Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Down To Hell

Any fans of the film, Versus might be interested in knowing it was originally intended to be named Down To Hell 2. The interesting part of this is that most of us have probably never heard of Down To Hell and yet have heard of or seen Versus. Anyway, here are my thoughts of Down To Hell.

Tagline: There is no exit…

Plot: The film begins with an injured man running through a forest. He is set upon and brutally murdered by a group of armed thugs.

We are then taken to a street and see a man in a suit walking along the side of the road. A car appears and seems to be following the man. As he becomes paranoid and begins to pick up speed, the car speeds up as well and chases him down. The man is knocked over by the can and the group of thugs from the previous scene disembark to knock the man unconscious and abduct him.

The man is taken to the same forest we see the first man die in. The thugs explain that they intend to hunt the man down and kill him and tell him he will be given ten minutes before they begin chasing him. The man begs for them to show him mercy. One of the thugs responds by breaking his finger. Another starts the time for him to run. After a moment of standing and staring at his captors, the man bolts off into the woods while the thugs prepare their weapons for the hunt.

After the ten minutes run out, the thugs set out after their prey. The hunted man chooses to attempt to hide from the thugs, but is found relatively quickly when a partially buried body startles him. After one of the thugs catches up and finally kills the man, he relaxes for a moment only to find the body missing. This is where the zombie fun kicks in, as the victim returns to life to attack his murderers.

Thoughts: I rather liked this one. I initially felt this was a bit too similar to manhunting films out there, but the zombie bit threw a definite twist to it. It does not compare to Ryuhei Kitamura’s later films by any measure, but it’s still a decent watch. In a way, Down To Hell is like skipping supper and just having dessert. Much is left out in the way of a story line, but it is made up for in the action of the movie.

Fans looking for gut-munching zombie action need to look elsewhere. None of that will be found in this film. The one zombie in it is a superhuman killing machine with a really bad attitude. We never know exactly why the man returns to life, although some odd cloud movement and my watching Versus gives me the hint that it has something to do with being in the Forest of Resurrection. If that’s the case, I’m not sure why the other victim or victims did not return as zombies.

Those interested in a copy of this will probably have a difficult time finding it. I had to track mine down on Ebay. Fans of the subgenre and Ryuhei Kitamura's films should definitely seek this out.

Written and directed by Ryuhei Kitamura.

Starring: Masami Miyata, Yoshihiro Okamoto, Ryuhei Kitamura, Nubohiko Morino, Keishiro Shin, and Kohji Gotoh

Review by HatefulDisplay (Ron Clark)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Teenage Zombie House Massacre

After realizing a number of zombie classics were missing around here, I took a look around my house in search of films that readers might be interested in knowing about. That’s when I dug up my cop of Teenage Zombie House Massacre and decided to watch it again. Oh, how one suffers to help others.

Before I go on too much, I will say that owning this movie did help me get talked into buying Midnight Skater by the same folks. Much beer and wanting to help independent filmmakers helped as well.

Review: We begin in the past. An apparently homeless man staggers down a road and seeks shelter under the porch of a house. As he covers up with his blanket from the night, he is attacked by what I assume is supposed to be a zombie. The attacker looks to be cuddling the vagrant and makes no attempt to bite him. I suppose the bites must have followed the initial snuggling.

Before we see the vagrant get wasted, the time flashes ahead to 1988. A group of metalheads are hanging out on some railroad tracks and planning their party for the evening. They choose to throw a party at a supposedly haunted house and begin trying to gather others to join them at the party.

That night, the metalheads begin to gather at the house. They immediately discover the electricity is still working to their apparent astonishment. I need that electric company and I’ll explain why later.

Anyway, the metalheads split up. A couple heads upstairs to get some nookie going. The others stay on the first floor and hang out waiting for the beer to show up. Although they have split into two groups, they both begin discussing the murders that occurred in the house they are in. They speak about the rumors that the people murdered in the house were cannibalized. This was supposedly over thirty years in the past, but the electricity was never turned off.

