Friday, May 17, 2013

Worth Mentioning - Blood, breasts, and beasts

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.


Cody takes on an angry sasquatch and a sharply dressed zombie.


ABOMINABLE (2006)

As promising as the concept of a deadly, hulking, hairy man-beast lurking in the forest is, I haven't seen very many horror movies with a Bigfoot/Sasquatch/Yeti/Abominable Snowman/whatever you want to call it as the antagonist that I've liked all that much. Yet hope springs eternal that the latest release in the sub-genre will bring the creature to the screen in a totally badass way. One that I would highly recommend is Abominable, the first feature from writer/director Ryan Schifrin, son of legendary composer Lalo Schifrin (who did provide the score for his son's movie.)

The story is brilliant in its simplicity and inspiration - it's Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window with a bigfoot. Hitchcock's 1954 thriller starred James Stewart as a man who's stuck in his apartment while nursing a broken leg, so to pass the time he rolls his wheelchair over to the rear window and spies on the outside world, in particular an apartment building across the way. He soon comes to suspect that one of the people he's watching may have committed a murder.


Schifrin's lead character is Preston Rogers, played by Matt McCoy, best known to me as the star of a couple of my childhood favorites, Police Academy parts 5 and 6. Six months ago, Preston was paralyzed in a climbing accident that also claimed the life of his wife. To help him move on from the incident mentally, his doctor has recommended that he return to his cabin in the mountains for a three day trial. The reluctant Preston is accompanied by negligent jackass orderly Otis (special effects artist Christien Tinsley making an impressive acting debut), who will prove to be of very little help to him over the course of the film.

Soon after Preston gets home, a group of attractive young women (Haley Joel, Natalie Compagno, Karin Anna Cheung, Ashley Hartman, and scream queen Tiffany Shepis) arrive at the cabin next door, having rented it as the venue for a bachelorette party getaway. Checking out a noise, Preston rolls his wheelchair out onto his balcony with a pair of binoculars, looking around, innocently turning his sights in the direction of the girls... Then strange things begin to occur. The phone line is found to be knocked out, one of the girls disappears. Before long, Preston is witness to the girls being attacked one-by-one by a murderous bigfoot with an eerie resemblance to character actor Jack Elam.

Preston does his best to alert the girls to what's happening before they're all wiped out and to contact the authorities to help them, but with his condition, no phone line, and the disbelieving Otis trying to obstruct him, this is no easy feat.


Along the way there's a subplot with Rex Linn, Re-Animator/Would You Rather's Jeffrey Combs (playing a scruffy, chain-smoking gas station clerk who totes an oxygen tank), and Lance Henriksen (who was on a bigfoot/sasquatch movie roll around this time) as characters on an ill-fated hunting trip, a cameo by Dee Wallace, and Paul Gleason of The Breakfast Club and Die Hard as the local sheriff.


Schifrin has yet to make a second movie, which is a shame because he did some really nice work on his debut. He captured a good atmosphere for the film, with some effectively creepy moments. One of the jump scares even got me the first time I watched it. There are some cool kills, with a nude Tiffany Shepis exiting the film in an especially spectacular and memorable way. Abominable is a very enjoyable creature feature, definitely one of the best ever made with bigfoot as its monster.

A sequel script was written in 2008 by comics legend Larry Hama, I'm not sure why it never moved forward. Given the image this one ends on, a sequel could be awesome.



ZOMBIE A-HOLE (2012)

There are multiple types of zombies loose in the world. What it takes to destroy these creatures depends on what caused them to return from the dead. Viral and toxic zombies are simple to take down, you just have to pop them in the head. Zombies resurrected through magick are a bit tougher, requiring dismemberment and cremation. Demonically possessed zombies are the worst of the bunch, you don't want to have to deal with any of those.

Pollux was once just a regular guy. It was while he was on a humanitarian mission in Haiti that he found a voodoo medallion and the evil force contained within the object possessed him. When he returned to the states, Pollux became a serial killer, targeting only sets of identical twin females. His own identical twin brother Castor (if you're like me, these names will make you think of John Woo's Face/Off rather than Greek and Roman mythology) attempted to stop Pollux's reign of terror, but by killing him Castor only made him stronger. Pollux rose from the grave a demon zombie.

