Creature Cabin aka Tarnation
A girl, clad in white flees a very Evil Dead-looking cabin, pursued by Brown cloaked monks. She fights them off but then, ademonic unicorn shows up and stabs her with it’s horn.
I’m definitely in the right place.
Band practices are a pretty common feature of Anderson’s films, and we head straight into one where the lead singer is getting fired. Time to get away. Log cabin sounds good right now.
The cabin is in a weird town called Tarnation that has strange ponds and flying unicorns. I think. Things get a little weird here. Unicorns need to be able to infect people with evil, and turns one of the locals who then gives our crew a lift to the cabin. That allows her to turn the first girl who zombies out while making out with her boyfriend on a big furry rug. That doesn’t go well, but it’s even worse for the new hunky boyfriend of our rock singer. He gets bugs up his pee hole, and the entire thing turns into a really bizarre homage to Evil Dead, ultimately enda up with rocker girl bound, and hung upside down, ready to be sacrificed to the demon flying unicorn and the eldritch powers it serves.
The paintings bleed when Oscar cuts them, and the demons taunt her from outside. The maniacal spider legged demon head that sounds like a gremlin and scrambles down the chimney almost made me plotz.
Rocker girl Oscar is going a little mad at this point? I mean you can’t blame her, she’s in the middle of a mad Australian exploitation picture where is zombie kangaroos in boxing gloves show up out of nowhere.
Still, she is on a quest to destroy the oil painting from the cabin… and when burning doesn’t work, the next best idea is to drop it in the bubbling pool of blood in the middle of the forest. But maybe, just maybe, instead of the painting going into the pool blood, maybe it’s Ozzie’s turn to plunge down the rabbit hole.
Truth is, this film is all over the place. It is a wild and bizarre ride. It’s got the bright colors and aesthetic tones of a full moon film, it’s got the humor and wit of the best horror comedies out there. It wears its Evil Dead influence on its sleeve, the homage is our fast and furious, not the least of which is the fact that the poster is on the wall! They’re not being subtle about anything. Yet despite this heavy influence, Anderson manages to strike a balance between being derivative and being original. It definitely has his stamp on it, and he takes it into places that Evil Dead never dreamt of. It’s funny and gory and bloody and it has an enormous amount of love behind it.
That’s not to say it’s a perfect film. Anderson relies perhaps a bit too much on the rocks score. then there’s the budget. Our demonic unicorn is obviously just a mask, we don’t get the full beast. But they sometimes fail to properly execute or light it and it ends up looking silly and wonky instead of terrifying. The cabin itself and the surrounding woods are obviously all built on a stage. Yet the production embraces it, and ultimately things like this add to the heightened reality. Even though I can tell that’s not a real sky behind the cabin, and those trees surrounding it aren’t real… It’s lit so effectively that I’m willing to suspend my disbelief because the imagery just fits with the world they’ve created.
The movie is sidesplittingly funny. It’s dark humor is usually in bad taste, but it’s not scatological, and it’s not stupid. There are gags like rocker girl pulling out the zombies intestines and the zombie looking alarmed and exclaiming “I’m pretty sure that’s not supposed to be on the outside of me…” it gets gross but it also finds itself so over the top that it doesn’t repel.
I can’t get enough of this. I watched the movie on streaming, but I’m off to Amazon to see if I can locate a physical copy, because something that’s ridiculous just HAS to stay in my collection forever!
Despite its initial shot on video look, Sheborg actually starts really good, with a couple of British teenage hoodlum girls spray painting graffiti on the wall and, then on a police cruiser. The police car’s already got a bit of a Mad Max look to it, and when the cops discover an anarchy symbol on their hood, they are none too pleased. They chase the girls into the credit sequence where the actual credits are integrated as graffiti on the burnt out ruins they run through. It’s almost a Scooby Doo monster chase, set over some surprisingly good music until the girls are finally taken in the custody.
In the skies, a council of greasepaint aliens (a sort of low budget version of the white aliens from Star Trek Beyond) pronounce judgment over the Sheborg, who escapes in a total Lilo and Stitch move and jumps in escape pod, headed for earth.
She lands at a puppy farm that our anarchist heroes are planning on raiding. But she is being hunted by the greasepaint aliens who also happen to know kung fu. They also have applesauce for blood, and the shborg does love her some gore. Chaos ad infinitum.
