Friday, May 20, 2011

Review: The Horde (La horde) 2009 (Review by DeadVida)

            The Horde (La horde) 2009

The Horde is like Reservoir Dogs meets Dawn of the Dead (2004), but in French with subtitles. It starts off with a gang of crooked cops seeking revenge for the killing of one of their own by an international gang of ruthless thugs. However, when they are quickly outnumbered by the horde of undead, the enemy of my enemy becomes my friend and all that. This is probably for the best because they are all so unlikable that it is unlikely the audience is going to side with either group. The violence displayed, by both the living and the unloving is brutal and atavistic. The color pallet is rich in gore, grime, and decay.

Four off-duty (we assume) cops, three male and one female, arrive at a high-rise squat in what appears to be the outskirts of Paris. Almost immediately things start going wrong and the in-fighting begins. They are there to rescue one of their own and seek revenge for the murder of another colleague. They are immediately taken captive by a multi-national consortium of thugs, lead by two Nigerian brothers. This results in two casualties and a whole lot of screaming. Then dead people start doing things dead people aren’t supposed to do and there is a whole lot more screaming.

The tenement building is an effective location and the director and cinematographer make good use of the darkness, cramped corridors, bouncing sounds, and overall feeling that hope has long been abandoned here. Eventually the foes make an uneasy truce in an effort to escape the dead gathering outside the building looking for a hot lunch. As they descend from the top floors, they encounter other residents of the building, both living and dead.  The atmosphere is always tense and claustrophobic. The gore and violence are prolific, but in a few scenes it is taken to an almost artistic composition. It is slightly jarring in that the shots become more about creating an iconic image without regard to things like continuity (blood, what blood?). The final scene, as they burst into the relative light of a freshly apocalyptic world, makes you think, “Ah, I can finally breathe again!” And then being one of them mind-fuck-European-type movies you gotta suck that breath all back in again.

Things this movie taught me – there is apparently a held believe that simply being Nigerian will protect you from zombies. The US does not have the market on crazy Vietnam vets. Zombies hath no fury like an adulterous woman left knocked up and scorned.

Solid zombie fare with fast zombies, lots of gore, and great atmosphere.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Excerpt from Rigor Mortis #4 - Mother, Jugs, and Peens: Great Moments of Gratuitous (and Confusing) Nudity in Horror

Excerpt from Rigor Mortis #4
Mother, Jugs, and Peens:
Great Moments of Gratuitous (and Confusing) Nudity in Horror

 We here at RM HQ are really just 13-year-olds who can drive cars and buy cigarettes. As proof of our unrelenting puberty we are now going to talk about genitals. That’s right, a whole article devoted to jugs, willies, knockers, boners, melons, weeners, chesticles, peters, and nips. Collectively, we are able to evaluate the subject matter rather impartially. No, really. We know the difference between nudity as art and nudity as sloppy script filler. As a group we are male and female; gay, straight, bi, and tri; and like it vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. We have a gender trespasser who is the vegan lovechild of Xena and Quentin Crisp, a gay man who will happily play with a nice pair of knockers, someone who would do Godzilla with the right lighting, as well as an otherwise straight man who would be no more if Johnny Depp showed up on his doorstep. We’ve given it away and made people pay (one way or another). Some of us (Dread, perhaps) would fuck Clint Howard (but with your dick). Hell, Dread would do you for a pack of cigarettes. Make it two packs and gas money and he’ll even leave you the key to the handcuffs and feed the cat on the way out. We’ve been there, done that, and got the t-shirt. That said, we are still geeks sitting at home on a Saturday night snickering about titties and johnsons, so make of that what you will. So grab your handi-wipes and let’s get on with the show…

    In CEMETERY MAN, observant viewers (Hell, even lazyass viewers) saw some of Rupert Everett’s first surgical “enhancements” (and we don’t mean his purported facelifts). Cemetery Man watchers get an eye-full of ol’ Rupe’s dangly, dingly balls of delight (well, that depends on who you ask). For the low cost of a rental you too can get, oooh, about four inches from it yourself.
    For chicks who prefer dicks, lusting after the brooding, hunky actor was only fair; usually female Horror fans are visually assaulted by inexplicable boobs. Unfortunately, chicks still won’t get a total break here since ol’ Rupe tends to prefer burritos to tacos. But hey, it’s horror and a zombie film no less, so Grrls gotsta take what they can, right? Junk is junk, no matter where ya put yer trunk.