While the male lover heads off to find a condom, or a “jimmy cap” as he refers to it, a zombie attacks his woman. No one hears her screams and her man returns to the bedroom to work on sealing the deal. When he lies on the bed with her, he fails to notice that she is bleeding or that there is a zombie in the room with her until they both begin to bite him.

One of the remaining revelers heads up to the second floor to try to get “seconds,” only to find himself attacked by two zombies. He falls down the stairs and warns the others after being bitten. The three flee to the basement as more zombies begin to come out of numerous hiding places throughout the house.

I’ll stop now. Well, one can only tell so much about a 34-minute film before the whole story is told.

Final Thoughts: Needless to say, there is not a lot of substance involved in this movie. It’s packed with issues that can be picked apart such as the police never finding all the bodies like the one’s under sheets and in shrubs during the crime investigation. It’s entertaining to an extent, but nothing too exciting. The action is unconvincing, the acting is bad, and the dialogue needs help. The zombies look like extras from a gothic or horrorpunk video with pale skin and lots of black makeup around the eyes. There is a bit of gore, but as with the rest of the film, it is not too believable or enough to make most people wince unless Ghostbusters was a frightening film experience to them. I wouldn't recommend this film to most people unless you are seeking out every zombie film you can find. But, for what it’s worth, these guys improved their filmmaking greatly since this one was made or you enjoy campy and very poorly made films. Perhaps this is one to throw in at parties and make fun of. Even Stacy Silvers told me they made this while they were still in high school when I politely discussed my thoughts of it with him a couple years back. Check out Midnight Skater. It's a much better project by the same crew.

Written and directed by Jared Bullis, Andy Campbell, Luke Campbell, and Ezra Haidet.


Andy Campbell- Axl

Jared Bullis- Richard

Luke Campbell- Doug

Andrew Mercer- B.J.

Roza Haidet- Abby

Ezra Haidet- zombie

Stacy Silvers- Beer Guy

Reviewed by HatefulDisplay (Ron Clark)

Monday, January 09, 2006

Zombie Bloodbath 3: Undead Armageddon

So, here I found myself snooping about the ZAGG site looking for a film that isn’t listed in the reviews that I have stashed away in my collection. In other words, I was bored and figured I could entertain myself and help the site out at the same time. I scanned through the list of films reviewed and to my absolute horror; I find that Zombie Bloodbath 3: Undead Armageddon has somehow not been reviewed. I ask myself, “How can such a classic be missed?” Like any good staff member, I decided to toss it in the VCR and do a review.

Tagline: The Undead Will Devour You!!!

Plot: The film begins in the future, where a group of soldiers are rounding up zombies and loading them into a containment device that is to be picked up by a spacecraft. The spacecraft is to be sent into space so the pesky living dead can be disposed of and no longer be a problem. After the craft is launched, we are given the opportunity to hear a group of soldiers, aptly named Fulci, Raimi, and Mattei discuss the destination of the craft and find out that the zombies were created for warfare and got out of hand.

We then see the spacecraft, which looks astonishingly like a modern space shuttle, pick up the containment device and travel through what I can only guess is supposed to be a black hole.

The film brings us to modern times. A group of students is being kept after school for detention with the principal, Principal Gordon in charge of them. The detention crew consists of a metalhead type troublemaker, a couple of the trendy kids, and a couple others, who seem quite forgettable from the start.

Principal Gordon has to leave to let the two students, Travis and Skillet who do the school radio show into an office to use the equipment. The two somehow pick up when they thing is a homing signal on the school’s equipment. The radio station students decide they need to investigate the signal. They run across an acting class who has two guest speakers, a couple blaxploitation film type action heroes named Mack Brazzle and Durville Sweet.
Travis and Skillet begin exploring the school in search of the signal and locate a sub-basement in the school. The signal seems to be coming from that area. Travis and Skillet manage to enlist the aid of Brazzle and Sweet. The detention crew sees the actors and decides they should follow them.

