Thursday, September 17, 2009

We've moved!

Hi everyone! In order to condense my blogs and present them in a more customizable fashion, I moved this blog to WordPress and separated my personal blog from the Zombie blog. You can now view the two distinct blogs in all their redesigned and recently-updated glory at:

The Zombie Blog, with reviews of movies, books, my own stories, and more

My personal blog, where you can read about my life and other random crap

See you there! :)


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

G.O.R.E. Score Review: "Zombie Strippers"

Why, “Zombie Strippers,” why?

I wanted to like you so badly. I wanted to revel in your kitsch. I wanted to enjoy the fact that you knew you were a “B” movie, and you weren’t going to try and be anything more than that – a fun, self-referential, tongue-in-cheek, yes-we’re-ridiculous-and-we-know-it kind of film.

Then you had to go and mess it up by trying way too hard to be an actual movie.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the kitsch factor is definitely there – heck, when your “name” stars are porn-star-turned-writer-turned-“serious” actress Jenna Jameson and “Freddy, King of All Kitsch” Robert Englund, you know the odds are good for some serious fun and seriously funny scenes. And believe me, those scenes were there – while Jenna was a bit lacking in her thespian abilities, Englund stole the show in just about every scene he in (as you would expect him to) as germophobe strip club owner Ian Essko. Sadly, these scenes that made me laugh out loud were few and too far between – as I mentioned, for some reason the makers of this movie decided to leave fun-movie-land and try to make some of their scenes seem like “serious” cinema, which was a “serious” mistake.

Essko’s “Rhinocerous” strip club operates illegally, as the film’s super-thinly-veiled anti-Bush (the president, not the body part) sentiment shows the viewer, via an opening-scene newsreel montage, that George W. Bush has been elected to a fourth term as President. He has disbanded Congress; changed Mount Rushmore to now show the faces of himself, Dick Cheney, George H.W. Bush, and Condoleeza Rice; banned public nudity; and currently has the United States at war with Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, France, Canada, and Alaska. It is because of this last point that he has authorized the scientific experimentation with reanimating dead soldiers for continued use on the battlefield, and wouldn’t you know it, something goes wrong. A military squad (and I used that term extremely loosely, as even in most “B” movies military units still look and act partially like actual military personnel, which this rag-tag team of “experts” doesn’t even come remotely close to doing) is brought in to neutralize the threat, things go not as planned, one member of the group gets bitten by a zombie, stumbles into the strip club that is inexplicably in the same building as the military base, and off we go. You can guess the rest of the storyline from the title of the movie.

There is definitely entertainment to like here. Perhaps if the film was edited differently, or Englund could have spent a few more minutes describing to his cast-mates how great it is to act over-the-top and not try to take yourself too seriously, this could have been a much more enjoyable overall film. Unfortunately, it is incredibly difficult to pull of the “we’re making a kitschy film on purpose” vibe, and while we do get a few golden moments of it in “Zombie Strippers,” it’s not enough to support the entire 94 minutes of film. (As a quick side note: if you do want to see “we’re making an intentional B-Movie” done right, I highly suggest you checking out the 2004 pseudo-horror/comedy film called “The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra;” it is excellently-made and spot-on camp remake.)

Score Time!

G: General Entertainment – The zombie fights were okay, but the pacing of the movie is what really hurts the film, in my opinion. Scenes in the strip club felt a bit too long – like the director wanted to show a stripper’s entire four-minute dance just because he knew horny guys would be more into the film with the more nudity they saw. I can’t believe I’m a red-blooded man saying that there is too much nudity in a film, but for what you expect to see and have happen in a zombie film...yeah, too much nudity here, unfortunately. 4/10

O: Original Content – Super-high score in this category. This is essentially what saves the film, as (to my knowledge) strippers – especially zombified strippers – have never featured so prominently in a movie before. There was another film, “Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!,” also known to some as “Zombies vs. Strippers,” that came out at the exact same time as “Zombie Strippers” in October 2008, but it is hard to tell which came first; in any case, “Z! Z! Z!” focuses more on strippers fighting zombies, and “Zombie Strippers” definitely seems to have the market cornered on strippers that ARE zombies. 9/10

