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Archive for the ‘zombies’ Category

Hard Rock Zombies (1985)

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Ah, bargain bin horror. How do I love thee? Well, actually, sometimes you confuse the hell out of me, but that’s by the by. Hard Rock Zombies is, by anyone’s reckoning, a bit of a wrong ‘un. It contains many of the major food groups when we’re talking exploitation film, but somehow it manages to drift along in a vaguely dreamlike way. That should be impossible. A film which glories in the fact that it has an underage heroine, whilst also introducing us to a were-gran, midgets, zombies, rednecks, heavy metal – oh, and Hitler – should be what critics tend to term ‘a roller coaster ride’. Instead, Hard Rock Zombies is a bewildering wait in line for something you never quite get. And yet, in a strange way, that oddball aimlessness is what makes it all rather watchable, even if the quizzical expression you’ll have on your face by the end will possibly cause you physical pain.

The plot here is thus: a hard rock outfit fronted by the grievously-permed Jessie (E.J. Curse, who is looking markedly better now than then!) is on the road, getting mobbed by literally three or four women at a time. LIVE THE DREAM. They’re about to take their show to a town by the name of Grand Guignol; yeah, town names in low-budget movies don’t go a bundle on being low-key. I swear this place is just down the road from Nilbog. Thing is, before they can saddle up, Jessie is warned off going to Grand Guignol by a female child with a perm. I mean, come on, Cassie (for ’tis her name) is not only playing an underage sweetheart to Jessie’s, what, 25? 30? year old character, but it’s happily referred to multiple times in the script, and the actress herself (Jennifer Coe) can’t be more than thirteen or fourteen here. We’ve got Special Registers for the types of men who flaunt their infatuations with girls this young these days! Call it a sign of the times I guess…

Anyway, Cassie’s warning isn’t heeded – far from it, because our Jessie’s a cherry-hound of the highest order and, besides, the show must go on. As for we, the audience, we’ve already seen the machinations of a batshit insane family who live in Grand Guignol, who send out their most normal family member (luckily a hot blonde straight out of a Motley Crue vid) to pick up guys which the whole family enjoy tormenting. She happens to be hitch-hiking when the band get to town; they pick her up, and she offers for them all to go and stay at their run-down mansion home, which they accept.

Not everyone is quite as welcoming, mind you. The rest of the inhabitants of the town don’t want no stinkin’ decadent rock band coming in there and seducing their youth (and actually, they’ve got a point in this case). So, where are we? Rock band are installed in house of killers, locals are on the warpath, Cassie is popping up from time to time to get chased by her ardent admirer…oh yeah, and one of the riffs Jessie is working on has the power to raise the dead. We know this because he keeps murdering the same, evidently seriously lost tarantula again and again as he practices it. So, you know, should anything happen to him at the hands of Hitler or anyone else hostile to rock and roll, playing the tape could revive him…

This is an example of a movie which is just out of kilter, unable to sustain all of the multiple threads it introduces with any sort of tension. It all feels as if it’s been put together by someone with very little idea about the music of the era, or the horror of the era, or indeed anything it cobbles together during the course of the film. I don’t want to cast aspersions upon director Krishna Shah (whose name is misspelled in the opening credits!) but perhaps this wasn’t really his area? He certainly seems to have lived and learned; there’s no evidence of any further forays into horror or genre film, and indeed most of the actors involved seem to have thrown in the towel. I imagine, once you’ve starred alongside Hitler in Disguise, there’s very little more for you to do. Saying that, there’s a certain Phil Fondacaro featured here who has gone from strength to strength…

Saying all that, Hard Rock Zombies is a worthy beer movie; it won’t matter too much if you’re asking your drinking partner to clarify what the hell you just saw as the next scene proceeds, or indeed if you ask them what the hell you just saw after the next scene. The 80s effect is in full sway throughout, and you can marvel at the hair and clothes, guffaw at the music, and wonder why Hitler might be married to a werewolf and living in Hicksville, USA. Serious film lovers need not apply. Now shush and watch your retro paedo love anthem:

Survival of the Dead?

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

I never thought it would happen, but I have reached an impasse. I no longer wish to watch zombie movies. Oh, sure, there’s still the odd example of a decent, well-worked movie (such as Pontypool) but by and large, zombies have become the preserve of lazy filmmakers. It’s perceived as an easy ride; all you need are some shambling ghouls and you’ve got it made. Film students with no interest whatsoever in horror are asked to put together a horror short – guess what they’re going to do…people with no budget and little to spend on SFX, guess what they’re going to do…zombie movies have lost their edge, no longer impress upon me any sense of threat or urgency, and – running, shambling, crawling on ceilings, learning how to communicate – I do not care.

The zombie cause is not being helped by the fact that the man who birthed the genre continues to make films. George, we love you – but enough. Yes, last night I got around to watching Romero’s latest effort, Survival of the Dead. Not only do I wish I hadn’t, but I wish he hadn’t. Every time Romero churns out another bad movie – and make no mistake, Land, Diary and Survival are bad movies – the impression grows that he isn’t some cool auteur, the man whose apocalyptic vision changed horror forever. It starts to feel like he just got lucky. Were NOTLD, Dawn and Day just flukes? Say it ain’t so, but how the same filmmaker can follow up these films at any point in the future with something like Survival is hard to explain away.

Survival is a few ideas for grisly CGI zombie slayings pegged together with a story of sorts: a group of soldiers (one of whom is a random publically masturbating lesbian soldier, but of course) are trying to survive the zombie apocalypse by milling around in middle America, contemporary with the documentary-making fucknuts from Diary of the Dead – we even bump into them, just to hammer home the fact that this is early on in the zombie apocalypse, which you mightn’t else glean from the plot. Elsewhere, on an island, two warring Irish families eject one of the patriarchs for a misdemeanour, sending him off by boat with some of his cronies. He meets up with the soldiers, and they return to the island. Zombies are an impediment. And that’s pretty much it.

There is no sense of pace here whatsoever: the story-of-sorts limps along, devoid of impetus or tension. The zombies themselves are sort of incidental; occasionally, the cast stop to dispatch some, and through immense stupidity a couple of folk get bitten. One is even to be seen riding around on horseback. It seems to me like some novel ideas for zombie killings predated the plot by some time, and were made to fit, at the cost of (again!) a decent script or performances. The immense vendetta between the O’Flynns and the Muldoons is unbelievable, their characters barely there as they mouth ham-fisted Irish phrases which could have come straight out of Father Ted. And their big idea here – to encourage zombies to eat other things by shutting some of them in a horse pen – doesn’t go anywhere. How would this work? Why would this work now? What comes of it – zombies turning into nuisance poachers? Is this going to form the bedrock of another sequel?

That’s just one example of where the plot falls apart, though. Romero fails to create workable action here, but finds the time to do what he did so embarrassingly in Diary: he shows that he’s down with the kids by drafting in a frankly awful teen character and spending time passing comment on new-fangled technology, with the teen character mocking a guy for using an old-fashioned laptop when he could be using a smartphone. Tuh, get with the times, man! The end of the world is happening all around you, and you’re spending time with obsolete gadgetry. Does any of this need a mention in the script, and did any of the self-conscious mentions of Myspace and Youtube in Diary feel anything but cringeworthy? George, we don’t need you to try to appeal to the youth demographic; we want you to make good movies, or to stop making bad ones, so that your reputation as a great director remains intact. That would appeal to all age groups – as it always has.

So Survival of the Dead has hammered another nail into my enjoyment of zombie movies, and I’m sad to say so. I now dread further sequels as much as I’d dread the walking dead themselves…if the originator of the genre is setting the bar this low, what hope do we have?