The exploration continues and the group comes across a space shuttle in the school’s sub-basement. Within the shuttle, they find a cryogenic chamber with a robotically enhanced man inside. While leaving the area of the space shuttle, zombies begin to attack and chaos ensues as the zombies make their way to the upper levels of the school.

I suppose that pretty much covers the story. I hate to go on and give away integral plot sections that might ruin the film for you. OK. That was sarcasm.

Zombies: The first thing that comes to mind is the zombie inconsistencies. That’s one that always gets to me. Sorry, but I do like my zombie movies to offer one type of zombies unless they can explain otherwise. This one has mostly shamblers, who seem to be quite mindless. Then, another zombie is introduced. This one speaks and seems completely intelligent. A third type is then introduced in the film; a cyborg zombie. Yes, a cyborg zombie. I said it. Well, if anything, that might be a point for originality.

Gore: Anyone who knows Todd Sheets’ films knows he loves buckets of blood in his zombie flicks. This one is no different. There are buckets of gore throughout this film. None of it is too realistic, but the shear amount made me forget that we are not dealing with professional FX folks here at times. Overall, it is far from convincing, but it finds its mark in being excessive.

Final Thoughts: I cannot recommend this film for everyone. It is definitely not for everyone. For people who are seriously into campy B movies or the zombie subgenre, I think this is a movie worth owning. It has a terrible plot, bad acting, and unbelievable action. Otherwise, it is a relatively entertaining film. Hell, I’ve watched my copy a few times. Those interested in purchasing a copy of this film should hold off as ei independent cinema will be releasing Zombie Bloodbath 3 and other Todd Sheets films on DVD and they will mostl likely be in double or triple releases. Otherwise, this one might be difficult to track down. Sorry. I don't recall where I got mine offhand.

Written, produced, and directed by Todd Sheets


Abe Dyer
Brian Travis

Curtis Spencer
Steve 'Skillet' Jones

Blake Washer

Jolene Durrill

Jen Davis

Ruth Gordon

Phil Wymore

Jenni Geigel

Rico Love
Mack Brazzle

Antwoine Steele
Durville Sweet

Byron Nichodemus
Principal Gordon

Jeff Dylan Graham
Agent Raimi

John Bain
Sgt. Fulci

Will Crews
Officer Mattei

Ari Bavel
Behemoth Zombie

Reviewed by HatefulDisplay (Ron Clark)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Undead - 2002

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When brothers Michael and Peter Spierig set out to make a zombie movie, they did it with an originality and flair that was unexpected. Most low budget zombie films rip-off the Romero tradition shamelessly and callously, or they innovate with fast-moving zombies, slow-moving plots, and tired old premises. Not so with Undead. Undead takes a new look at zombies, while still keeping much of the original conventions and adding a new spin on the legends. It’s also a joy to watch; the gore and the special effects, all made at the hands of the two filmmakers and a computer are nothing short of brilliant and amazing.

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A strange acidic rainfall, corpse-like reanimated Zombies, and extraterrestrial comets, spaceships, and aliens suddenly victimize a small town in Australia. When everyone in town succumbs to the strange invasion, the only surviving humans must band together to survive, as well as solve the mystery of what has happened to their beloved community. The cast is an assortment of normal humans we might find in our own neighborhoods; there’s Rene, the pretty local beauty pageant winner; Marion, the town Looney and gun enthusiast; Dirk and Emma, small-town police officials; and the pregnant Sallyanne and her lover Wayne. When they hole up in Marion’s house, they quickly learn that they will become zombie food if they don’t make a move, and fast, to get out of town. If only the aliens hadn’t built a huge extraterrestrial wall around Berkeley, they might be able to drive out, but there seems to be no escape. With Sallyanne going into labor, the acid rain burning them as it pours down, and a strange sickness developing around them all, Rene must learn to lead, or to allow her and the rest of the survivors to perish.

