ZOMBIEWORLD

(Digital and DVD; IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT/DREAD CENTRAL MEDIA/RUTHLESS PICTURES (100 minutes; Unrated); 2015)

Zombie-world

ZOMBIEWORLD is quite the mixed bag. If you like your zombies (and their victims, potential victims and survivors) on the creepy, scary, gritty side of the ook factor scale, you may wanna give this one a pass; if, however, a little bit (well… actually, a whole lot) of mindless zombie shenanigans (that’s a joke, son… I say, I say… a joke!) is more to your liking, then this may very well be the odd little patchwork quilt of a zombie apocalypse for you. The thing gathers several short films from around the world, loosely held together by quintessential news anchor Marvin Gloatt (over-played to the hilt by the brilliant Bill Oberst, Junior), who is first heard beating back several members of the reanimated news staff before taking his seat before the camera and announcing that he had been bitten by one of them; the professional that he is, the anchorman vows to stay on the air until the end…. hilarity definitely does ensue! Interspersed with Gloatt’s spots and the shorts are several public service announcements informing us how to recognize, fight, kill and survive a confrontation with a zombie. These PSAs are so over-the-top funny that one of the monsters would be dining on your grey matter before you could catch your breath from laughing so hard.

ZOMBIEWORLD (Bill Oberst, Junior) (publicity still)

ZOMBIEWORLD (Bill Oberst, Junior) (publicity still)

The flick starts off with a confounding opening sequence called DARK TIMES. Apparently, a nuclear reactor has brought on the zombie apocalypse in a Tallahassee swamp and, gosh darn it… wouldn’t you know, it hits right in the middle of the plant’s Christmas party. Everything is shown from the point of view of – just a guess here – the slowest guy in the group; this guy witnesses everything from the zombies’ table manners to the military might of the Florida State Militia to Santa’s claws as they eviscerate the poor sap. And, of course, the aliens. Oh, yeah! That’s right… I said “aliens.” The whole thing is dark and moody and chaotic and, hey… who doesn’t like a zombified Kris Kringle, huh? As we head back to the news desk, we get a little history report on the origins of zombies. According to ol’ Marvin, it would seem that the first infection happened some 2,000 years ago, when some guy named Lazarus was raised from the dead. In a totally outrageous and sacrilegious gore-fest from Spain (that means you’re gonna be reading this one, English pig-dog!) called FIST OF JESUS, our Lord and Savior miscalculates the spiritual mojo when he brings Lazarus back from the dead, creating the first zombie. Lazarus very quickly makes an entire army of zombies… uh… make that three entire armies: Lazarus’ people, the Israelites; the Roman centurions; and, of course, the cowboys. As Jesus (portrayed by a stoic Marc Velasco) and Judas (yup… that Judas!) haul butt out of town, they are confronted by the armies of undead corpses. Realizing that they’re trapped and will have to make a stand, Jesus asks Judas (played by a less-than-stoic Noe Blancafort) if he has any weapons; Judas says that all he has is one fish and hands it over to Jesus… So, you know where this one is going, right? As Jesus multiplies the fish, he begins to hurl them at the oncoming hoard, beheading them, dismembering them and wreaking a general havoc; Judas joins in with a giant swordfish from Heaven only knows where (and you know that’s the truth!), leaving an hilarious trail of blood and body parts in his wake. The premise, the action and the make-up and special effects are so over-the-top that you’ve just got to give a tip of the hat to directors David Munoz and Adrian Cardona for creating such a blasphemously funny film.

ZOMBIEWORLD (Marc Velasco in FIST OF JESUS) (publicity still)

ZOMBIEWORLD (Marc Velasco in FIST OF JESUS) (publicity still)

