HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: TERROR ESPAÑOL: THE [REC] FILMS REVISITED!


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TERROR ESPAÑOL: THE [REC] FILMS REVISITED!

Having recently treated myself to the awesome Scream Factory box set of this four film Spanish horror series, from Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, I decided to revisit my reviews for each film in this chilling series…

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[REC] (2007)

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One of the best of the post Blair Witch found footage horror movies, this Spanish fright flick starts out quietly and slowly builds the tension until a truly nerve racking final act. The film starts quietly as a pretty reporter, Angela (Manuela Velasco) for a news team is documenting the activities of a Barcelona fire dept. She and her camera man, whose perspective we are following, go along with them on a routine call at an old apartment building involving and elderly woman. Soon they realize that something is very wrong as the old woman violently attacks them and one by one the occupants are turning vicious and homicidal and the group falls under siege. Worse yet, the authorities have arrived and sealed them all inside the building with the increasing numbers of ‘infected” sealed in with them and a few remaining unaffected tenants.

Using the first person camera style to draw you in, the viewer takes the perspective of Angela’s camera man and you’re along for the ride. Directors and writers, Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza really know how to turn the screws and use the found footage format to maximum effect. Their are some really tense and violent scenes once the story gets going and you are right in the middle of it through the camera’s eye as they decide to keep documenting what is happening around them. The final scenes are done in the dark with night vision and will give you the appropriate nightmares. A top notch and quite nerve wracking horror from Spain.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) scared Señoritas!

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This is the best trailer I could find. It doesn’t have subtitles, not that it needs them, but, the film does…

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[REC] 2 (2009)

 

Sequel to the Spanish chiller [REC] picks up right where the original left off with a SWAT team escorting a health dept. official into the sealed tenement. This enables the intensity and chills to start almost immediately, where as the original took time to build the story and tension. And not only are we treated to more nail biting horror as in the first film, but some new twists to the story really crank up the goose bump factor as the ‘infection’ may have a far more horrifying origin. Add to that some foolishly inquisitive teens who find a way into the building and become trapped inside with the police and the murderous zombies and the makers of the original [REC] once again put the audience through the ringer.

A sequel that manages to continue the story and up the ante at the same time. Watch for some fun cameos from some of the first flick’s characters as zombies and a sinister surprise at the climax. Another scary treat from writers and director’s Jaume Balaguer and Paco Plaza.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) scared Señoritas!

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[REC] 3: GENESIS (2012)

Since I posted about the first 2 films in this series in a recent Saturday Night Double Feature… check it out here… I thought I’d give the third flick a shout out…

I am a huge fan of the [REC] films, they are among my favorite horrors of recent years so, I was very much looking forward to this latest installment…and while it is the weakest of the series so far, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a bloody good time. First off, [REC] 3: Genesis has the best excuse for found footage yet…a zombie outbreak at a wedding where the wedding videographer captures the horrific events, but the film also abandons the format when logic dictates the videographer no longer films and then becomes more of a routine zombie flick. That is the film’s weakness, that it is more of a generic zombie movie then the first two especially when it changes to a more straightforward format. The film is also much lighter in tone then the first two installments, as well, as it tells the story of a wedding occurring at the same time as the tenement outbreak, where guests and relatives start turning into demon possessed zombies. A lighter tone and a change of format doesn’t mean a fan of this series or of zombie flicks won’t enjoy the fun and carnage [REC] 3 throws our way. Director Paco Plaza seems to have wanted to have a little more fun with this chapter and as long as his loyal audience accepts that, they can join in the gore soaked amusements too. The cast seem to be in on the fun and while they take their parts serious enough, there is also a quick wink to let us know that we’re lightening things up a bit this time round. Pretty lead Leticia Dolera as the blood spattered, chainsaw wielding bride, Clara especially seems to have a good time going from frightened future Mrs. to zombie killing Bridezilla. Top notch gore once again punctuate the film as with the previous two installments. Again, lesser of the three, but still blood soaked fun!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) chainsaw brides!

