RETURN TO HORROR HIGH (1987)
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Ho hum horror/comedy is most notable for having future A-lister George Clooney in a small role and being a good example of how silly and self aware a lot of horror flicks got at this point in the decade. (for more on that subject click HERE). Flick tells the story of a film crew filming a movie about a series of murders that occurred a few years earlier at the now abandoned Crippen High School. They are filming at the actual site of the murders, despite that the killer was never found and now someone stalks the cast and crew, killing them off in gruesome ways.
Directed by Bill Froehlich from a script by he and three other writers. It’s understandable that to be a parody of slashers you kind of have to basically be one but this flick fails at both. It’s fractured narrative doesn’t help, going back and forth between the aftermath of the murders and back to the killings as they happen, letting us know right off the bat who survived and who didn’t, eliminating any suspense, if they were even attempting any. The deaths are bloody, yet nothing really special and the comedy mostly falls flat. Even the 80s nostalgia can’t really help other than seeing a very young Clooney and The Brady Bunch’s Maureen McCormick, as a female police officer who seems to love her job a bit too much. The acting overall is deliberately over-the-top and even the big multiple reveals at the end don’t really shock or surprise. It’s hard to tell just how much it was supposed to be horror and how much it was supposed to be a parody as the mix is uneven and it goes back and forth between the stale jibes at traditional slasher film tropes and it’s attempts to actually be one. All that criticism aside, it’s also simply kinda dull and predominately unfunny.
As much as I love 80s slasher/horror/sci-fi flicks, this one did little for me. Clooney doesn’t last long enough to really make it worth sitting through and the jokes fail far more often than not. The attempts at being a real slasher mix unevenly along with the satire and aside from abundant bloodshed and a multiple reveal ending, Return To Horror High is a horror/comedy which one may not feel the need to return to, even with the 80s nostalgia. Also features a small role from 80s flick babe Darcy DeMoss as…no surprise here…a cheerleader.
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Horror/comedy opens with a couple of bumbling truckers hitting a deer causing one of the containers of toxic waste they are carrying to fall off the truck and into a nearby lake. The container has sprung a leak and floats up against a beaver dam. Our title creatures are born! Three cuties Jenn (Lexi Atkins), Mary (Rachel Melvin) and Zoe (Cortney Palm) arrive at the same time at a lakeside cabin for some fun girl time and soon are under siege by zombified beavers and a surprise visit from their boyfriends. Not only are the zombeavers out for flesh, but, their bite turns their victims into zombeaver-like creatures, as well. Will any of them make it out alive?
Zombeavers is a fun 85 minutes that may not be a modern classic but, is a bloody good time. Directed by Jordan Rubin, who co-wrote with Al and Jon Kaplan, there is a well blended mix of horror and laughs and while it never really goes quite as over-the-top as we would have liked, it does provide a decent quota of entertainment. There is, of course, a generous supply of beaver double-entendres and beaver clichés to go with the plentiful gore, intentionally cheesy creatures and delightful nudity from the tattooed Miss Palm. It rolls out the horror tropes as we would expect and has a good time turning cast members…and other forest life…into it’s zombie beaver creatures to go along with it’s zombie beavers. The film is shot well by Jonathan Hall and co-scripters Al and Jon Kaplan also provide an appropriate score. Again, not a classic but, a fun effort that succeeds far more than it fails and even gives us a surprising shift in who our final girl turns out to be. Rubin and the Kaplans know their material and seem to have a genuine affection for it that translates onscreen.
The cast are all fine and get the material perfectly. The girls Atkins, Melvin and Palm are suitably, very good-looking and have fun with their parts. As mentioned, lovely Cortney Palm is not afraid to shed her bikini top but, actually might surprise you when things get going and the fight for their lives begins. The girls are joined by Jake Weary, Hutch Dano and Peter Gilroy as their boyfriends and the lads perform with a mix of seriousness and a wink, just like the ladies. There are some supporting characters that play locals, too and they are equally fun in their parts. A very efficient cast for a low budget horror spoof.
What can I say, this was fun. Director Rubin mixes the horror elements with the comedy very well…which isn’t easy…as does the script. It could have been a bit more clever or funny at times but, is far more successful at what it’s trying to do then you might expect. It delivers enough beaver jokes, zombie beavers and spattering blood to satisfy and gives us three likable and very adorable heroines to root for and crush on. What else would you want from a movie called Zombeavers?… oh, and stay through the credits.
3 zombeaver besieged babes.
DEAD SNOW 2: RED vs. DEAD (2014)
I am a big fan of Tommy Wirkola’s Dead Snow. It’s was nothing new but, was an energetic and delightfully gory cabin in the woods/zombie flick with a group of friends battling Nazi zombies come to reclaim their gold hidden in the cabin. Wirkola’s sequel is sadly a major disappointment as it is just a silly, cash grab follow-up that has none of the inventiveness or devilish wit of the first film and doesn’t make any solid use of it’s amusing premise. This film finds sole survivor Martin (Vergar Hoel) escaping after a battle with zombified Colonel Herzog (Ørjan Gamst) and finding himself in the hospital. The bad news is that the doctors have mistakenly grafted Herzog’s arm in replace of Martin’s self-severed one and now he has some of Herzog’s strength and power. With the Nazi zombie army decending on a small Norwegian town to exact decades old revenge, Martin teams with a dorky trio of American zombie hunters (Martin Starr, Jocelyn DeBoer, Ingrid Haas) to raise a squad of Herzog murdered Russian soldiers for a zombie vs zombie showdown. If that plot sounds fun, it should be but, Wirkola seems to have lost that devious sense of humor and instead we get a goofy and by-the-numbers comedy that has none of the sly humor and vicious edge the first film has. It has a few fun moments and I laughed a few times, but, blows most attempts to do something with it’s outrageous story, especially the epic fail, zombie vs zombie last act. The film is still gory but, none of it is as inventive and rib-tickling as it was in the first film. All around it’s a soulless sequel that seemed to be made only to cash in on the first’s popularity. With his Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters being a moderately entertaining but forgettable film, maybe Tommy Wirkola has been revealed as more of a one hit wonder than a director to watch. Not unwatchable but, far from the fun blast the first film was.