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Fear the Dead


boxftdslipstream894I saved this one for last, because I knew it was going to be difficult. I’ve had a copy of slipstream for a good long while – it’s on VHS and I’m pleased to be able to replace that videotape with this DVD collection. I tried to watch this movie a couple times – I was initially excited about it, I remember reading about it in Starlog. Still, every attempt that I’ve made to sit through it has been unsuccessful. The first two acts are basically Waterworld with sailplanes instead of boats. I think somebody had a session with these aircraft and decided they had to make a film surrounding it. It’s late 80s Mark Hamill – which gives you an idea of the quality this sci-fi film has. Because we start the film with Hamill, I assume he’s the hero of the piece, not so.  He gets more and more unlikable throughout the film and by the end he is playing the character as a little too hard edge, it’s a bad fit for him.

The real hero of the film is Bill Paxton’s character. Sometimes his “Aw shucks” charm routine works. In here it comes up as mostly annoying. It’s all combining the wrong elements and gets dated quick – it’s 1989 and it really looks like it. The film can’t decide if it’s 80s or 90s – indeed, especially when we get into the third act it certainly attempts to turn into Blade Runner.

They say no one ever intentionally makes a bad film, and usually you don’t realize you’re making a bad film what are you doing it. That’s especially true here as we have a future lawman chasing after the hunter trying to grab the renegade prisoner he has in his custody. Along the way we encounter a hidden society living down in the valleys and clefts of the mountains. It’s a little confusing, I thought we had fewer people alive than this… particularly when we get to this last group – and elegant community with a very upper-crust high society look to their clothing and environment. It’s remarkably out of place. Then out of place seems to be the order of the day. I mean, I really don’t know what this film is doing in this collection of “fear the dead” films. I suppose the post apocalyptic theme lands it here… we’ve got a lot of those kind of films in this collection, but this one is especially sci-fi and not at all horror. It’s possibly the highest profile movie in the collection, but it may well be the worst as well. I’m glad I finally managed to force myself to sit through it – albeit on fast forward, but really, I always suspected that I wouldn’t dig this film and I’ve been proven right. It may get another chance for me… I really want to like this but so far I’ve just not been able to.

This one is an avoid, even if you see it in the dollar bin, the only reason that I’m holding onto it is because it is part of an otherwise really fun collection of films.

Night train to terror

boxftdnight_train_to_terror_poster_01For some strange reason, I can’t remember anything about this film except the band. I know I’ve seen it in the past, but honestly as I looked at it and was kind of drawing a blank so I thought I’d throw it in for a viewing while I was watching the rest of this collection. I still can’t believe that I just don’t remember any of this! It’s an anthology film with three stories told against the backdrop of a train ride to heaven or hell – we’re not exactly told which. God and the Devil are examining the lives of certain people and bargaining for who is going to go where.

During these framing sequences, we also get treated to an extremely 80s rock band playing the same song over and over again. It’s not aparticularly good or bad tune but it does get stuck in your head.

There’s stories about the devil trying to recruit as well as tales of mad scientists and doctors of using patients… I can’t believe I forgot Richard Moll is in this! He plays two different characters into different segments! I love Richard, I especially love his exploitation and horror work – and I told him that myself by the way. Of all the people from my favorite Sitcom;Night Court, he has by far had the most interesting career. Night Train to Terror is a fun film, it’s very much a product of its time and also very much a direct to video kind of film. The back and forth between God and the Devil – I can’t argue the conceit, but it does come off as cheesy. So does the band. The vignettes are utterly forgettable, indeed, Not only have I forgotten them once… But even as I attempt to write this article the stories are a little fuzzy. It’s a nice quick watch though – and really good fodder for horror hosts (in fact that maybe where I’ve seen this previously), More than anything and I can say for this, is that it is a fun film – and definately a recommend. I’d even go as far as to say this one is a buy. You can usually find it cheap, and considering I can never remember these plots – it’s a great value because I feel like you’re seeing a new movie every time!