By the time our band of merry anarchist’s arrive, Sheborg has been hard at work, and created other evil cyborgs. Quite a surprise for these kids who were expecting more human resistance. After a skirmish, they decide that freeing the puppyies is really more troble than it’s worth and run off. Only problem is, the guy with the car keys has been captured.
They fight off the cyborgs, who are licking phones and eating puppies (Sadly the puppy props don’t look that great, stuffed animals mixed with fake blood and guts) and along the way find a science nerd girl who has biological samples from the crash site.
After making their escape, they head to City Hall where the lead characters father is the mayor. They tell him the story, but he doesn’t believe them and instead locks up. his delinquent daughter and her friends.
That’s about the time that the Borg invades the joint, and they are pissed.As more and more people get assimilated and stalk our anarchist heroes, it’s a race back to the puppy farm to try and destroy the sheborg before the end of the world!
The Sheborg herself looks great. Assimilated victims are hit or miss, in various stages of decay, all having the same eyepiece to show the infection. There’s subplots and surprisingly endearing characters. It’s a fun low budget romp, and exactly teh sort of thing that I expect to find at the Dollar tree, but don’t let that daunt you. It’s trash and treasure rolled into one.
Apocalypse Ape and the Stop Motion creations of Daniel Armstrong
Looking through his résumé, you’ll notice a couple of music videos that incorporate stop motion animation in them. When the lockdowns began, Armstrong really seem to lean into stop motion videos as a way of staving off cabin fever. They are frequently very simple, fun, and to the point. If you have ever wanted to see Wonder Woman wrestle Angela, or a Borg to try to assimilate your desk…this is your chance! It’s hanging out at home and playing with your anime and Roblox figures. Ash Williams taking a break from being the announcer at a women’s wrestling match to answer your telephone. Daleks fighting Marvin The paranoid android and Apes and the Borg for their turn on the arcade machine. There’s a half a dozen of these that are under 40 seconds and a bunch more under two minutes. There are some real gems, like Grimm Sludegrside, A creepy gothic tale atop a castle in a twisted wood, and Attack of the Bikini Girl From Outer Space… which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Only with zombies, and mostly in black and white .You know the whole Sin City vibe?
We cut to a gun fight between the heroes and villains… But even with bullets flying, Apocalypse Ape’s sidekick can’t help but ponder what kind of a person would see Superman flying and actually say “it’s a bird it’s a plane…”
Wonder woman and Angela show up to stop them and Apocalypse Ape looks up declaring “This is a revolting development.”
“Yes,’ his sidekick agrees “this is definitely a full cock situation.”
Things end badly. “Well isn’t that just a Poke in the eye with a sharp stick!”
From Parts Unknown aka Fight Like A Girl
Scientist, jars of green stuff, soldiers invading? Zombies! Right out the gate, From Parts Unknown isn’t messing around and tells you exactly what kind of movie This is going to be.
After the zombie attack we get our title credits played over a women’s wrestling match. The title song, song by the lead actress, actually gives it a bit of an 80s feel… That whole Rocky movie inspirational rocker sound.
We switch to a graveyard, where our female wrestler Charlie is mourning another wrestler, who’s head literally got punched off in the ring.”
Her friend is worried that she’s going to go back to wrestling, and he has a right to wonder since as she lied to him about it, and that night sees her back in the ring, being choked by a feather boa.
Back in the real world, mean girls and office jerks abound at her job, as she tries to manage a comedically tall stack of reports. The company has some seriously sinister lighting though, with a flag that looks a little too close to that of another evil party. They’re developing a video game called From Parts Unknown. It’s a fighting game, with wrestlers fighting zombies in the ring.
Of course they’re also creating zombies in the basement. Well, it’s accidental, testing the game and certain chemicals… But there’s a problem. Beefcake gas mask zombie is breaking free!
The infection quickly starts to spread… Avoid zombie Nookie at all costs! Despite the growing number of zombies in the company, inter-office squabbling going on.
As we push through some flashbacks, we noticed an eerie quiet in the air outside the building. Charlie is leaving for the day but is distracted by a magical glowing ticket from the sky and later into a wrestling gym and more flashbacks.
Basically, it’s just a really slow second act, but you got to get through it because it’s a connective tissue that will launch us into the back half of the film where things start to go wrong and get bloody. A couple of guys escape the building and jump in their truck so they can go pick up Charlie at the wrestling match.