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This film is compared to Night of the Living Dead and Dead Alive, but to my eyes this Australian zombie movie seems more like early Peter Jackson work. It’s low budget, but well made, and while it is extremely gory and gross, it’s still really funny and campy at just the right moment. Based on an earlier trilogy of films made by the Spierig brothers called The Undead Trilogy, it’s an homage and a cool sci-fi horror movie that seems almost too expensive, too advanced, and too professional, to be just like all the other crappy zombie movies coming out. With a 1950’s feel and a real science fiction element, “Undead” has a similar feel and tone to movies like Night of the Creeps and Critters 2. It has very cool special effects, and some really unnervingly violent gore sequences that shock and amuse. John Woo type action sequences and stunts add an awesome action-film ingredient that lends some spice to a tired sub-genre. Felicity Mason and Mungo McKay give great performances as Rene the beauty and Marion the outcast. Felicity has the ability to play a believable victim while not pathetically giving in to ancient stereotypes of women in distress. Mungo McKay is half hero and half weirdo, a sort of Van Helsing/NRA member crossbreed who concocts new ways to use rifles, and to destroy zombies. The funniest character in the film, Constable Harrison, is played by a very funny Dirk Hunter to perfection. The cussing, nervous, and egotistical cop is a thoroughly needed comic relief for a death-weary audience at just the right moments.

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Undead is different from other zombie films, but remember that it is still a zombie movie. It doesn’t make any new innovations in the zombie mythos, but it does add on to the modern folkloric legend by preserving the tenets of Romero’s zombies, while being able to have some fun with the science fiction genre as well. Undead is really fun and really gory. It’s the perfect film for people who wish there were more films from Peter Jackson’s early repertoire.

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Written and directed by: Peter and Michael Spierig
Featuring: felicity mason, Mungo McKay, Rob Jenkins, Lisa Cunningham, Dirk Hunter, and Emma Randall
104 minutes

Review by Heidi Martinuzzi.

The Roost - 2005

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This film rocks. I can’t put it any other way. The Roost is in many ways a true horror throwback to the seventies and eighties, when low budget films still looked and acted like films, but in many ways it also employs real tricks of the trade that are fun and imaginative. Some truly eerie cinematography and some fine direction take this idiotically written little flick and turn it into a fun and cool trip down memory lane. Other films, of late, have tried to emulate this style and accomplish this décor (like 2004’s overrated Malevolence by Steven Mena), but few succeed where The Roost does.

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A rather long and almost tiresome opening lets the audience in on a small little secret; the film is going to suck. It will suck in that really nice Worms/Pumkinhead/Motel Hell way that we all know and love. And it does. The cute ode to TV horror hosts and black and white comedy horror like Elvira and The Munsters doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the story, but, then again, the rest of the story doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the story. Several ill-fated youngsters on a dark road fall prey to a muddy road on the way to a friend’s wedding. When they can’t get their tire unstuck, they decide to take a walk down the dark and deserted country highway in order to search for help. What happens next s a bunch of creepy and nonsensical events that are so much fun to watch you forget, nay, you don’t care, that The Roost has almost no real plot.

The direction really stands out in The Roost. Bordering on improv, the dialogue feels unrehearsed and the long moments in-between statements comes off as artistic and professional, rather than amateurish and embarrassing. The Roost’s director Ti West really has a definitive style involving dark shadows, long silences, and (thank god!) no excessive or unnecessary dialogue. The Roost also isn’t afraid to show off its b-level special effects in broad lighting, and in color. Unlike so many b-movies and indie horror films, The Roost isn’t embarrassed by its budget. By bold-facedly highlighting the blood and gore, the film seems proud of itself, and therefore, we (the audience) feel proud of it too. West also has an advantage when it comes to his film; his location is really great. The old barn that 75% of the film is shot in is creepy, interesting, and allowed for so many artistic possibilities. West didn’t waste any of them. West has proven that barns can be creepy, too. So can darkness, subtlety, and suspense. The Roost employs all of them.