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[REC] 4: APOCALYPSE (2014)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

After the fun but lighter toned [REC] 3: Genesis directed by series co-creator Paco Plaza, this Spanish horror franchise returns to it’s more serious roots and brings back original chapter heroine Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) for it’s supposed conclusion. The story picks up where [REC] 2 left off with Angela being rescued from the tenement by a team of armed soldiers and finding herself in “quarantine” on a large ship at sea housing a few other survivors, including an old woman (María Alfonsa Rosso) from the wedding in [REC] 3. The ship is filled with soldiers and scientists who claim to be testing the survivors for the lethal virus before releasing them. Unknown to the survivors and crew, though, the paramilitary team is also experimenting on an antivirus and to do that, they need the infected to test it on. When one of there test subjects is freed, the zombie plague begins to spread through the ship, which is isolated at sea, and now the lives of everyone are threatened by zombies and self-destruct protocols alike.

This final(?) installment is directed by series co-creator Jaume Balagueró, who co-wrote with Manu Diez and completely jettisons the found footage format that was used for the first two films and part of the third. The film also underplays the religious overtones while returning to a darker and more intense tone after the more playful third film. Balagueró definitely gives the proceedings some nice atmosphere and cinematographer Pablo Rosso adds to that with taking full advantage of the claustrophobic old ship it’s set on. The film never quite reaches the nail-biting intensity of the first two films, but Balagueró does gives us a very exciting and suspenseful third act when the infestation is in full swing and our survivors are fighting the undead and each other. The film is also quite gory in the series tradition and the only thing that is somewhat disappointing is that it never feels like a climactic chapter, but just another installment. It never felt like it was a conclusion, or that it truly wrapped things up for the remaining characters…or the infestation for that matter. By downplaying the religious aspects of the zombie outbreak, it removes the need for a deeper explanation to what was initially a demon caused viral possession. Now it is just a virus that can be isolated and stopped once the host parasite is found and destroyed. It does take away a bit of the creepiness derived from the fact that the zombies were caused and guided by a malevolent demonic intelligence. There is only a brief moment where a character that hosts the parasite talks as if possessed, but it is brief and leads nowhere. Don’t get me wrong, the film still delivers a very entertaining and bloody 90 minutes and there is a very effective score by Amau Bataller to accent the action…of which there is plenty. It’s just the film never gives the viewer the closure they need to bid farewell to this franchise, if it truly is the end. We needed something stronger and something that felt more final.

The cast are all very good, from sexy heroine Manulela Velasco who can get just as vicious as any zombie when she needs to. Paco Manzanedo is a solid hero as Guzmán, the soldier that saves Angela from the tenement and earns himself a voyage on the ship/lab. Héctor Colomé is appropriately slimy and intense as Dr. Ricarte, who has been following this outbreak from it’s inception and seems to have his own agenda. As for the supporting players, all do solid work whether good guy, bad guy, human or zombie and having a strong cast goes far in making this as good as it is.

Overall, I liked [REC] 4 very much, but was just slightly disappointed that it chose to side-step some of the more interesting religious aspects of the initial story developed over the first three films. By doing away with the found footage formula, it both freshens it up and takes away one of the more unique aspects of the series and now it’s a routine zombie flick, though a very good one. As a conclusion, it didn’t have the weight and finality that once expects from a final chapter, but overall, it is a suspenseful and gory good time. Maybe not a completely worthy finale, but a very solid and entertaining installment in an overall quality horror series and a return to form after the lighter third chapter.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) outboard motors.

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 31 HORROR FLICKS FOR THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN!

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While I watch dozens of horror films during the month of October…these are a mix of classic favorites and recent horrors that I feel are especially perfect to watch during the Halloween season!

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(Click on the titles below the movie poster gallery to get to our reviews!)

 

Click on the titles here to go to the review page for the corresponding movie!