“Maybe instead of fighting, we could Just go run and hide?”
No, that’s not going to work. Time for wrestling girl, psycho programmer and wimpy sidekick to go clear the building! Cue the metal soundtrack. Find the scientist, kill zombies, blast the computers, Kill more zombies. You know, by the numbers.
The thing is, the film knows when to be bloody, and it knows when to be funny. It knows wonder bring the gore and the action, and it knows when to go back for reinforcements. The one thing Anderson hasn’t quite got down yet is the drama… but to be fair, this really isn’t that type of film. The pathos he occasionally tries to inject just doesn’t fit the mold (though he does manage a surprisingly emotional moment at the very end). While the middle of the film is poorly paced, it’s definitely worth it once you get into the 40 minute mark or so, and the zombie mayhem begins in earnest.
More than his other films, this one has a much more Full Moon, comic book feel to it. It’s certainly his most polished and well thought out movie, and may be his best one to date. At least, until Nova Star comes out…
I can’t wait to see what Daniel Armstrong does next.
Murderdrome opens in a roller derby locker room then jumps right into action. It’s a good way to get you engaged immediately. High energy music, a happy audience and skating sets the tone. There’s some flirting going on outside of the match, making one of the other the girls jealous. Then straight over to listen to the band, followed by make out sessions in a vintage car.
All in all, it’s a very Daniel Armstrong way of opening the film, but I’m now about 12 minutes in and I’m still not sure what this movies going to be about. The roller punk with a Cleaver is a step in the right direction.
Back inside, the roller derby is in full swing. As an unseen lurker watches.
Leather clad Australian murderpunks lure pigtail rollerderby girl back into the roller rink where they engage in a brutal game of murder derby, where they end up setting one of their pillows on fire, and then just exploding out of existence… Leaving nothing but a talisman. Pigtail girl tries to pick it up but gets blasted into oblivion as well.
Don’t worry, it was just a dream. Or was it!?
When she wakes up, her hapless boyfriend, with a charm necklace for her… the one from her dream. That’s enough for her to fall for him, and drag him out on a rollerskating date. (Because that’s obviously a thing in OZ!)
Dead body, and creepy janitor cart dude explains that she’s unleashed a demonic force.
Then we go to a bizarre commercial for a frisbee hat… it’s all good, it’s just the ad before a murderdrone video on YouTube. She’s basically trying to research what she saw that night. Things go bad when one of the mean girl skaters comes and steals her necklace. Bad as in, a cleaver to the head for one of the girls when they try to escape.
Metal murder punk chase!
Meanwhile, the mean girls are looking for our heroes, but there are murder roller punks between them and the others.
Heavy on spectacle, Murderdrome is well shot and fun, though the lighting can get on the harsh side. It’s very much is the sort of ozsploitation that Armstrong is a great at. the problem is that it’s thin on the story. Even with its meager running time of about an hour, there’s quite enough to fill this whole thing up. There’s an a Normas amount of flair in style, that’s all it is. It’s all flash, but not enough substance. Of all of Armstrong‘s films, this is the one that felt the most confusing. Still, it’s a fun bit of shlock, (seriously, chick has to retrieve the talisman from a dismembered body that’s been tossed in pieces into a dumpster… That’s some pretty hardcore stuff !), drifting from set piece to set piece in a world that feels like it’s just beginning to intersect with the likes of Mad Max. This is one of those movies I’d really love to see a redo on – a remake with a thicker script and a more flushed out concept, more fully explain to the audience.
I first encountered Daniel Armstrong in a dollar tree film called Sheborg. It was such lunatic fun, that I felt like I had to discover everything else this guy had made. I wasn’t surprised to find out he’s based in Australia… His films have that sort of classic as exploitation deal from flaky films in the 80s… Not just Mad Max, but some of the really weird ones like Dead End Drive In. Armstrong’s use of blood and off kilter characters makes for entertaining fare.
You can see some of his trademarks, starting in the way that he presents credits… High-quality and integrated into the scene, much as was done in Zombieland. But there’s also a heavy musical influence in his movies as well. Veteran music video Director, Armstrong’s films generally feature live band performances, that is, if they don’t integrate the band itself directly into the story. It’s not unusual to see one of his featured players also doing the title song for his films.
Don’t get me wrong, this is still schlock, but it’s fun schlock and definitely a director that you really not know about.