyle's own Sunshine fame) walks shell-shocked through a desolate and deserted London is incredible. The infected attacks are equally well shot, filled with intensity and energy.

As a matter of fact, with great dramatic turns by Christopher Eccleston, Brendan Gleeson, and Naomie Harris, one could be legitimate in the concern that 28 Days Later might not be suited for a gathering dedicated to Schlocky pictures. But I will argue that the energy, intensity, and the sheer rocking quality of the infected attacks stacked with the sheer creepy atmosphere throughout the rest of the picture make this a good addition to any marathon.  However, if you're going for more carnage, and want to stick in the 28 XX Later universe, 28 Weeks Later had more appearances of the howling masses, and was a solid pic that, for the most part, lived up to the original's quality.

But if you're simply looking for a fantastically stimulating flick that hits all the high points of the zombie genre, while still stimulating reinventing it, you can't go wrong with 28 Days Later.

You know, it isn't often we actually get a "good film" in the Cavalcade, and I'm still not entirely sure whether that's good or bad.

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.