Now Pollux is continuing his killing spree, wiping out set after set of twins while on a cross country mission to reach a gateway to Hell (there are such places located all over, but Pollux is likely heading for one in the Indiana countryside) and release so many evil souls from the underworld that they'll outnumber the living.



Castor, who has a psychic connection to his twin, is again on his brother's trail, and some bad moves Pollux makes along the way gets a couple others after him. One is a girl named Mercy - Pollux killed her twin sister, she managed to escape his clutches but only after he had ripped out one of her eyes and melted one of her hands by vomiting toxic green silly string onto it. Sporting an eyepatch and a robotic prosthetic she built herself, Mercy is out for some "Biblical grade vengeance". Pollux's antics have also drawn the attention of modern day cowboy Franco Fulci, who has dedicated his life to stopping undead creatures of all sorts, considering himself a "border guard" between the realms of the living and the dead.

Can these three work together to stop Pollux, the titular zombie a-hole (Franco Fulci is not a fan of harsh language), before it's too late?



Zombie A-Hole is the second film from The Puppet Monster Massacre director Dustin Wayde Mills. Mills is really churning out the movies in these early stages of his filmmaking career, his level of prolificacy is amazing to me, and he's been surprising me with how quickly he can get out a new feature ever since I first found out about him, when I went to buy a copy of Puppet Monster from him after a screening of it at the spring 2012 Cinema Wasteland and found that he already had copies of Zombie A-Hole available as well. By the spring 2013 show, he had five features for sale, and he's got at least two more coming out by the end of this year.

While Puppet Monster had a cast of puppets shot against a green screen in Mills's living room, Zombie A-Hole is a live action film with many different real world locations. The style of it draws a lot of inspiration from Robert Rodriguez, it's even described as a cross between Sin City and Planet Terror, and the picture has the scratched-up Grindhouse aesthetic.

Mills definitely kept the grindhouse/drive-in exploitation cornerstones of "blood, breasts, and beasts" well in mind while he was putting together his movie, filling it with good amounts of each. Beasts: the demon zombie Pollux, of course, some lesser zombies that are cleverly brought to the screen with the use of skeleton puppets that attack and get blown away by the human characters, as well as a small creature that's shackled in a box and helps Fulci in his search. Blood: a whole lot of (usually CG-enhanced) kill scenes; hearts ripped out, throats slashed, skulls smashed, a girl's head twisted off like a bottle cap, after which her fully nude body stumbles away a couple steps before finally collapsing. Which brings us to breasts: there are several pairs on display. The first bare breast is seen within the first 30 seconds. Full nudity follows within the first 90 seconds. You may realize that even the picture on the disc is a bloody breast, with the hole in the center taking place of the nipple. Joe Bob Briggs would likely approve.



Despite all it has going for it, I have to admit that I was disappointed with Zombie A-Hole when I first watched it, and had to give it more chances before I got into it. I feel that its pacing is off and it's too long - in his Puppet Monster Massacre audio commentary, Mills says that he thinks movies of this type should run between 70 and 90 minutes, a belief that I share. Puppet Monster ran 70 minutes, which was perfect for it. Zombie A-Hole is 108 minutes long and feels like it could've been trimmed. Scenes with music playing over them go on for too long, dialogue could've been cut, less slow-mo used. As cool as some of the kills are, and as smart as the idea is for a micro-budget production (you get two for the price of one every time), the twin murder sequences do get repetitious, some of the set-ups too similar.

The copy I bought in spring '12 was a barebones release, but there is a "Director's Cut" edition available with special features including audio commentary. I haven't seen that cut, so I can't say whether or not the differences in it fixed any of the issues I had. I would really like to hear the commentary, since I've listened to and enjoyed Mills's commentaries on his other movies, so it would be interesting to hear him discuss Zombie A-Hole.

I think the movie (as I've seen it) has troubles, but is still worth checking out. It does have a lot of good ideas in it that are executed in imaginative ways, fun scenes and some very cool characters. I'd gladly watch further adventures of Franco Fulci and Mercy if Mills were to bring them back in something someday.




2 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed Abominable as well - here's my review:

    http://craiglgooh.blogspot.com/2012/10/exploding-beef.html

    I haven't seen the second feature, but it seems...interesting...

    Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  2. jervaise brooke hamsterMay 19, 2013 at 8:29 PM

    Would you agree that when Pauline Hickey was 17 in 1985 she was THE most gorgeous bird of all-time ! ?.

    ReplyDelete