The farm

boxftdthe-farm-survive-the-dead-dvd-cover-fsk-18For a low-budget micro production, the farm sure does feel like it’s got some good production values. he film is shot well and the actors are reasonably competent done the problem with the bar, is that it takes itself way too seriously. This wants to be a serious interpersonal drama with musings on mortality and purpose – but it doesn’t earn it.

Moreover it’s a zombie film that forgotten that it’s a zombie film. The monsters are somewhat alluded to – that is, we know there is a thread out there, but we don’t actually see the zombies until we are well past the half way point here.

This is the story of two brothers that have survived a zombie apocalypse on the family farm, when a girl stumbles into their life searching for her sister – a sister that they had just killed moments before she turned up. The story is actually much simpler than that, it’s looking at the wounded younger brother, the protective over older brother, and let’s go get some supplies so that we can actually shoehorn some zombies into this story. I think this film could work better if they attempted to have fun with that. If they injected some core humour… But the film insists on itself, and this makes it come off as way too heavy handed. It wants to be an art film instead of a zombie film, but in doing so it succeeds it being neither.

The greatest care is given to the brothers make up, which is an interesting scarring along with the missing arm – it’s cleverly pulled off, though it’s fairly simple see how it’s been done and the greasepaint doesn’t always match his skin tone. The zombies on the other hand are far simpler – shambling ragged clothes with blood poured over them. I’m a little less impressed by this. In some ways it almost feels like someone wanted to make the walking dead but didn’t want to put in the effort. Really that’s the perfect way to sum up this film – it’s the sort of thing I’d expect to see at a film festival with dozens of other movies, or in a film class where the student is just a little bit too impressed with himself. This one is definitely a pass.

Eaters : Rise of the dead

boxftdeaters__rise_of_the_dead_eaters_dvd_s5_03bEaters : Rise of the dead is a by the number is zombie’s right out of the Romero playbook, zombie outbreak and fall of society. Very standard fare, with a lot of actors who are definitely into horror and genre films. The zombies here are viral, not quite as fast as rage zombies but certainly that same origin done make up is good, the splatter is fun and the filmmakers are trying very hard to make an enjoyable film. They realise this is not art, and there are definately not trying for a high concept piece here.  It’s good bloody fun to throw on and play in the background at a party or will you do something’s exactly the sort of thing that I expect to see a compatible like cinema wasteland done it also exactly the sort of film that I could see myself renting back in my College days. It’s a recommend, but a shaky one. Go in with low expectations and you’ll have fun.

Rabid rage

boxftdindexThis film would be easy to put in a box – standard low-budget zombie fair but it kind of deserves better than that. It’s easy to dismiss it as another shot on tape, micro budget zombie flick – with credits crafted using the latest Windows movie maker plug-in and the trendiest fonts they could find from the free download sites on the internet. It really makes me want to dismiss it, but there IS a story in here somewhere, and it’s a genuinely good idea.

Two couples accompany their friend out to the lake, where they’re planning one last great weekend before he goes in therapy (No one seems to optimistic about his cancer). Army people in that same words, and one of them doesn’t look too well. One of the army men is affected, and discovers a cancer patient infecting him as well.

The clever thing is that while this is a great virus film it’s not a zombie virus. It doesn’t kill you, at least not right away down the range text over in trigger situations, and those bits of rage become more and more frequent. It’s a conciet that works extremely well for a micro budget production with fairly amateur actors stomping around a wooded area. It’s the sort of idea I genuinely like to see developed further and picked up by somebody who can give it a better production than it’s got. The script is smart enough to give include a bit of a twist ending and I honestly left the film feeling pretty satisfied. I’d have been completely okay buying this movie at a convention or at the discount bin – it’s definitely worth the time to watch. Despite the rocky start is more here than meets the eye.

Population 2

boxftdf4e41c12817663fa8ff085a6e81974fcPopulation 2 is a story about a post nuclear apocalypse told mostly in flashback from the perspective of the sole survivor – a woman who wanders the earths looking for supplies and attempting to stay alive. Ther production values here are extremely good, well lit, well shot. In some ways it feels a bit like a student film, but with real actors – done, say at the end of the semester.