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The acting is above average, probably due to the excellent direction, and the pace and timing are nothing short of perfection for a horror film. However, I won’t lie. The plot makes no sense at all, and there is no effort made to explain it. The Roost involves killer bats and bloodthirsty zombies, and somehow the two are connected. I saw the movie, but I still have no idea how, or even why, these two elements are even together in one film.

Despite its insistence that it is a b-film and deserves to be on a late night horror host show on public access, The Roost is actually better than that. Sure, the grainy, pixilated contours of the images, the lack of budget, and the downright moronic storyline might be qualifiers for such a fate, but the talent of the director, fx team, and cinematographer boost The Roost to a much higher level of horror enjoyment.

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Written and directed by: Ti West
Produced by: Susan Leber
Featuring: To Noonan, Karl Jacob, Vanessa Horneff, Sean Reid, Wil Horneff, Barbara Wilhide, Richard Little, John Speredakos
80 minutes

Review by Heidi Martinuzzi.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

They Day They Came Back - 2005

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The Day They Came Back centers around a conflict in trio—the government (headed by Paul Kratka of Friday the 13th Part 3, 1982), a commando (Chico Mendez of Troma’s PDA Massacre, 2004), and the group of young people stuck between the two while zombies have risen and are taking over. These zombies stem from a private research laboratory in which there were experiments in DNA mutation, toxic testing, and blood cell incubation—all of which, the fan will agree, are acceptable ingredients in the zombie flick recipe.
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The Day They Came Back is part of what you hope for in a zombie short. Director Scott Goldberg has obviously taken the time and care to make it look slick, which is so much more than what we can usually expect. The Day They Came Back has good cinematography and the atmosphere is brought forward and kept up throughout, aided by an original score by Brazilian composer Marinho Nobre. This is an especially nice touch that sets it apart from the usual thrash-metal score that accompanies low-budget zombie films.
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It does, however, run into some problems, but they’re not really the kind that one with $3,000 and 22 minutes can fix. The Day They Came Back runs less like a short film and more like a long trailer. This is only really bothersome in the sense that you really wouldn’t mind watching the feature this could be, if only there was one. It would have been interesting to see what Goldberg could accomplish with a little more cash and a little more time.
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Frankly, most other troubles are really too trivial to mention in the face of Goldberg’s accomplishment—which is having made well an intriguing and well shot little zombie flick that I believe that fans of the apocalypse zombie story will appreciate and enjoy quite a bit. Goldberg, who admits to being relatively new to the zombie sub-genre (his introduction was in early 2003 with Day of the Dead!), does better what a lot of people who claim to be zombie fans from birth have done. This is fun to see and will maybe lay to rest the one-upmanship that is often seen on message boards and websites.
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According to Goldberg’s website, The Day They Came Back 2 is in pre-production for Fall of 2006. My own advice to him would be to save those dollars and use The Day They Came Back to acquire additional funding. Instead of a short sequel, give us this one again, but in feature form.

To watch it yourself, just click the pic below.
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For a ZAGG interview with Scott Goldberg, click here.

Choking Hazard - 2004

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I can only assume that the Czech Republic is doing relatively well since the fall of Communism in 1989—in fact, I believe it’s a proven truth, that the sign of a country on the political mends is whether or not it makes a gory zombie movie. It’s also nice to see that the Czech’s have a good sense of humor. Choking Hazard goes a long way in proving that.