  1. HALLOWEEN
  2. TRICK ‘r’ TREAT
  3. PHANTASM
  4. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
  5. THE FOG
  6. ANY (OR ALL) OF THE UNIVERSAL CLASSIC B/W HORRORS!
  7. PUMPKINHEAD
  8. EVIL DEAD
  9. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
  10. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE
  11. ZOMBIE
  12. THE THING
  13. THE HOWLING
  14. THE FLY
  15. HORROR HOTEL
  16. DAWN OF THE DEAD
  17. DAY OF THE DEAD
  18. FRIDAY THE 13th
  19. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT
  20. HALLOWEEN II
  21. HALLOWEEN III
  22. THE VIY
  23. WRONG TURN
  24. THE OLD DARK HOUSE
  25. THE DESCENT
  26. HELLIONS
  27. TALES OF HALLOWEEN
  28. THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT
  29. HOUSE OF THE DEVIL
  30. HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES
  31. THE HILLS RUN RED

-MonsterZero NJ

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DAWN OF THE DEAD and ZOMBIE: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

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DAWN OF THE DEAD and ZOMBIE: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

MAJOR SPOILER WARNING! In order to properly compare these two films, I have to give DETAILED SPOILERS. If you haven’t seen Dawn Of The Dead or Zombie, there are MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW for each film. You have been warned!

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Previously, I’ve compared David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows and John Carpenter’s Halloween (link here), the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic Predator with the B-movie sci-fi/horror Without Warning (link here)and finally the classic Evil Dead and it’s 2013 remake (link here). Now I’d like to compare two classics that are related in an interesting way. In 1978, George A. Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead was unleashed upon the world and was called Zombi in Italy. It was a hit and in 1979, Italian filmmaker Lucio Fulci made his own zombie epic, one that was sold as a sequel entitled Zombi 2. But Zombie, as it was titled here in the U.S. when released in 1980, is it’s own movie and a classic horror in it’s own right. Now decades later, let’s take a look at Romero’s horror classic and Fulci’s unofficial Italian “sequel” and see just how different…or alike…they actually are…

(Click on the highlighted movie titles to go to the full length reviews and on the photos to enlarge them!)

THE STORY

Romero’s film focuses on four characters (Ken Foree, David Emge, Gaylen Ross and Scott Reiniger) and their efforts to survive during a zombie outbreak in progress. Dawn is never clear whether this is a new outbreak, or if the outbreak started in the original Night Of The Living Dead has been ongoing for the last ten years and is starting to spiral out of control. Actually, we’re never sure the two films are even related as Dawn never references Night. Ken Foree’s Peter at one point announces that his voodoo practicing grandfather once said “When there is no more room in Hell, the dead with walk the Earth!”, but the cause of the zombie outbreak in the original film was radiation from a fallen satellite. Dawn never clarifies the actual cause as our characters barricade themselves inside a giant shopping mall. Romero’s tone is a bit satirical in this installment and there are moments of humor and satire throughout the film.

Zombie opens with the harbor police in NYC boarding a seemingly deserted craft. One of them is savaged by a zombie onboard who is subsequently shot and falls off the boat. The daughter (Tisa Farrow) of the boat’s owner, teams up with a reporter (Ian McCulloch) to find out what happened to her father. This leads the duo and another couple (Al Cliver and Auretta Gay) to the small Caribbean island of Matul, where they soon find, to their horror, that the dead are rising to eat the living. In Zombie, or Zombi 2, the cause of the outbreak is clearly voodoo as the drums beat continuously and characters warn that the local witch doctor has something to do with it. Aside from the dead rising, the villagers are all taking ill and dying, too…only to rise again with a hunger for flesh. Fulci makes no social commentary here and his tone is bleak and nightmarish with an absence of any humor to speak of.

Except for both films being about flesh eating zombies whose bite spreads the infection, the stories are vastly different.

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THE ZOMBIES

Dawn Of The Dead‘s zombies give the impression that we are dealing with the recent dead. Possibly due to budget limitations or artistic choices, the walking dead here are simply bluish with sunken eyes and a few show signs of being partially eaten or scarred themselves. They eat the living and there are hundreds of them wandering through the mall and it’s parking lot and they can only be stopped by decapitation or simply shooting them in the head. They seem to be mostly acting on instinct, showing only the most basic thinking, if it can be called that at all.