    Ask any ZOMBI 2 fan what the best scene is and, no doubt, they’ll tell you, “Duuude, that zombie vs. shark scene is, like, totally awesome!” See, what they won’t admit is the real reason they are watching is not because of some terribly choreographed “battle,” but to watch Auretta Gay get ready for her big peril scene. Right before the famed fight, that perv Fulci lovingly framed and richly composed angles of Auretta Gay strapping on her scuba gear, clad in only a g-string, camera, and her ta-tas, She then dives in, swimming before the camera thrusting...her fins...blowing...lotsa bubbles...and opening herself a lot of trouble. You get the idea. It’s like soft porn, just with a zombie vs. shark framing device.
    No longer will the curious wonder where exactly those scuba straps go when they disappear between the legs of a woman, for all has been answered. Now, we at RM agree that a fresh pair of jablonskies never hurt nobody and we’re all for their loving (and semi-realistic) depiction onscreen. But let’s call a duck a duck, and say that shark fight is only sloppy seconds to Auretta Gay gearing up at 0:31:33. Not that any of us actually checked the DVD, we just heard this was maybe where it was. Scuze me...we have a bad-assed shark fight to
    Director Danny Boyle penetrated...deep...inside the insecure sensibilities of some fanboys when not only did he bust out with the running-and-they’re-not-even-really-zombies to confound our Zed academics, but then bam, he took Str8t male fears of the willy-next-door to the next level. Yes, there was A WHOLE, NAKED ADULT MAN WITH HIS DING DONG OUT IN FULL PEENAGE VIEWAGE!!! OMG! Not just a quick flash, Hell, not even a pair of boobies to soften the 6” blow, but a WHOLE, NAKED MALE BODY FRONT AND CENTER.
    Z connoisseurs who thought they were being all, like, daring and European watching CEMETERY MAN’s wank attack went into Grand Mal seizures (requiring heavy metal therapy) when Boyle presented what amounted to BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (well, without the horses and actual sex). It was a junk assault of an unprecedented scale. Not content with merely serving up La Tamale Murphy, Boyle made sure that the scenes of said protuberances were essential to the story so the poh thangs had to stare down that one-eyed monster. Oh, the humanity!

    Remember when you were a little kid and your sister used to play with her Barbies and they’d be all like all nekkid and she was too little and uncoordinated to put their clothes back on? She’d still dance them around and put them in all kinds of acrobatic poses. You would think to yourself, “I wonder if a real woman looks like or could do that? Like a real woman with boobies and stuff?” Still not sure what stuff even was.
    And you’d (remember this is about you) keep this dirty secret in your head until your friend Nikolas showed you “discreetly torn pages” from his dad’s secret porno stash. The pages were crumpled in his pocket and the guys would gather all giggly until that old biddy teacher came to see what you heathens were up to. WHAT? This never happened to you? neither...we just uh...heard about these things.
    See how distracting that damned stuff is?? Where were we? Okay, it is years later and some of you are still wondering what a real woman looks like. But no worries, peeps, Dan O’Bannon, director of Return of the Living Dead, put not only a nekkid chick in his film, but a real, grown woman with real grown woman breskies. Furthermore, he saw fit to pay homage to that Barbie look you swear holds no part in your early sexual development. Though come to think of it, she looks a lot like the Barbie your sister gave a haircut to and then colored on with her markers, but whatever, we’d be shaving...umm…splitting hairs at this point to fuss. So, Fanboys, put down yer Mountain Dew cans cuz we think ya’ll need to stand at attention and give Mr. O’Bannon a hand (if you can spare one) for giving Horror cinema one of the more superfluous “anatomy” scenes around.
    Think we’re just being a meenie-weenies? Pretend that was a dude strolling through the fog looking like he just got back from Brazil. Better yet, imagine him dancing on that slab. Yep, thought so. Gratuitous cooch-meter has officially exploded and awaits replacement.