The most straight-forward and, ultimately, most effective piece is HOME, a tale of seclusion and an inate will to survive. A young woman (Jamie McDowell) struggles against her loneliness and an ever-growing amount of walking dead. Her mental lynchpin is a photo depicting her in happier times, with a young man who turns out to be her fiance. The final scene is, possibly, one of the greatest and most visceral visuals ever seen in a zombie movie. A couple of the shorter pieces, DEAD RUSH and TELEPORTAL, come off as first-person shooter video games (one figurative, but with an ax, the other quite literal); both are kinda goofy, but TELEPORTAL comes off looking better and, thus, is more authentic. One of the weirdest shorts is CERTIFIED, a strange period piece featuring a brilliantly subversive switch ending. The rural mail route setting and, later, learning that the mailman is not only new on the route, but new to the area leads to certain conclusions – especially after hearing the story of family tragedy laid out by a young girl (played with a twinkle in her eyes by Rebecca Spicher) and taking in a series of bizarre coincidences. Aside from HOME, this is probably the best work of this collection, regardless of the shocking ending. The final piece is BRUTAL RELAX, which comes from the same warped minds that produced FIST OF JESUS so, again, you’ve got some reading to do. The basic premise is the same, without the God complex: A high-strung man is told to find a way to relax, eventually ending up on a secluded (and amazingly crowded) beach, flopping in a therapeutic mud hole and cranking up his iPod. As the guy drifts off into a blissful oblivion, the beach is overrun by ugly green water zombies; as the putrid corpses gorge on the other sun worshippers, the guy’s batteries run down, killing his iPod and his happiness groove. What follows, naturally, is an overwhelmingly crazy set-to between the guy and the hapless water zombies. BRUTAL RELAX is fun, but it really just comes off as a manic Benny Hill skit… a bad Benny Hill skit. Which is okay by me.

ZOMBIEWORLD (Rebecca Spicher in CERTIFIED) (publicity still)

ZOMBIEWORLD (Rebecca Spicher in CERTIFIED) (publicity still)

There are a couple of very forgettable pieces that either try too hard for that sense of stark hyper-realism that worked so well with HOME, or for the lunatic slapstick style that may work with FIST OF JESUS and BRUTAL RELAX or with Oberst’s slowly marinating Marvin Gloatt, but they fall just short of the mark for me. The bottom line is this: ZOMBIEWORLD is a fun way to kill a couple of hours and a few brain cells; unfortunately, the cartoon violence, Noah-like floods of blood (and an equally gross amount of dismembered and disemboweled bodies and corresponding parts) and less-than-gentile language makes it verboten for kids under, say, twelve or thirteen years old. Some may also be offended by the rewrite of the Gospels, turning Jesus into a zombie-killing machine. But, if your goat isn’t easily got by that sorta thing, I say, “Go for it!”


WEREWOLF RISING

(IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT/RUTHLESS PICTURES (79 minutes; Unrated); 2014)

WEREWOLF-RISING_DVD_HIC

As werewolf movies go, WEREWOLF RISING is certainly… something. I’m not really sure what it is. It’s not horrible, it’s not totally unwatchable, it’s just… I don’t know… rather low on the werewolf quotient (almost to the point of being werewolf free) and kinda schizophrenic, as to the type of movie it’s meant to be. It would appear that one of two things are happening here: Writer/director BC Furtney accidentally mixed the scripts to three different movies together or, a lot of the holes in plot and story occurred because the script was pared down due to budget constraints (but, then, I’m just not sure if this kind of flick has an audience that would sit through the extra hour or so it woulda taken to untangle this beast. That seems highly unlikely). So, since it is what it is and that’s all we’ve got, let’s look at the good and the bad of this film, shall we?

WEREWOLF RISING (Danielle Lozeau) (publicity still)

WEREWOLF RISING (Danielle Lozeau) (publicity still)

The opening sequence is probably the best five minutes of the entire movie, though it is not glitch free. An evil looking guy (Bill Oberst, Junior as Rhett) is threatening bad things to a young woman. He has just escaped from prison, kidnapped her and forced her to drive him to the middle of nowhere (actually, the middle of the Arkansas hills), where he intends to rape and kill her. Evil looking Rhett is interrupted by a noise in the underbrush, goes to check it out and is attacked by a giant beast (a beast that looks like some type of hybrid wolf/bat thing). The shredded and bloodied Rhett comes to just in time to see his intended victim’s throat torn out by the creature. It plays well and sets a tone for the rest of the film that is never achieved again. There are some cool moments when we’re actually watching through the werewolf’s eyes, a kind of red ultraviolet lens thing. That’s particularly effective as the animal turns its attention to the girl (unfortunately, the effect isn’t used consistently in the rest of the flick). Speaking of the girl, she does have a name: Christina (played by Danielle Lozeau); we know this because at one point, she whimpers her name as though Rhett has asked her to tell him. Problem is, as convincing as her terrorized reply is, he didn’t ask. Considering some of the other problems that we’ll get into, that’s a small one, but one that bugs the crap outta me.