Fulci’s zombies are far more frightening looking, resembling decomposing corpses far more than Romero’s, with rotting flesh, hollow eye sockets and some covered in maggots. A stop at an ancient graveyard during the film proves even those long dead are rising and they too are ravenously hungry. There are somewhat fewer than in Dawn, but their appearances in fog shrouded deserted villages and their ghoulish make-up, makes them even more intimidating. They too can only be killed by decapitation, bullets to the brain and being burned completely.

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MAIN CHARACTERS

Both film’s focus on four main characters, though Zombie has some supporting characters as well, such as Dr. David Menard (Richard Johnson), and his wife (Olga Karlatos).

Dawn‘s four main characters are newswoman Fran (Gaylen Ross), and her boyfriend and helicopter pilot Stephen (David Emge), who are traveling with two S.W.A.T. team members, Roger (Scott Reiniger) and Peter (Ken Foree). They are taking the helicopter and running, which brings them to find safe haven in a massive shopping mall deserted all but for the dead. While Fran and Stephen have little or no training with firearms, Peter and Roger are well armed and expertly trained, which gives the four an edge.

Zombie‘s four have no such edge. Peter (Ian McCulloch) is a newsman given the story of the deserted boat and dead cop. Anne (Tisa Farrow) is the daughter of the boat’s owner, a doctor last seen on a small tropical island called Matul. They hitch a ride to the island with vacationing couple Brian (Al Cliver) and his pretty wife Susan (Auretta Gay). Neither couple has any idea what they are getting into, as opposed to Dawn‘s four, who are fully aware and prepared for what they may face.

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THE SETTINGS

The settings for these two film’s couldn’t be more different…

Dawn Of The Dead takes place in rural Pennsylvania, mostly at it’s massive Monroeville shopping mall which is near Pittsburg, where Romero went to college and made many of his earlier films. Here Romero uses his setting to make social commentary about class and consumerism.

Zombie‘s setting is the total opposite. While it opens and closes in New York City, the film takes place mostly in the Caribbean, on a small tropical island called Matul. Here, the only place our four have to hide is in an old church turned infirmary and that doesn’t provide them sanctuary for very long when the dead follow them there.

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THE OPENING SCENES

The opening scenes for both movies are effective in their own way but vastly different.

Dawn starts the tension by showing us Fran’s news station slowly coming apart as the situation outside spirals out of control. Rescue stations are closing and people are running from their desks scared. Panic is setting in as news to report becomes scarce and what news they are getting is too horrible to believe. The dead are returning to life to eat the living! This creates an atmosphere of dread long before we see the first zombies.

Zombie‘s opening sequence goes for the jugular…literally. It opens with a gun being fired at someone, or something, rising from under a sheet, drums beating in the distance. We then cut to an apparently deserted sailboat entering New York harbor. Once boarded by the harbor patrol, one officer is savagely bitten on the throat by what appears to be a walking corpse. Fulci gets us tense and grossed out right away with a graphic and savage attack in the first few minutes. We also get some early glimpses of what’s happening on Matul at Dr. Menard’s infirmary, so we know what is waiting for the two ill-fated couples before they arrive.

Both openings work in setting us up for what is to come, starting us off with an atmosphere of fear and foreboding. One film does it by showing it’s blood and gore right away, while the other, by showing us the mounting chaos before we are thrust into the S.W.A.T. team assault scene where we see our first zombies in action.

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THE ENDINGS

Both films end with down or ominous endings…

After a pitched battle with a motorcycle gang that invades their mall sanctuary and lets the zombies back in, a surviving Fran and Peter fly off in the chopper knowing they have very little gas and nowhere really to go. There fate is left uncertain, but things aren’t looking good for the pregnant Fran and the demoralized Peter. Dawn Of The Dead leaves their fate to our imaginations, but with the dead slowly gaining the upper hand, we don’t imagine much of a happily ever after for our two survivors. The film closes on a shot of the mall parking lot filled with the undead implying all may soon be lost.

As with it’s opening, Zombie‘s climax leaves nothing to our imaginations. After a bloody battle with the living dead in the old church, survivors Anne and Peter find their way back to the boat with a bitten Brian in tow. Once back in New York harbor, they are treated to a radio broadcast proclaiming the zombies are everywhere, just as the newly risen Brian starts banging on the cabin door. The film closes with a haunting scene of zombies crossing the Brooklyn Bridge into the Big Apple while things are left fairly grim for Peter and Anne. Apocalyptic and still chills decades later.