    Now, first thing you should know is that we worship Ridley Scott’s ALIEN. Coincidentally (or not), Dan O’Bannon was also part of that team, so there’s our other flimsy excuse for including this. That said, we do hafta call attention to Scott’s remarkable POV frame composition during the climax of the movie. You know the one – where we get to see Ripley squeeze into her spacesuit in her barely there panties. We’re all down for saucy compositions, but considering the artisans involved in this film, you really wanna tell me that was the best angle they could shoot from?? The best angle that had shit to do with the rest of the movie. We guess in space no one can hear you masturbating in the bushes. Sure, with the ALIEN’s tongue extension scene, we’re supposed to get there’s sexual-bestial-alienial-something happening, but most folks ain’t looking for sub-text that deep. Was this supposed to prove that Jonesy wasn’t the only kitty on board?

    We’ve never understood why the male members of the audiences get their tighty-whities in a bunch when some dude goes tripod onscreen. Like, damn, ya’ll do have one, right? You have seen it before??? It does look remotely like the one onscreen, right? And it won’t, like, you know, jump off the screen and attack you. You know that, right? So what’s the fuss?
    Now, you want to have a real reason to squirm over wanton, nasty tubular man-things, we give you PLANET TERROR.
    Remember the scene where ol’ hottie Cherry peg leg is about to be “propositioned” by Tarantino’s character? Director Rodriguez was even a nice guy and shot from behind so you “real” men could actually watch Tarantino’s dripping, melty, oozy thingies in comfort. You weren’t looking directly at a real nutsack dropping its wet, slopping chunks on the floor. No, it’s a gooey, drippy, mutated nutsack shot from behind and that makes all the difference in the world. It was gratuitous, but sheer genius! Real men could watch and even say they loved the movie without worrying anyone would think they’re Gay! WHEW! However, we’re still a little too speechless to comment on the testicles-in-a-jar collecting angle. Believe whatcha want, but we do have a threshold.

    Gotta love them liberated Europeans. They’ll find any damned reason to flash some skin…like, say, strolling through a cannibalistic village. Words can be lost in translation, but the language of jablonskies is international. There’s no need for scholarly analysis, no need for a storyline, cuz like a zap from a ray gun, one flash of ta-tas and Fanboys forgive things like plot holes, crappy editing, and bad dubbing. It’s a curveball of epic proportions even the toughest critics have a hard time fighting. It’s like titty Kryptonite. Oh, and the movie has zombies, but really, it is about the all-powerful jablonskies.

    Since the film is meant to be all, like, serious we’ll try to be nice . It’ll be difficult because A) men are a scarcity when it comes to gratuitous displays on film, so any display is basically gratuitous (thanks Hollywood double standards!) and B) It’s an apocalypse film with Viggo Mortensen, who we all know is an actor , so when he puts down his backpack and whips out his mansack, we gotta treat those moments like sacred cows. Even fanboys who would normally tremor at the mere hint of impending trouser snake stop and think, “But they’re Viggo’s nads. This must be art, so it must be safe to watch. Art won’t make me gay, right?” (Actually, it will, but that is an article for another time.)
    John Hillcoat, the director, somehow managed to talk Aragorn, we mean Viggo, to show some skin not once, but twice in what appears to be frigid water. Any dude will tell ya, frigid waters and his little me’s don’t mix. There’s always a game of hide-and-seek that happens once somethin’ a little chilly hits the little willy. But nooo...not ol’ Viggo. Shot from behind on both occasions, in scenes that could’ve easily not been in the film, but whateverz, viewers get to see ol’ Viggo sporting a pair of low hanging fruit. We now all know where exactly Viggo carries his manpurse.