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Choking Hazard is a bizarre tale weaving the odd, but if you think about it, quite obvious, threads of zombies and philosophy. It opens with a woman in black, who blows a zombie’s head off with a shotgun. This seems a bit disjointed as we don’t see her again until the end, but if you’re living in the Czech Republic, you get the joke. The woman is Dagmar Patrasova, popular children’s television show host. The story swirls around a group of people who head into the woods to the Halali Motel to try to figure out the meaning of life, which is rather ironic. The group consists of a young nihilist named Verner, a girl with an apparent obsessive-compulsive disorder named Hanusova, an alcoholic named Krenocova who believes that one can find the meaning of life in an orgasm, and a hardcore porn start named Mechura who also happens to be a Jehovah’s Witness. A blind philosophy professor named Dr. Renis (played by Czech comedy star, Jaroslav Dusek) heads the group with his constant droning on about this and that philosopher. There is a particularly amusing bit about how a philosopher should die—Renis doesn’t seem to die quite as a philosopher should. Rounding out the group are the organizers, Lefnerova, and her whipped husband, Nedobyl.
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During the first evening of their weekend retreat, for reasons not entirely clear, numerous zombie woodsman (called Woombies). According to director Marek Dobes, the traditional Czech forest ranger, or woodsman, “hunt the weak members of the herd in our forests because they try to limit the number of ill and crippled beasts to help with the balance of nature, which can’t work on its own, because the ecological factors are so limited in the surviving European forests.” While no other explanation seems to exist as to why these woodsmen would rise on this particular night and attack the people in this particular motel—this is as good a reason as any. All of the attendees of the retreat are searching for something that they could probably do just fine in life not knowing if they just lived their lives, which might be seen as a kind of weakness.
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According to Renis, there are two things that control our actions in our lives, those being Instinct and Reason. And these two things do indeed materialize in the form of the zombie woodsmen, which come in those two flavors: the dumb and clumsy Instinct and the smart and dangerous Reason. While our cast of characters is whittled away (and by the way, how does one properly capture what it’s like to be blind and eaten by zombies? Watch this film to find out), we the audience can toy with the philosophical query of which is most important, Instinct or Reason. In the end, in a silly scene where a Reason zombie gets covered in blood and is attacked by a dimwitted Instinct zombie, you can reach your own conclusion.
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What is most enjoyable about Choking Hazard is the obvious thought and consideration put into it that gives it a bit more substance that your average gore-fest, but at the same time, the lack of seriousness that accompanies it allows it to be critical of that very substance. It’s a movie that allows you to feel sort of clever to play with the ideological underpinnings, yet also allows you to laugh it off and have fun with it. Combine that with some slick shooting and some good acting and you’ve got yourself a winner.
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Directed by: Marek Dobes
Written by: Marek Dobes and Stepen Kopriva

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Feeding the Masses - 2004

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Often I wonder if indie horror filmmakers actually watch other indie horror films; you see the same cliché’s used over and over again, the same stories, characters, and ideas rehashed but never made any better, and you also catch them making the same mistakes. Not so with Feeding the Masses. Indie veteran Trent Haaga knows how to avoid the problems, even with newcomers Ted Marr and Richard Griffin taking the reigns.

Feeding The Masses is a very sophisticated zombie film that, like Romero’s trilogy (I hate t use the comparison but it is really fitting) is deeply intelligent and incredibly engaging; it’s just such a shame the budget couldn’t always keep up with the script. Written by Trent Haaga and directed by Richard Griffin, Feeding The Masses is an elaboration on the social implications of having our world taken over by zombies. This time the point of view is that of the journalist, and integrity, truth, and freedom of the press are the main issues. In war-torn times like our present, when anti and pro-war propaganda populate out televisions, radios, and written publications, we as Americans have a hard time deciphering between fact and fiction. Untrustworthy government officials and corporate machines are cliché villains, but they give us an enemy within our own nation to team up against in Feeding The Masses. Basically, with a good story like this, you could substitute zombies for anything; terrorism, war, smallpox...and it would still be a frightening horror film with a strong social commentary.

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The strength of this film lies strongly on the characters; Torch, the cameraman, (played by the talented William Garberina) is a strong lead, he’s funny and he’s likeable, while being able to add quirkiness to the role. Rachael Morris is a bland Shelley, the anchorwoman, but her character is fresh and real, while Michael Propster is a sympathetic and charming foil to Garberina’s reckless wit. Add to it all the evilly uncaring government official Agent Barnes (William DeCoff) and a handsome soldier named Roger who has a thing for Shelley (played by Patrick Cotter) and you have a perfect formula for success. In fact, it might even make a pretty good sitcom, if you took out the zombies. Or maybe you should leave them in.