There is a good story here somewhere, but it gets lost in the form – the way that the story jumps back and forth between present day and it’s flashbacks can sometimes be a little bit jarring. While all the characters are extremely well performed and giving a compelling narrative, I spent about half the film A little confused and off balance – I get why now that I know the story, but as I was watching I frequently found myself not totally certain what’s going on or why – the set up is occasionally too vague, but the payoffs generally explain away my confusion.

The CG is the most daunting part of the film, the cutaways to the bomber aeroplane that occur in between just about every flashback and flash forward to the present. The plane itself is a compently constructed CG model, but it never feels right to the eye – the movement and the shadows are off, it just doesn’t work. Inside the plane, we have an equally CG cockpit – obviously a guy on a flight suit shot against a green screen and we cut back and forth between angles of him and a cockpit dashboard that again has obviously been created by computer. I understand the limitations of budget, but they use this sequence so much – and it’s the same footage again and again and again, with voices overdubbed to give the impression of the pilot in a casual conversation with whoever is on the ground. It does nothing to drive the story, and you can’t even find any sympathy for these characters as you’re still not sure what the deal is. I genuinely wonder if the sequences want inserted just to inflate the running time and get a respectable distance past 60 minute mark. This is a perfect example of how this film loves its stock footage. We also get stock of the Holocaust itself, as well as bits and pieces introducing talk shows and such – it all becomes a little over the top. The film earns its beats, the drama that we feel is absolutely justified, but undermined by those aeroplane sequences. Even the framing sequence is poorly paced – it’s too long to really be considered just framing sequence, but too short to really contribute anything other than some interesting imagery.

This film would probably work far better as a short feature – trimming the stock, trimming the present day, dropping the aeroplane stuff altogether to bring it down to a tight 35 to 40 minutes – I think we’d feel the drama and engage with these characters far better then.

It really is the perfect kind of film for a collection like this… I’m glad I saw it, and if I’d watched it at a film festival, it would’ve stuck with me just like it does now. But I don’t think it be too happy if I plunked down $10 for a DVD. Great get a collection like this and definitely worth a watch, but not worth the buy by itself.

To survive

boxftdto_survive_xlgTo Survive is the story of an ex cop in a surprisingly green post apocalyptic world – doing just with the title says trying to survive. Early in the film he gets on the wrong side of some bad guys and takes refuge in a church. There he finds a family who he sort of adopts and takes responsibility for protecting. As the film progresses a few more people join the group.

To Survive is really the Walking Dead, just without the zombies. It’s the breakdown of society and the interpersonal relationships that spring from this ragtag band of survivors. Generally with an apocalypse like this we see more desolation, more Desert Mad Max style landscapes. This is a little strange to have so much woodland and such an intact looking world. Again, it’s very reminiscent of the walking dead – the main character even looks more than a little bit like Rick Grimes. It’s obvious that’s what they’re going for, and it fits perfectly in this box set with the cover being so walking dead inspired. It’s a good film, competently made, but the comparisons to the walking dead are inevitable and they kind of taint the film for me. It makes me realize just how important this zombies are to this story as a McGuffin… as a storytelling device. I miss them here.

Still, all in all it’s a good film – and I wish we could see more of these kind of movies on the sci-fi channel rather than the dregs they constantly spew on the screen. It’s definitely worth a watch, and a great inclusion in a box set like this.

The devils messenger

boxftdthe-devils-messenger-movie-poster-1961-1020557460There actually a Lon Cheney junior movie in this Pack? Yes please! Sign me up!

Of course the problem is, it’s another anthology. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate anthologies? I know some people really dig them – like you’re getting three films for the price of one… But for me I have this strange problem where I’m always way more interested in what’s going on in this framing sequences that I ever am in any of the film segments – indeed, I had the same problem with most horror host shows… But I digress.