PIRANHA (2010)
    Sweet jesus this film is like the visual equivalent of state fair novelty foods. It is steeped in self-aware irony, childhood nostalgia, dipped in some kind of fat, sugar, and then more sugar, and yet we still shove it in our mouths with reckless abandon. And…it has so much wanton nudity that we don’t even know where to start.
    There are tits in just about every scene and even dialog about said tits. There are wet t-shirt contests, bikinis, and two of the main characters act like porn stars….wait for it…because they are porn stars. We sat down to watch this in our respective bunkers within a day of each another and, without the added help of telepathy, knew this film begged to be added to the gratuitous genitalia hall of fame.
    To the director, hats off, sir. We have never before seen a penis eaten and then regurgitated. Had to freeze frame that shit, we did. (For proof of this please see page 72.) Oh, and the scene where the victim is eaten by the piranhas and her implants float gently away in the currents…sheer poetry. It was like that plastic bag scene in American Beauty, only, like, deeper.
    Lastly, your homage to the mermaids of Weeki Wachee was simply inspired. We had no idea mermaids had lesbian tendencies and were fans of Brazil. We did figure out your tricks – you hid the scuba tanks in their breasts, didn’t you? Sure, sure, some members of the audience were fine with the suspension of disbelief that beautiful, horny chicks can indeed survive underwater by simply gyrating against one another, but really, they should have drowned after the first two minutes. But no, you stretched that scene out as far as you could, you naughty boy.
    We kinda wanna go watch this again now…

So dear readers, here are three Pubic Service Announcements from the miscreants here at RM:
1) Bazookas, while wonderful things, do not excuse poor acting and abysmal story development.
2) Cinematic penises will not hurt you. However, that one in your hand right now will make you go blind.
3) Is Godzilla a top or bottom? Discuss. Defend your argument.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Review: Infection, by Craig DiLouie (by DeadVida)

By Craig DiLouie
Paperback: 296 pages
Publisher: Permuted Press
Pub date: February 22, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-1934861653

Imagine if you will standard (almost) zombie fair – outbreak, unexplained violence, mass chaos, group of unlikely survivors banding together – only the story is somehow the unlikely lovechild of THE BREAKFAST CLUB and H. P. Lovecraft. In that description I offer praise, as well as some criticism. There is a lot to like here and the overall story and pacing engaged me as a reader. Some of what I found original was also some of what frustrated me, so make of that what you will.

The story starts with 20% of the world’s population screaming and then going into comas. A few days later they awaken and begin attacking the rest of the population. We then meet a group of survivors, and their stories are told in flashback as the novel progresses. This was handled well and the flashbacks even managed an organic, at times nightmarish, feel. We meet Ethan, the high school math teacher, dealing with his missing wife and child; Paul, the former reverend, who is searching for god; Anne, the most inscrutable character at first, who is carrying more baggage than most; Sarge, an Army man just back from Afghanistan and fighting a new war he understands even less; Wendy, a young cop from Pittsburgh unsure of herself; and Todd, a high school junior who seems to cope better than most because of his age and ability to disassociate and skill with FPS games. Together, they attempt to find safe haven and eventually flee Pittsburgh in Sarge’s Bradley tank as the city burns.

The survivors go against zombie movie conventions and attempt to take refuge at a hospital. It is here that the book kicks into high gear and deviates from the standard viral zombie storyline. At the hospital we learn that there are “things” now infesting the earth – worms, parasitic monkey-like creatures, and “demons.” The characters offer theories, but these are never explained and their “otherness” felt Lovecraftian to me. I couldn’t tell if I liked this and the possible explanation or if it was superfluous. Regardless, they are creepy. I mean, as if fighting deranged, infected humans wasn’t enough! Furthering the creep factor is that children aren’t infected – they are simply killed and eaten.