R: Realism – Ugh…where to begin…this section is <>, so be forewarned! The Special Forces group was a joke – and an unintentional one, which is the worst kind of joke. The zombified strippers walked stiffly and awkwardly like your average reanimated corpse – until they took the stage for their dances, when their bodies could inexplicably bump, grind, pop-and-lock, shake, and shimmy with the best of ‘em. The males in the strip club obviously enjoy the zombie strippers’ routines more than the “normal” strippers’, but it’s never explained why. While one of the scientists early on explained that female zombies keep their sentience and males do not, there are non-sentient female zombies shown in the opening scenes, and Englund’s character is the only male zombie that can talk after reanimating – again, neither ever explained. <> The list goes on and on, but the bottom line is this – the movie makes no effort to reconcile its choices through any kind of explanation, and while many zombie movies don’t “make sense,” at least most of them try to explain things for their viewers. Not the case here. 1/10

E: Effects and Editing – While the physical zombie special effects are really good (lots of excellent decomposing flesh shots here, especially on the strippers – lots of decaying boobs here, boys and girls, so be forewarned!), the film loses all credibility when it switches to CGI; digitally-created shots of zombie heads exploding are laughable, and not in the good way. Again, the pacing of the film really drags things out, making a 94-minute film feel much, much longer, and again, not in the good way. 4/10

Taking these scores and averaging them, we come up with a TOTAL SCORE of 4.5/10 for “Zombie Strippers.” Not a terrible film by any stretch of the imagination, with some truly enjoyable, unique, and memorable scenes. Regrettably, the film definitely doesn’t live up to it’s heralding as The Next Great B-Movie Spoof, but that definitely doesn’t mean that it’s not worth a watch, just for the experience of having watched a movie so unique.

And now, my friends, you know the Score!


Thursday, August 20, 2009

G.O.R.E. Score: Night of the Living Dead (1990)

G.O.R.E. Score Review: Night of the Living Dead (1990)

It’s tough to remake a “classic.”

If you choose to do so, your movie will normally fall into one of two categories:

1. a complete “re-imagining,” throwing caution to the wind and doing pretty much whatever you want while disregarding much or all of the original’s content.
2. a faithful, shot-for-shot re-do of the original movie, possibly throwing in one or two different new or unique things, to give your version a little flair.

If you make the first movie, you run the risk of alienating all the core fans of the original, who know that the movie is a “classic” for good reason, and they don’t feel that there is EVER a need to “re-imagine” anything. If you make the second movie, you are essentially giving the ol’ “copy and paste” to someone else’s work – unless the original movie is your own, in which case you are either greedy or just can’t leave well enough alone! Either way, odds are good that you’re going to piss someone off; you just can’t win.

With the 1990 remake of the quintessential zombie movie “Night of the Living Dead,” producer George Romero and director Tom Savini attempt to tread in the grey area between the aforementioned two types of remakes, and ultimately fail to deliver in either arena. When watching this movie, I was left with that vague sense of “déjà vu,” like I had seen these things happen before, and I had – in the original 1968 version of the movie. Granted, the 1990 version uses new actors, is in color, and throws in a few different and unique character traits and plot turns, but watching this movie feels like going to see your favorite band in concert, only they’ve got a new lead singer, and while you recognize all the songs, it’s just not as good as the original version you know and love.

Savini was (at the time of this movie’s release) a lifelong special effects/makeup wizard, and was primarily attracted to this project as he wanted but did not get to work on the original NotLD, due to serving in the military at the time. However, Romero asked him to direct the new version of the film, an honor which Savini definitely could not turn down. Although the vast majority of the movie is a shot-for-shot remake of the 1968 classic version, there are a few key differences, mainly revolving around the attitudes and personalities of some of the main characters, and some key climactic scenes. It is unclear through existing interviews as to who was responsible for these changes, but Romero is the only member of the duo that is listing with writing credits.

Previous reviewers and interviewers have accused Romero of remaking NotLD simply to give exposure of the story to the “younger generations” who refuse to watch black-and-white movies; the motivation was at least partly motivated by financial gains, as many of the cast and crew freely admit in the “Making Of” featurette on the DVD that making this version of the movie was an opportunity to cash in on some of the money lost from the “non-copyright” fiasco of the original 1968 film.