Here the films have stark similarities as both endings are bleak and present little chance or hope of our survivors finding an escape!

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IN CONCLUSION

Interesting as how one of these films was made as an unofficial sequel to the other, yet both are vastly different and both are considered classics. Dawn Of The Dead‘s success in Italy under the title Zombi gave Lucio Fulci the opportunity to direct Dardano Sacchetti’s script and have it be a sequel in name only, released as Zombi 2. He made his own movie, his way and it is considered one of the greatest zombie films of all time right next to Dawn. Despite Italian audiences, at the time, being led to believe they are related, they are completely different films with different stories and different tones. There are similarities, too. Both are famous for their abundant gore set pieces, such as Zombie‘s splinter in eyeball and Dawn‘s exploding head…not to mention both films’ zombie dining scenes. They are also both known for their haunting soundtracks, Dawn‘s by Italian rock band Goblin and Zombie‘s creepy score by Fabio Frizzi. And who could forget Zombie‘s shark vs zombie sequence or Dawn‘s zombies vs biker gang finale. Regardless of how Romero’s zombie classic may have given birth to Fulci’s in a way, horror fans got two unique masterpieces from two legendary filmmakers.

-MonsterZero NJ

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 10 FOREIGN HORRORS TO WATCH AT HALLOWEEN!

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Horror films are loved all over the world and while Halloween seems to be primarily an American custom, that doesn’t mean you can’t add some international titles to your Halloween viewing list! Here are ten suggestions to get you started!

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(Click on the titles below the movie poster gallery to get to our reviews!)

 

Click on the titles here to go to the review page for the corresponding movie!

  1. ZOMBIE
  2. THE ORPHANAGE
  3. THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE
  4. THE BEYOND
  5. RINGU (THE RING)
  6. JU-ON (THE GRUDGE)
  7. VIY
  8. SUSPIRIA
  9. THE LOVED ONES
  10. MARTYRS

-MonsterZero NJbars

MONSTERZERO NJ’S 31 HORROR FLICKS FOR THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN!

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While I watch dozens of horror films during the month of October…these are a mix of classic favorites and recent horrors that I feel are especially perfect to watch during the Halloween season!

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(Click on the titles below the movie poster gallery to get to our reviews!)

 

Click on the titles here to go to the review page for the corresponding movie!

  1. HALLOWEEN
  2. TRICK ‘r’ TREAT
  3. PHANTASM
  4. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
  5. THE FOG
  6. ANY (OR ALL) OF THE UNIVERSAL CLASSIC B/W HORRORS!
  7. PUMPKINHEAD
  8. EVIL DEAD
  9. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
  10. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE
  11. ZOMBIE
  12. THE THING
  13. THE HOWLING
  14. THE FLY
  15. HORROR HOTEL
  16. DAWN OF THE DEAD
  17. DAY OF THE DEAD
  18. FRIDAY THE 13th
  19. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT
  20. HALLOWEEN II
  21. HALLOWEEN III
  22. THE VIY
  23. WRONG TURN
  24. THE OLD DARK HOUSE
  25. THE DESCENT
  26. HELLIONS
  27. TALES OF HALLOWEEN
  28. THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT
  29. HOUSE OF THE DEVIL
  30. HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES
  31. THE HILLS RUN RED

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BARE BONES: VIRAL and SUMMER CAMP

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VIRAL (2016)

Basically a high school version of 28 Days Later and the more recent What We Become and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Flick finds sisters Emma (Sofia Black D’Elia) and Stacey (Analeigh Tipton) trapped at home alone when an viral outbreak caused by a worm-like parasite initiates a quarantine with both their parents unable to come back to their neighborhood. The parasite takes over it’s hosts, who violently and animalistic-ally seek out other hosts for the organism to spread to. The sisters must battle former friends and the threat of infection themselves to survive as the outbreak spirals out of control.

