Friday, September 15, 2017

Compilation Review: Zombies! The Aftermath

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2015
Images from the Internet

Zombies! The Aftermath
Sector 5 Films / Chemical Burn Entertainment / World Wide Multi-Media
240 minutes, 2017

This zombie extravaganza is a collection within a compilation. What I mean is that of 2-discs that was put together, one of which was already a set of two films. The first was called Grindhouse Zombies: The Dead Shall Inherit the Earth (WWMM loves the word “grindhouse”; that’s an observation, nowhere near a complaint). The second is the solo film, Dead Walkers: The Rise of the Fourth Reich.


Zombie Factory (aka Zombie Field Trip, aka Zombie Isle)
Written and directed by Robert Elkins
American Eyesore Films / WWMM
110 minutes, 2014
While played straight, this film is definitely handled tongue-in-cheek. It is supposed to take place in 1978, and actually looks a bit like the style of Mother’s Day (1980). Though likely shot on a digi-cam, the film has the appearance of washed out or discolored film stock from the day. The tone of the film is quite purposefully amateurish, reminding me of those ‘50s films they used to show in schools like “My Body is Changing,” but without the rinky-dink music behind it.

Also, it’s obviously positing a miniscule budget; for example, when the local sheriff gives one of the female students a business card, it’s hand-written. Mini-budget in the 1970s or even 1980s was different than it is now. With a relatively inexpensive camera, a film can be made for just a few hundred dollars or less and still look damn fine. Back then, when it was shot on literal film, a micro-budget meant inexpensive (sometimes past its expiration date) film stock and cutting corners wherever possible.

The acting isn’t quite as wooden as, say, Night of the Living Dead (1968), but that is definitely the tone they seem to be going for, and it is actually quite effective. Once you get used to the discoloration (other than the red tones, which “pop”), the bad edits that are supposed to look like the film broke and was edited back together (seen that happen in person when I worked in a movie theater around the time this was supposed to take place), the whirlpool of the effects become more secondary to the action.

We join a group of students and a randy professor named Grant Foster (no relation to the sunglasses, I supposed…) with a stereotypical corduroy jacket, wool turtleneck, pipe and beard, and his students as they look over a supposedly deserted island for rare plants. The ship captain who takes them over is a decent additional comic relief.

Once on the island – excuse me, isle – they set off in pairs, including the two dumb blondes who are actually more fun to watch than annoying, the lustful girl and disinterested nerd, the militant feminist and the horny chubby guy in the afro wig, and the professor and the smarter-than-the-professor “cute one” (Kyle Billeter, who by far gives the best reading of the cast); he tries to “mansplain” everything to her while doing a Cosby by spiking her drink with booze. He continually proves he has possibly the least smarts of the group. But to paraphrase the song, “Only the dumb survive” (for a while perhaps…).

In pretty quick order the last pair find a sign indicating the United States Army has banned anyone from the isle (though that doesn’t stop them), and the zombies come out in force exposing the viewer to a strong mixture of cheesy and well done extreme gore. There are a lot of George Romero (d. 2017) references in these zombie kills, but the better for it, in my opinion.

Then we get introduced to the (of course) escaped Nazi scientist with the really (purposefully) bad German accent that is behind it all. As escapist fun goes, well, you are never taken out of the film, meaning that you are always aware that you are watching a film thanks to all the jittery digital additions – although all the appliances are real and well done – but that actually feels like part of the parade, and this actually ended up being more fun than I was even expecting. And don’t even get me started with the vengeful three-headed monster added in for… well, why not?!

Who will survive! Will the Nazi prevail? Will the zombies make it off the isle? Will the living? All this and more!! Other than being a bit too long, it was an enjoyable experiment in retro-zombie cinema. I’m gonna like this film, even if the director is (still) a Trump supporter…

Zombie Holocaust (aka Flesh of the Living)
Written, produced, cinematography and directed by Robert Elkins
American Eyesore
70 minutes, 2012
What a difference a couple of years make. Directed by the same person who did Zombie Isle, but a couple of years (and films) before that one; there is a wide range of knowledge he seems to have gained betwixt the two.

This earlier film is less of a narrative than a series of set pieces intermingled via editing. A solar flare has sent radiation to the earth, raising the dead to become flesh-eating zombies. They are the stumbling kind rather than the running, but they still manage to get up enough speed to cause some serious damage.

The earlier part of the film that introduces us to the gutmunchers takes place in a cemetery (this definitely a love-letter theme to Romero, with his influence present throughout), and then we move on to a night in downtown wherever this is supposed to take place (filmed in Petersburg, VA), especially around the fence of the IGA Supermarket, apparently.

The visual effects are still quite well done with lots of ripping, biting and gnashing. The exposed teeth appliances definitely look better in the than other film, but are still nicely done. While it is  certainly understandable due to budgetary constraints, the digital effects, which consist of a lot of gunfire and explosions, look just like what they are, relatively inexpensive digital effects… but I am totally forgiving with that and it didn’t bother me, just that it was noticeable, so when you see it, you will be aware.