For those reading this that may not be familiar with that tale, here is a little “Zombie Trivia” sidebar for you: the original “Night of the Living Dead” was originally titled “Night of the Flesh-Eaters.” As Romero and co-writer John Russo were preparing to release the original film, the distribution company went to copyright the name of the film, when they found out that there was (somehow!) already a copyrighted film by that name. So, a “big-wig” at the distribution company encouraged Romero and Russo to change the name to “Night of the Living Dead” to avoid copyright issues, and also because the big-wig thought it sounded scarier. So, change the name they did…except the distribution company forgot to copyright the title, making it a “public domain” movie upon its release. And that, boys and girls, is why seemingly anyone and everyone can remake NotLD, and any old video company can put out a version on DVD, whether it’s remastered, colorized, 2-D, 3-D, “collector’s edition,” and the like. At last count, there were 22 different versions of the original movie on DVD, according to Heck, I’m thinking of putting my own version of the movie out, starring hand puppets! (Warning: the previous sentence is mostly fictitious, and entirely ridiculous.)

Okay, on to the Scoring:

G: General Entertainment – although this movie is a remake, it is a remake of one of the first and greatest zombie films of all time, and for that, it gets at least half-credit. The look and feel of the film is typical “’90s.” Plus, Tony Todd is in it, and any “Candyman” sighting is all right in my book! 7/10

O: Original Content – again, it’s a pretty faithful remake, so the ability to have original content is slim. However, the movie does score a few points for making some character changes that definitely takes the end of the movie in a different direction – not necessarily better, mind you, but…different. 3/10

R: Realism – this is an area where the film really suffers. The dialogue is severely outdated (whether this is due to Savini and Romero trying to hold over as much of the 1968 “feel,” I can’t really say), with characters using insults like “dodos,” “knuckleheads,” and “yo-yos,” among other terrible lines that no rational human in the 1990s would ever realistically say. Zombies come to attack the farmhouse only when it is convenient for the story; 20 minutes of screen time can go by with characters talking (sometimes yelling) by an open window without attracting a single zombie, but when the plot says that it’s time for the undead to attack, they come out of nowhere in droves. Lots of typical “abrupt-just-to-make-you-jump” scares here. 4/10

E: Effects and Editing – obviously, with a special effects guy as the director of the movie, you expect things to be all good here, right? While the gore that does make it to the screen is very good-looking (at ‘90s standards, mind you), there is a surprisingly small amount of extreme visual carnage, something we have all come to expect in a Savini film. According to the “Making of” featurette and the Director’s Commentary, Savini was forced by the MPAA to cut a large amount of the gory scenes they originally filmed to avoid an “X” rating. What does make it on-screen is very well done, but there is definitely the feeling as you’re watching the film that there somehow should be more. 6/10

Putting these scores together and averaging them, we come up with a TOTAL SCORE OF 5/10 for “Night of the Living Dead (1990).” That is an exactly average score, nothing spectacular but nothing terribly disappointing, which I think sums up the feeling of this movie nicely.

And now, my friends, you know the Score!


Sunday, August 9, 2009

G.O.R.E. Score Review: "Resident Evil: Degeneration"

G.O.R.E. Score Review: "Resident Evil: Degeneration"

Let me start by saying that “Resident Evil: Degeneration” is not a bad movie. But that could be, at least in part, because “RE:D” feels like you’re watching someone else playing a video game more than it feels like you’re watching a movie.

“RE:D” is the first movie to bear the “Resident Evil” label that isn’t attached to the so-called “Alice trilogy,” the three live-action movies starring Milla Jovovich that focused primarily on the devious Umbrella Corporation and their creation of the zombifying T-Virus. Fans of the Resident Evil/Biohazard video game series know that the story of “RE:D” has branched off from the events of the video game series, reuniting the characters of Claire Redfield and Leon Kennedy for the first time since the game Resident Evil 2, first released back in 1998.

The pacing of the story is good, but as I mentioned before, it’s hard to shake the fact that it truly feels like you’re watching a video game unfold before you. And it’s not just because the movie is totally computer-generated; indeed, that’s one of the best things about the film, as the rendering is gorgeous and the “acting” is significantly better than many live-action zombie movies. Observe, if you will, the basic plotline of this movie, and note the comparisons to your average video game:


-->The movie opens with a nice “newsreel” recap of the timeline of events relevant to the videogame-version of the RE universe, to help separate itself from the “other” RE movies (Videogame equivalent: opening scene/Start screen).