Written by the Paranormal Activity series’ Christopher Landon, with Barabara Marshall and directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost (Catfish, Paranormal Activity 3 and 4), this is actually an entertaining little movie despite it’s familiarity. Joost and Schulman create a nice mood of continual dread and danger, along with delivering some suspenseful sequences and moments of intense and bloody action. The actresses give us two very likable heroines in D’Elia’s smart and sweet Emma and Tipton’s more aggressive and headstrong Stacey. The combination of endearing characters and the directors making good use of the familiar tropes (as they did with Paranormal Activity 3) makes this a worthwhile flick for a night on the couch. Aside from some so-so CGI, the production value is good and the filmmakers prove they can work beyond found footage. A fun little apocalyptic outbreak horror despite having seen it all before.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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SUMMER CAMP (2015)

Horror flick finds three Americans (House of the Devil’s Jocelin Donahue, Scream Queen’s Diego Bonita and Maiara Walsh) traveling to Spain to be councilors at an English summer camp for kids and dealing with some kind of viral outbreak/infection that turns the effected violent and vicious. Is it the pollen, the water or something else turning others and themselves into homicidal monsters? Will these strangers in a foreign land survive?

Summer Camp is directed by Alberto Marini from his script with Danielle Schleif. What makes this flick work, despite the oft-told premise, is that Marini has a little fun with his ‘infection’ in both it’s actual cause and the fact that we find the effects are only temporary. This allows for the film to swap out infected and uninfected, so one minute we are fearing someone and rooting for someone else and then it switches them out as someone recovers and someone else starts foaming black at the mouth. There are some suspenseful moments and some vicious and gory violence as our three councilors battle each other, commit acts of murder while under the influence and then battle a group of infected rednecks (Yes! Even in Spain!) camped out in an RV nearby. It moves fast enough to keep us from realizing just how silly and familiar it all is and the added caveat of having our infected recover, does leave them to amusingly have to face what horrors they have committed. It’s not perfect, we are a bit confused as to what is going on till the late in the third act explanation and the end is predictable, even though still very amusing. Go in with moderate expectations and this can be fun if you just go with it.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 25 ZOMBIE FLICKS TO WATCH DURING THE HALLOWEEN SEASON!

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Can’t have Halloween without zombies, so, whether they are fast or slow moving, eat brains or …well, all of you…here are 25 zombie flicks that you might want to sink your teeth into…or will sink their teeth into you…during the Halloween season! (Also, remember some of these are part of a series and a few have decent remakes which can be part of a theme film-fest along with your favorite beverages!)

(Click on the titles below the movie poster gallery to get to our reviews of the titles covered here at the Movie Madhouse!)

 

Click on the highlighted titles here to go to the review page for the corresponding movie!

1. Night Of The Living Dead (The 1990 remake directed by Tom Savini isn’t bad either!)

2. Dawn Of The Dead (Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake is pretty good, too!)

3. Day Of The Dead

4. Zombie

5. The Gates Of Hell

6. The Beyond

7. The Return Of The Living Dead

8. Return Of The Living Dead 3

9. [REC] (Also parts 2, 3 and 4 are good in varying degrees!)

10. The Dead

11. White Zombie

12. Shock Waves

13. Dead Alive

14. 28 Days Later (Sequel, 28 Months Later is actually very good!)

15. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (aka The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue)

16. Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things

17. Tombs Of The Blind Dead (also part of a creepy four film series)

18. The Horde

19. Wyrmwood

20. Dead Snow

21. The Outpost

22. Junk

23. Open Grave

24. Pontypool

25. Maggie

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: WYRMWOOD (2014)

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WYRMWOOD (2014)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

“The name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter.”- Revelations 8:11