It’s really nice to come across an indie horror film about zombies that doesn’t just show naked women being taken apart by zombies, because frankly, it gets old. Some impressive CG sequences allow the feeling of holocaust and disaster to really sink in. Tanks, buses; they really did their best in terms of budget, but still couldn’t pull off some of the necessary effects that the script demanded. Feeding will show you your fair share of gore, but the emotional impact it has is similar to things you might have felt watching the Dawn of the Dead remake; it’s very well done, though director Richard Griffin sometimes loses opportunities to create action and often his characters go under-directed, keeping Feeding The Masses from being as impressive as it could be. Because of the budget constraints it can’t compete with higher budgeted indie horror like 28 Days Later, which are essentially the same sub-genre and cater to the same audience. An ambiguous and abrupt ending leaves the viewer craving more; gore, death, sadness, storyline; just more.

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A great soundtrack adds power and class to the film, showing it’s a cut above the standard in more ways than one.

Written by: Trent Haaga
Directed by: Richard Griffin
Featuring: Patrick Cohen, Billy Garberina, Rachael Morris, Michael Propster


Review by Heidi Martinuzzi.

Raving Maniacs - 2005

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There’s a rave going on. It’s gonna be great. Tuesday and her boyfriend J.T., and their friend Katie, and Katie’s brother, are going out partying to the biggest rave in Providence, Rhode Island. Of course, the reckless kids become part of an alien plot to distribute some strange drugs (they’re so strange, that they glow in the dark) among the ravers at the party. The socially smart storyline tells a tale of reckless youth with no control over the substances they ingest in heir endless quest for stimulation, feeling, and euphoria. The risks of doing some drugs may never be discovered until it’s too late, when the party's over.

This collaboration between Trent Haaga, Richard Griffin, and Christine Peltier all takes place at night in the darkness, at a rave. It’s got great atmosphere, and unwavering action when it comes to the set, costumes, and good cinematography. Unlike in their earlier endeavor, Feeding the Masses, Griffin employs some creative shots, beautiful and otherworldly lighting, and some seriously disturbing sequences guaranteed to make you queasy. Talent allows Griffin and his cinematographer to create atmosphere unlike anything most indie films are capable of generating; it’s stunningly fun and terrifying. Patrick Cohen stars as the club manager, who has a past with the dark and sexy Tuesday. Unfortunately, Tuesday is now dating the volatile and dangerous J.T., and he and Jessie (Patrick Cohen) have an evil rivalry. Throw into the mix a Vietnam vet, a nerd who loves his game boy, and a couple who work at the club, and you get; that’s right. To many characters. Immediately hampered by an opening that takes a good half hour to create because of all the different storylines and sub plots, Raving Maniacs is slow to get started.

Once the action does get going, it’s pretty good. The new glow-in-the-dark drug being distributed is actually of alien origin- it’s actually a pretty gross concept and will make you think twice about what you put in your mouth next time someone offers you something at a rave. The effect of the drug is an induced mindless, zombie-like highly sexual state that inspires you to randomly copulate in the most grotesque of ways with those around you. As the sex turns violent and bizarre, the few who didn’t take the drugs start to notice something is amiss. By that time, it’s too late for those who are infected, and for those who aren’t, because army protocol dictates that the facility be quarantined and no one gets out until after backup arrives. But is backup coming? Can one ex-marine hold down the doors while the innocent and the contaminated alike try to escape the rave? Its all frightening and fun from this point on, with some seriously disturbing scenes that cross the line of decency without being superfluous or unnecessary. (And THAT is a task hard to accomplish)