WEREWOLF RISING (Bill Oberst, Junior) (publicity still)

WEREWOLF RISING (Bill Oberst, Junior) (publicity still)

After that grand opening, a tool used, I assume, for the express purpose of introducing the two main villains of the piece, werewolf prime (more about that one later) and Rhett. The movie proper begins with the heroine of the story, Emma (the exceptionally not-too-awful Melissa Carnell), delivering a soliloquy in the form of a phone conversation (we only hear her end of what is obviously a double-ended communication) intended to act as exposition, as she explains where she is (the place she grew up) and why she’s there (to get away from the “city life” which, as it’s wont to do, has driven her to drink; she has driven to the place of her birth to… not drink) and who she plans to meet there (her father’s old drinking buddy, Wayne). Carnell fluctuates between a very believable delivery to one fraught with melodrama to a kinda somnambulist drone. Guess which one works best. As Emma wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city (Boston, in this case), she has definitely come to the right place. Her little home in the hills is (in the vernacular) “a fer piece” from any type of civilization and, as a bonus, surrounded by hundreds of acres of woods. What could possibly go wrong, right? Weeeeelllll…

WEREWOLF RISING (Melissa Carnell) (publicity still)

WEREWOLF RISING (Melissa Carnell) (publicity still)

It seems that when Rhett escaped from prison he took his cellmate, Johnny Lee (Matt Copko), with him. Johnny Lee, apparently a two time loser (once for the ridiculous name and twice for a wooden – oh, heck, let’s be honest… a leaden personality), shows up at Emma’s back door and, inconceivably, wheedles his way into her heart even though she protests from her porch, from across a pond, from the back of a four-wheeler… you get the idea. It’s mere coincidence that he is related to Wayne (Brian Berry in a bone-chillingly awful performance). Once Wayne hears that his nephew is in the neighborhood, he arms Emma with a gun big enough to dislocate both of her shoulders with the kickback.

WEREWOLF RISING (Melissa Carnell and Matt Copko) (publicity still)

WEREWOLF RISING (Melissa Carnell and Matt Copko) (publicity still)

Johnny Lee has taken up residence in an abandoned church, where he takes Emma on his… her… someone’s… four-wheeler, and where plans are made to meet later, after Emma hosts Uncle Wayne for a late dinner. Two things happen in the interim: Wayne, who hasn’t given up the drink, attempts to stick his tongue down Emma’s throat (dessert?) and Johnny Lee is sliced and diced by the beast. After Emma tosses Wayne out, she heads for the rendezvous with Johnny Lee, only to find him tattered and moaning on the floor. He refuses to go to the hospital (escaped felon, remember?). So, what’s a girl to do? Why, take him home to nurse him back to health, of course. By the next night, Wayne is doing his drunken troll drive-by and Johnny Lee is craving raw meat and the great outdoors. Johnny Lee takes off for the woods out back just as Wayne and Rhett show up out front. Emma, now at the front door and armed, recognizes Rhett as the evil guy that’s been chasing her through her dreams of late. After disarming Emma, Wayne turns the weapon on Rhett. Shots are fired, blood splatters, Wayne gets his comeuppance and Emma crawls to the safety of… a bottle of vodka she finds in the closet she’s using as a hiding place.

WEREWOLF RISING (Melissa Carnell) (publicity still)

WEREWOLF RISING (Melissa Carnell) (publicity still)

If that doesn’t seem weird enough, things start getting truly bizarre. As Emma hightails it through the woods, she runs into a lone woman who likes wolves… a lot! Well, not really wolves… wolf, singular. And, she does not want to share. You’ve gotta pay close attention here, as everything starts to make sense (or, at least as much sense as this flick ever will). The woman, Beatrix (Irena Murphy, who eventually shows just how talented she is by going full-frontal), knows Rhett and Emma’s father. The campfire party is for one (or both) of them and, as usually happens in such cases, bad things are afoot. That’s all I’m sayin’; I ain’t sayin’ no more. Except this: If it’s true that the camera adds ten pounds, then I’m guessing that Carnell and Copko must go about fifteen pounds… between them. I’m sure that I’ve seen skeletal remains that weigh more than these two. So, anyway, aside from the convoluted backstories, grade D acting skills by at least three of the five principals and a cheesy looking monster, at the end of the day, WEREWOLF RISING is more watchable than a lot of like-minded horror fare. It’s kind of an okay way to kill an hour and twenty minutes.