Leave it to the Australians to give life back to the stale zombie genre with this delightful mash-up of Evil Dead and The Road Warrior. This fun and sometimes intense and gruesome flick, tells the story of brother and sister, Barry (Jay Gallagher) and Brooke (Bianca Bradey) during a mysterious zombie outbreak. Not much is given to us about the cause except for an abundance of shooting stars on the night it begins and a biblical reference to Wyrmwood, a star which falls to earth during Revelations and brings a plague of death. Barry is with his family and Brooke doing a photo shoot in the town of Bulla Bulla. Barry looses both his wife and daughter to the mysterious condition which, for some reason, spares those with A- blood. He eventually teams up Aborigine camper Benny (Leon Burchill) who lost both his brothers. Together they run into some locals and discover that while this ‘situation’ has rendered gas and fossil fuels inert, the zombies’ blood is quite flammable and the methane-like gas they exhale works as a fuel substitute. So, they go out armed and armored to gather ‘fuel’ and rescue Barry’s sister. Brooke, on the other hand, has been kidnaped by a sinister military group who keeps her restrained and gagged in a lab where there are performing experiments on zombie and human alike. Experiments, unbeknownst to her captors, that render Brooke with the ability to telekinetically control the living dead. Obviously the two siblings and their stories will come together…and then the bloody fun begins.

As directed by Kiah Roache-Turner from a script he co-wrote with his brother Tristan Roache-Turner, this flick is a blast of fun and a breath of bloody fresh air for the zombie sub-genre. A sub-genre made stale by an over-saturation of movies and weekly zombie TV shows. They make even the silliest aspects of the story work, and work very well. They take their story very seriously…though it is laden with that off-beat Australian sense of humor, which seems to fit in perfectly with the more gruesome aspects of this deviously twisted tale. The film has a really cool visual style and is obviously made by those who love these kind of movies and who also know what makes them work. This energetic mash-up is filled with subtle references to films like Dawn Of The DeadEvil Dead, the Mad Max films and even a playful nod to The Walking Dead involving a Samurai sword. Roache-Turner, however, creates his own flick from all the hat-tipping, despite borrowing concepts from George Romero and George Miller and makes his homage to the movies he loves in his own style. One of the things I loved most about it was that the combination of eclectic elements is mixed so well and works far better than it sounds like it should…cause it’s mixed in the right amounts and given the respect it deserves. The film is action packed but, never at the sacrifice of it’s off-kilter story, or characters, and can be very intense at times. There is also a lot of gory violence, which appears to be mostly…and thankfully… well-rendered live effects, too. Abundance of action and bloodshed aside, though, what makes it really work so completely is a charming group of main characters and some delightfully eccentric supporting characters, such as a sinister scientist who prefers to listen to K.C. and the Sunshine Band while he conducts his gruesome experiments. There really is little to not like about this film, made by film geeks for the film geek in all of us. Roache-Turner is certainly a filmmaker to watch.

As for the cast, they are all engaging. Gallagher is a charming and solid hero as Barry. Despite his loses and what is happening, he is valiantly going to find his sibling, as she is all he has left. Burchill is delightful as the oddball Benny. The character is given a lot of charm by the actor and is extremely likable. He has some of the best lines and is a perfect side-kick for Barry. As Brooke, Bianca Bradey is strong and sexy and her tattooed heroine becomes quite the powerhouse once she learns to use the side-effects of the experiments against those who hold her captive. The actress spends about 75% of the movie tied up with a fetishistic gag in her mouth and has to express her emotions and thoughts in her eyes and body language and Bradey does a great job. Long before she gets free, we like her immensely and are rooting for her. The supporting characters are also an eccentric lot and help add an offbeat atmosphere to the story and film. They seem both over-the-top and yet, somehow believably human, at the same time.

What little faults the film has are minor and not really worth bringing up when the filmmakers get so much, so right. They somehow mash-up quite a few different genres worth of ideas to fuel their homage and, as such, make sure to give nods to the types of film’s that inspired them. It reminded me of Neil Marshall’s Doomsday in that the entire film existed to pay homage to others yet, somehow, is it’s own movie. Energetic, delightfully gory and with a fast and furious pace, Wyrmwood is a real blast of George Romero meets Sam Raimi meets George Miller and yet remains very Kiah Roache-Turner. One of the year’s best horrors, so far, in my book and by a filmmaking talent to keep a close watch on!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Road Warrior-esque zombie fighters!

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BARE BONES: DEAD SNOW 2: RED vs. DEAD

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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.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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