Cheny plays the devil in this film, and as he is judging peoplehe comes across a suicide victim and decides to give her another chance – “you’re only sinwas against yourself, that’s a different matter”. He offers to take care of her and maybe try and get her into heaven if she agrees to be his messenger on earth for a couple of tasks. As such this leads us into our stories.

I’ll admit, I only later discovered that there are actually three separate episodes of an anthology horror television show. It makes sense, and it definately feels like one. The first involved a cavewoman, preserved in an iceberg – something like the film iceman, but with a chick and a scientist who is obsessed with her. It’s actually very good and I was a little disappointed that it ended as quickly as it did. We  move on to the story of an artist – photographer who sees a woman at the house, smaps a photo of her and yet no one else ever sees her in the photo. It’s a charming ghost story that really ends up feeling spooky. We move on, finally ending up in a tale of infidelity that features the very man our messenger fell in love with and committed suicide over. Indeed he appears in Hell with Cheny and his messenger at the very end of the film… Great way of tying everything together. This one is an extremely high recommend. More than any of the others, it passess the watch test and Cheney’s presence is totally worth it. Oh he’s chewing the scenery, but his name lends it a certain degree of horror cred. This one is worth the buy even outside of a collection like this.

The rising dead…

boxftdthe-rising-dead-dvd-blake-cousins-5630c42a43db0db0219aa8e770b03342The Windows movie maker stock transitions for the credits gave me some initial distrust of this film, but it soon became evident that this was slick, beautifully filmed with some good actors in it. This Cousins brothers production includes one of the brothers himseld as the leading man – and he really is cut out for that role. He’s got a nice dramatic flair to him, knows how to handle a gun and a blade and kept things exciting. The directors move the story along at a good pace and by the end of the film we are actually invested in our characters.

The movie begins with a plane crash. The plane, we shortly learn, carries the first lady, her children their bodyguard and some other official tape people – the bodyguard becomes our central character. We’re in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, and our hero Jack is trying to get an explanation, though not towards the end of the film. That’s fine, it’s standard zombie fare. We already understand the troops and know the kind of film that we’re watching. The greatest problem with this movie is the utter lack of script. It feels like they had a set and access to some actors and make up artists and decided from there that they were going to make a movie… but with no script. I suspect that they arrived on site with an outline of the movie, with the dialogue being written in between scenes, and the narration added completely after the fact. It’s melodramatic and hammy, to hammy for a film, but just on the nose enough.

The action is good, and part way through, we see the hero trade his gun for a beautiful double edged sword. Makes sense, since this film is really all about style over substance. It’s beautiful and fun, but there is absolutely no story here. I’d kind of like to rip this film – speed it up to about doubletime, and then just overlay with techno and melodic rock – you wouldn’t lose anything, and you wouldn’t have any trouble following the story since there is none.

It’s a fun movie, and a great addition to the pack – I’d really like to see these guys go somewhere, but they need paired up with say, one of the better scriptwriters from this package and I think we have something very special if you got a boring afternoon, and you can find it on YouTube it’s worth a watch. If I want something that falls, but probably a buy for me

The invaders: Genesis

boxftd6aedae15-61ee-4068-8e3f-ffd4fe9da577_1-f0a17abce63ce0c62f8535033f82caadIt’s another cheesy videotape wonder, with production value straight off of the set of a soap opera,so why am I so intrigued? The story is essentially about an area controlled by martial law, with portions  closed off to protect citizens against the war and raiders of the regions beyond… except they might not actually be in as much danger as it seems – the criminals might not actually be criminals, and our hero – one of the soldiers,  is beginning to question everything.

It’s a strangely compelling story, with genuinely good form – the army men actually look extremely good with convincing guns and military fatigues. The production values, as I mentioned are more like a soap opera shot on tape yet the story is compelling enough to really keep me on the edge of my seat. The subtitle Genesis indicates that there might be more episodes/films – I actually hope so I’d like to explore this world and the story just a bit more. A definite buy in my book, and now I’m off to see if I can find any more of these.