-->The first 30 minutes of the film is comprised of Claire and Leon fighting their way out of a zombie-infested airport (Videogame equivalent: Level 1).

-->The next 20 minutes are spent in unnecessary info-dumping, dragging along with irrelevant sub-plot exposition and just being generally confusing (Videogame equivalent: those annoying in-between level scenes!).

-->The next 40 minutes are spent with the two main characters working their way through the same “level” along different paths: Claire winding through the maze of the WilPharma building, attempting to reach the Control Center; and Leon fighting with the “level boss,” one of the characters who injected himself with the Nemesis-inducing G-Virus for no apparent reason (Videogame equivalent: Levels 2 and 3).

-->The final 20 minutes are spent in the “final fight,” as –surprise!—the “level boss” that should be seven kinds of dead already, has somehow survived for one last climactic fight, a fight that ends ridiculously easily: a team of Marines spent five minutes shooting the Nemesis-man point blank and he was crushed by a falling steel walkway, but ultimately one simple bullet to the head makes him release his grip on the token Girl In Trouble and fall to his death? (Videogame equivalent: Final Level!)


Okay, now that it sounds like I hate the movie – which I don’t, it’s just a very different kind of film – let’s check in and get the official G.O.R.E. Score numbers:

G: General Entertainment – as I mentioned, the pacing of the story is very high-action, and definitely keeps you entertained. The plot, however, is a little lacking and contrived, especially in the middle of the movie, where things get weighted down with unnecessary attempts at corporate double- and triple-crosses. 6/10
O: Original Content – not really anything significantly different from your average zombie movie here. In fact, the content of actual zombies was pretty slim; the movie focused more on the corporate scheming, and the G-virus/Nemesis “monster,” and the zombies in the movie actually felt like an afterthought. 2/10
R: Realism – the voice actors did the best they could with what they were given, but just as the rest of the movie felt like a video game, so did the dialogue, unfortunately. Attention to “realistic” detail was also fairly slim, with lots of “goofs” noticed even in my first viewing. 2/10
E: Effects and Editing – again, the CGI rendering was amazingly good-looking! Zombies, monsters, explosions, and violence were all top-notch for all a completely digital film. The score was very effective – again, very video game-ish, but it completely fit in with the feel of the film. 8/10

Putting these scores together, we come up with a TOTAL SCORE of 4.5 for “RE:D.” Not exactly top-notch, but I’ve seen much worse, and I suspect you have too. It’s a visually enjoyable film, as long as you don’t mind suffering through the occasional plot hole and kitschy dialogue.

And now, my friends, you know the Score!


Zombie Movie Reviews: The G.O.R.E. Score

Hi everyone,

When I first created my Slight of the Living Dead blog, one of my primary focuses was to get back into writing regularly, whether it be zombie short stories, long-form novellas, etc. I decided recently that I wanted to share my love of zombie movies with everyone on this site as well, as I know so many of us have seen so many different zombie films, the good, the bad, and the ugly!

So, I came up with a system that I hope will allow anyone who reads my reviews to easily discover what a reviewed movie does better/worse/differently than other zombie films. This system rates films on four distinct levels, allowing readers who are seeking to find/avoid particular details of zombie films to easily identify the specific area they want to know about:

: General Entertainment - how engaging the story is (plot, pacing, etc.)
O: Original Content - what the movie does differently/better/uniquely in terms of “zombie cinema”
R: Realism - believability of acting, attention to detail in sets, etc.
E: Effects and Editing - how the “blood and guts” look, scoring of the movie, the more “technical” aspects of film

Hopefully this will be helpful to anyone looking to focus on a specific aspect of a given film, or anyone who simply wants to know specific details about a movie without having to sit through tons of critic-rhetoric about "Why I Loved/Hated This Film."

As always, feedback to reviews is welcomed and appreciated! And if there are any specific films you would like to see reviewed, let me know and I'll do what I can to make it happen. Thanks everyone, and I hope you enjoy the G.O.R.E. Scores!

I'd love to talk to you right now, but I'm late for a meeting, and it's Thursday...