Each character has had his or her purpose in life destroyed or altered, and DiLouie attempts to show the characters as they struggle with this new reality. They each try and find reasons to live, knowing they have the very real option of just giving up. The individual characterizations were decent, especially given the amount of action in the book. It often seems that authors choose one or the other. In my option, action is meaningless if there is no investment in the characters.

It is dealing with who the characters were and who they are now, as well as the almost forced intimacy that steers this into THE BREAKFAST CLUB territory. I mean, we all know that they went back to ignoring each other on Monday, right? These characters had nothing in common before and the sense that they were one big family after two weeks felt contrived. As individuals, DiLouie put a great deal of effort into their characterizations. I wish he would have done the same with the individual and group dynamics.

This passage is a good example of what many of the characters are going through, “We try and live with as little pain and as much pleasure as possible. But pain makes us realize we are alive. We truly live one moment to the next when we live with pain. When pain stops, we become afraid. And we remember things that we do not wish to remember that are themselves painful.”

I am curious if there is a sequel planned and if certain things will be explained. Overall, this is a worthwhile addition to the genre. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Review: Aftertime, by Sophie Littlefield (by DeadVida)

By Sophie Littlefield
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Luna
Pub Date: February 15, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0373803361
I’ve got a thing for well-written damaged characters, as well as unreliable narrators. They make you work a little harder, and for that they usually tend to force you into their worlds. In AFTERTIME the damaged physical and psychological worlds Sophie Littlefield has created are adroitly crafted.
Cass Dollar is a Grade A damaged character surviving in a broken world. She is a survivor in every sense of the word. She survived a childhood of abuse, an adulthood where she self-abused (with alcohol and sex), and now the Aftertime, filled with violence, death, and famine. She has been sober for a while, so she is aware of her addiction, but at the same time the reasons she felt the need to numb herself are still there, still demanding succor.
Creating a realistic world after cataclysmic events is harder than it looks, and Littlefield’s earth walks that fine line of familiarity and unknown. Bio-warfare has caused massive world-wide famine and ecological destruction with plant species of all kinds wiped out. This leads  the government to try and help by creating genetically altered plants with complete nutritive values. That goes awry and one of the plants, the blueleaf, leads to fever, madness, and cannibalism. Those who live past the fever are called Beaters and they are just one threat to the existence of the survivors.
The behavior of the Beaters is genuinely disturbing. Within the first few pages I realized that the content was going to offer some real horror when Cass watched a deranged woman appear to start to kiss someone. “The woman shook her head and only then did Cass realize she’s sunk her teeth into the man’s flesh and was tugging at it. Tearing at it. Trying to rip off a shred.” The Beaters like to eat flesh and usually start by eating pieces of their own. Nibbling at their own arms.
Cass awakens and struggles to remember what has happened to her. Miles from home, she begins a dangerous and solitary walk back to her small town and eventually meets survivors. Again, as a complicated character she vacillates between wanting to reject everyone who comes near her and wanting acceptance, between strength and self-doubt. Her primary goal is to find her daughter, whom she had already lost once in the Before. The four miles between the school the survivors have made home and the library where Cass last saw her daughter are dangerous, and the enigmatic Smoke offers to escort her. As is often the case, the society of the “living” is as dangerous as that of the zombies (not actually dead in this case, but still zombies in my book).
Smoke is a little too good to be true at times and slightly two-dimensional. I hope that in the subsequent books he is given as much complexity as Cass. Overall, this was a worthwhile, compelling read and a world I look forward to exploring further. Recommended.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Review: FUKITOR & SATANIC TERROR (by Dread Sockett)

By Jason Karns
Website with galleries of art on display:

    Jason Karns’ FUKITOR and SATANIC TERROR take me back to the days when I gathered my lunch money and hoofed it downtown to this one bookstore that was crammed with every damned type of periodical imaginable. Stuff was haphazardly arranged and shoppers could find something from five years prior sitting on the shelf next to something stocked that day. You never knew what was buried underneath the piles. Comix-wise, I got my introduction to undergrounds during one of these treasure hunts. While my friends were yacking about SPIDER-MAN, I’d suck the air out of conversations when I’d mention (even then old) titles like FANTAGOR or FAT FREDDY’s CAT.
    Fast-forward a few years…I had hoped with the whole indie/zine thing I’d be just as awed by the crazyass worlds only small press-type books could deliver. Those individual slices of creativity, unfettered by profit, that you could turn to remind you there was someone out there who was still willing to think outside the box. Unfortunately, I came into zines (from fanzines – and yes, there is a difference) during the big autobio comics period where everything was about someone’s trip to the grocery store or their ruminations at the coffeemaker. Yawn.

    There is none of that shit here. THANK. FUCKING. GAWD. Take a look at the titles and if you can’t get past them, then leave now. Like an insect with bright warning markers on display, if you tread past the titles and get stung, you have no one to blame but yourself!

    So believe it or not, I have actually wondered, in one of my more... uhm.. “creative” mindsets, what would happen if someone threw Fellini, Burton, (old) Waters, some Euro-trash-exploitation-sleaze, a generous amount of Horror and straight-up porn into a blender…and goddammit if Jason Karns didn’t do just that!

    In FUKITOR #3, the “SICK FUCKS AND SLASHERS” issue, we have “TOMB OF THE SICK FUCKS,” where greedy treasure hunters get more than they bargained for when the dead rise and do more than get their revenge. Guts get chewed, heads shorn off, and blood sprays everywhere while they get their maggot-spewing grooves on. In “SUBURBAN SLASHER MASSACRE,” an escaped mental patient goes on a rampage at a sorority as the girls scream, “Like, oh my fucking god!”

    In FUKITOR #1, the two-part “POSEUR HOLOCAUST” blasts metalheads and Goths and in “DUNGEON OF BLOODY DEATH” a couple gets captured by undead monks who bring back the Inquisition, and what a show it is indeed.

    SATANIC TERROR #1 is my favorite issue, next to Fukitor #3. I mean, damn, how can you not love something titled “THE THING WITH TOO MANY DAMN EYES”?? It doesn’t even matter that those eyes are each attached to toothy penis-like tentacle things that attack people and do “other things” to them after stupid scientists open a portal. In “BLOODY BUTCHERS OF THE DAMNED” watch NAZI ZOMBIES rise and wreak more bloody havoc on some party kids.

    ARTWISE: Karns has his stuff nailed. If we were talking some action/drama stories I’d want to see much more refinement and better composition. Here, he illustrates everything perfectly; I wouldn’t want to see anything different. His production is tight, with color covers and interiors(!), something I’d usually be all over (especially being so rare in small press), but here, I’d LOVE to see his compositions in B&W just to view his line work. Karns’ work is chaotic and hyper-detailed, with his characters’ expressions reflecting just the right look to add whoompf! to punchlines. The bumped-up production values actually work against his art’s presentation at times by obscuring details. That’s my one bone to pick.

    As I re-read this, I kept imagining Karns’ at his drawing board chuckling his ass off and channeling a wink into his pages because he’s clearly having fun with his comix and readers. I would definitely recommend Karns’ work to lovers of REALLY offbeat fuck-you comix that don’t give a damn. They’re offensive, definitely NSFW, but clearly aware of themselves so that you can’t help but chuckle along with the surreal, absurdist world they plunge you into. Once you’ve read one, you quickly realize that the Underground is indeed still alive and well – you were just too distracted by all the other poseurs and their tales of coffeemaking.