Griffin takes some pretty big risks with a low budget; it’s impossible to aspire to this level of filmmaking without acknowledging that the rave is going to suffer if the technology can’t be paid for. He does all right with what he’s got and actually makes a pretty intimidating feature relying on clever camera angles and creatively sinister lighting. Where Griffin fails Raving Maniacs is in his relationship with the actors; he doesn’t push them as far as they need to go to be believable. Emily Morettini as Tuesday can’t compete with Andrew Vellenoweth’s charisma and energy onscreen, and Patrick Cohen’s Jessie has a confidant, if somewhat affected, ability to contend. The long character development definitely holds back the characters once they are established; with so many intros and setups, the deaths come too quickly and seemingly out of nowhere. An unexpected love story comes through for the romantics in the end, but the glaringly obvious ramifications of frivolity and a callous attitude towards drugs looms largely over the entire narrative; drugs don’t make you different, they make everyone the same. Just like the traditional mindless zombie that Raving Maniacs imitates, those who indulge in addictions will become part of a pack of desperate and deluded sufferers.

Written by: Richard Griffin, Trent Haaga, Christine Peltier
Directed by: Richard Griffin
Starring: Patrick Cohen, Emily Morettini, Andrew Vellenoweth, Christine Peltier, Ryan Patrick Kenny, Jennifer Zigler, V. Orion Delwaterman, Edwin Cottle, Patrick Pitu, William DeCoff

Review by Heidi Martinuzzi.

After the End, Act I - 2005

After The End, Act I, is a disappointing film, to say the least. I’d like to say that this is D. Ryan Mowry’s firsts film, and chalk up the terrible cinematography and writing to inexperience, but I can’t. Mowry has made several previous independent films through his company Sneuwbal Films, After The End, Act I, being the most recent. 30 minutes is a terribly awkward length for a short film to begin with, and with the lack of budget, the bad sound, and the terribly amateur directing, it’s more awkward yet.

After The End, Act I, is apparently the first of several Acts set in the not-too-distant future when nuclear holocaust has turned everyone into zombies, except for a few pot smoking slackers living out in a Pennsylvania wasteland. Intending to pay homage to an already beaten to death idea of Romero’s Living Dead out in Pittsburgh, Mowry actually sets the film in the decidedly un-Pennsylvania-like Arizona, where desert cacti and sand let us know we are definitely not shooting on location. The beginning credits open with stock footage of H-bombs and nuclear holocaust of a level of professionalism not to be repeated ever again in the film. The music and the opening credits insinuate a much more professional film than what was actually created. Like so many independent filmmakers, the music and the graphics on the credits take precedent over the actual script and filmmaking itself, not only cheating the viewers but providing a stunning good/not good contrast between credits and story that is unforgivable. Mowry’s characters are shallow and hopelessly underwritten people who are not affected by the total destruction of the universe. They sit around all day and smoke pot. This is not a film about survival or about human relationships; it’s a film about pot smokers smoking too much pot. The world happens to be dead all around them. While the idea has merit as a joke, it’s not much to base over half an hour of footage on, let alone subsequent sequels and Acts. The film wants to cause laughter and inspire cult fans, but can never get over how funny it thinks it, and it never gets remotely serious enough to inspire real care on the part of the viewer.

Words that describe After The End, Act I: unintentionally ridiculous, badly filmed, and insultingly condescending in its attitude towards horror fans; yes, we do like zombies, yes, we do like Romero. That’s not enough to make you a filmmaker. Films require talent, planning, and care, and that’s something After the End just doesn’t have.

The Trailers and Teasers for the second and third acts that follow the initial footage is just as badly made. More like a teaser for a company that wants to get their film financed, so they made a short, After The End packages itself as a real movie. It’s not. Not only does this film not warrant any further acts, it doesn’t belong in a video store or on a shelf with other movies made by fans-turned-filmmakers.

Written and Directed by D. Ryan Mowry
33 Minutes
Sneuwbal Films

Review by Heidi Matinuzzi.