Holy crap, I can't believe I didn't blog for a whole month! Where exactly did July go? Well, it was indeed a busy month, with work kicking into high gear with the traditional "back-to-school" Fall quarter coming up; IndyProv kicking it into high gear with our kick-ass "Welcome to Blanksville" show coming up during the Fringe Festival (August 21st - 30th, mark your calendars now!); and family is kicking it into high gear, with two reunions in the four-week span, plus some other fun stuff going on (more on that to come later); and, believe it or not, writing kicking into high gear, as I have submitted two short stories for submissions to anthology books, and a few other potential regular writing gigs on the horizon (again, more on that to come later). All together, it added up to one insanely busy month! August will be better, my pretties, I promise. Stay tuned! :D

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I like it there, 'cos I got love on the list.

Howdy, doodies! It’s been a roller-coaster ride of different stuff going on since the last blog update, so let’s get right to dissecting my life, shall we?

As indicated in my previous blogs, this past Friday night was my first show with IndyProv. In my humble opinion, I kicked ass. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my peeps who came out to support me and see the show this weekend —that list includes friends, family, co-workers, and homeless people I bribed with Skittles (one package really does go a long way with those folks). The Talbott staff had to bring more tables and chairs into the lounge, that’s how many people we had in attendance…I’m a bad guessing-with-numbers guy, but if you are going to force me to venture an estimation (and you are, I can tell by the look on your face and the way you’re shaking your fist at the screen), I’d say the audience was a good three to four times larger than it “normally” is. IndyProvers, anyone back me up on this (or refute it and call me a no-good, stinking liar)?

Anyhow, the show itself was rockin’. Some of my personal highlights include making up a country song about having KY Jelly in my “crevasse,” being a senior citizen Native American backup singer, having to guess that I “invented” a Sexy Samurai Riding Sword (thanks for that awesome suggestion, audience members), doing an interpretive dance about constipation while wearing what was quite possibly the world’s ugliest and most-unflattering spandex outfit, being the gayest Robin that ever did gay while volunteering to let Batman do unfortunate things to me, “winning” Survivor and getting to perform a skit all alone while keeping five distinct characters going, “translating” a Spanish Soap Opera about The Conquistador giving a rectal exam before a Menudo concert, and a super-fun “encore” game of Spit-Take, where the whole objective was to say something so disgusting that you make the other IndyProvers spit out their water – on you, each other, and the audience. I think I can sum it up nicely when I say that good times were had by all.

Saturday: Bryrony and I somehow managed to drag ourselves out of bed at 8:30am and hit the road to do some camping! We went to McCormick’s Creek State Park, Indiana’s first state park, and enjoyed the rest of the weekend with some hot nature action. We made sure to take Izzy on the “rugged” trail to prove to us she is an all-terrain doggy; the trail is right on the side of the creek, and since it has been raining a lot recently, the water level is a little higher than normal and parts of the trail were underwater. That dog HATES water, but she ain’t got much choice when the trail ends and the options are to either get paw-deep and push on or get left behind. I was actually impressed and some of the leaps and moves she made along the trail…she’s more agile than her nickname “Fatty Fat Fat” gives her credit for.

All in all, an active weekend, and a fun weekend. Thank GOD I didn’t know over the weekend than Jon and Kate Gosselin were getting divorced, otherwise I would have been SUCH a hot mess, there is no way I could have focused on anything else! Okay, that’s not true. I am actually ready for them to be never mentioned again in the American media. Although I am sure they will now each have their own individual reality shows that will have spawned from “Jon and Kate Plus 8;” it’s like that show is a Gremlin, and someone accidentally fed it after midnight. In keeping with the adorable “mathematical” theme of their show title, I have managed to come up with a theme song for their new show(s). I’m going to go ahead and leave you with it, because, much like their lives, there’s nowhere to go but down afterwards. It’s an upbeat little diddy that goes something like this:

It’s Kate minus Jon, plus eight, times alimony
It’s Jon minus Kate, plus eight on alternating weekends
It’s tough to solve problems in this world we’re livin’ in
Solve for X, and you’ve got The Gosselins!

Those poor kids are doomed to a lifetime of reality show torture. I envision show titles such as “Gosselin Island,” “How Many of Us Are Cross-eyed?”, The Biggest Loser: ‘Jon and Kate’ Edition,” “I Survived My Own Childhood,” and “I’m a Gosselin, Get Me Out of Here!” Check Fox’s listings for full details coming soon.