While most of the characters come and go, or are dispatched, there are some reoccurring characters, such as the hard as nails Agent (Sarah Bella). Most of those who reappear, though, are comic relief, like an often-interrupting news broadcast with an increasingly sickened anchor named Harvey Leads (David Witt, who played the Nazi scientist in the other film), some re-election adverts by right-wing President Corman (Jerry E. Long, giving an anti-zombie agenda – “…for a zombie-free America” – that actually sounds similar to what we are hearing now with the anti-immigrant jibbing; I’m assuming the name of the president is a nod to Roger), and Willie-Bob (director Rob Elkins) who, through a comic character, is promoting not only his “indoor shooting restaurant and bar,” but is also subtle-as-a-mallet pushing a pro-hunting message to the audience.

There is lots of subtle humor scattered throughout, such as the newscasts, or a moment when the zombies react to punk rock on a radio. While the film may be all over the place, the effects are well done, which more than makes up where the plot is lacking.

Also included as an extra is Elkins’ 30-minute short, Chick’n-Head, from 2011. It’s a satisfying tale of revenge by a homeless voodoo woman who strikes back at a trio of other street trash. I won’t say much except Chick’n-Head looks just like the puppet that it is at first, and a guy in a suit resembling an evil ball game mascot, but it’s easy for forgive because the whole is greater than its parts here.

The only other extra on this disk is some WWMM trailers, which are also fun.


Rise of the 4th Reich (aka Dead Walkers: Rise of the 4th Reich)
Directed by Philip Gardiner
75 minutes, 2013
Chemical Burn Entertainment
British director Philip Gardner has quite a few films under his belt, some of which are fiction and many more “documentaries” dealing with the likes of conspiracy theories and the occult.

The basic plot elements here are that a secret agent of the British government, known simply as Alpha One (Philip Barzamanis), is back from a mission and under psychiatric care because of hallucinations and recurring dreams – make that nightmares.

His previous assignment, as we are shown, was to find a group of present-day Nazis and eradicate them. However, they are using some occult or scientific force to raise the dead to bring about, yeah, you got it, the Fourth Reich.

Most of the film takes place in a warehouse, and it’s pretty easy to guess (not saying I’m right, but it seems obvious) that the hospital scenes are shot in the same location. Alpha One’s sleeping quarters just seems too…dingy, and the room where he is questioned by Dr. Gavreel (Bob Lee, who reminds me a bit of a less slovenly Joe Fleishaker [d. 2016]) looks like a shower room.

Through flashbacks and dreams, we see either what Alpha One saw, imagined, or dreamed. That’s actually something I liked about the film, that the question of what actually happened/is happening is left up to the viewer (I definitely have my own opinions). In fact, that may be the strongest positive in the film.

There are a lot of references through the story, intentional or not (though I believe it’s more in the former’s corner), such as the Wolfenstein video game (no german shepherds, though), Ilsa She Wolf of the SS (1975), and even Groundhog Day (1993). The zombies, however, are based more on the Nazi undead subgenre, such as Dead Snow (2009) or even as far back as Shock Waves (1977, where the living dead are more “killing machine soldiers for the cause” than just roaming around for human flesh (unlike Zombie Factory above, which takes the rare step to mix the Nazi and meat-eating zombie genres).

One of the problems with the film, right from the start, is that it tries way too hard to be arty, but fails in that regard. For example, there is a lot of mixing of color, grayscale, and especially blue or green monochrome to look like night vision cameras, with electronic POV “noise” (such as when we saw through the Terminator’s eyes). It is too distracting, especially since it’s never explained who is doing the watching (i.e., “them” or “us”).

There are a lot of fight scenes, especially with fists, but honestly they are even worse and fakey looking than anything even Steven Seagal does. It reminds me more of when MadTV did the Dolemite spoofs. I kept thinking, why are all these Nazi pricks just attacking him barehanded. They have guns, so just shoot the fucker. This adds to the muddled mess of the story.

The male Nazis are dressed in the typical – albeit modernized – Reich uniforms, but the women are mostly seen in high boots and miniskirts, some with their cleavage hanging out, and some in skin-tight leather (or was it vinyl?) clothes. While the visuals were pleasing, it’s also seemed one-sided; that being said, at least one reviewer commented on the attractiveness of the often bare-chested and tattooed Barzamanis, so maybe I’m overreacting?

In all, it’s not that great a film, and with all the repeating of action and bad fight choreography (ironically, Barzamanis owns a company that supplies security to bars), it’s easy to lose concentration on what the hell is actually happening pretty often. Add in a fuzzy and low-toned vocal track often drowned out by the music, it doesn’t do itself any favors in that regard.

Another positive, though, is what few gore effects there are, they look decent, and it’s a mostly attractive cast (male and female). Unfortunately, the acting is also not that great, though considering what I could make of the storyline and dialogue, there isn’t much really substantial to react against.

The extras are a mostly electronic-based music video by Great Northern Hotel of “Cutz and Collides,” and some decent and short interviews from Awesome Magazine Online’s “On the Set of…” with lead actor Barzamanis, the DeNiro-looking (right down to the mole) Nathan Head who plays the Nazi scientist Professor Matsema, and Eirian Cohen who portrays the Nazi bitch Captain Orlax. All three of these are followed by the trailer (yep, we see it three times, though it's different than the one below). There are also some other trailers by the director included.

I’ve waxed on about this before, but I’ll say it again: the biggest problem I see in indie films is when a director also writes the script. There usually needs to be a second writer or strong editing force to hone the story. A director knows what the plot is about, but oft times has trouble getting that across. This release is a good example of that.

No comments:

Post a Comment