Friday, November 30, 2018

Reviews: The Devil's Camera; Virgin Genocide

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2018
Images from the Internet

I have put these two Séan Weathers-directed reviews together because even though they were both released this year, Virgin Genocide is the sequel to The Devil’s Camera. - RG

The Devil’s Camera
Written and directed by Séan Weathers
Full Circle Filmworks
51 minutes, 2018éanweathers

One of Brooklyn’s-own Séan Weather’s filmmaking shtick is to take a modern news story and adapt it into a murderous spree of gore and glee, such as with celebrity cell phone hacking in The Fappening (2015). As usual, Séan is also the central actor and in this case, also the villain of the piece.

This time, the news item is the subculture of the incel, an online group of ironically mostly white men who complain they can’t get laid, and so develop a deep misogynistic bent, and on some occasions to a murderous level.

The aptly named David Cross is – err – cross that he is a 40 year old virgin. Unlike the genial Steve Carrell character, Cross is triggered and armed. It’s hinted at a possible physical (brain tumor, perhaps?) as well as mental issues, but he definitely crosses the line (otherwise there would be no film, am I right?).

Like Creep Creepersin’s 2011 Peeping Blog, Cross follows women through his various cameras that we see laid out at the beginning of the him (and hence the title; though I wonder where he got the money for all this gear when he’s unemployed… But once again, I digress…), hoping to get somewhere and in his neediness and desperation, turns them off. This of course turns on his triggering of murderous rage.

Séan Weathers
Technically this is a found footage flick, but most of the shots are static (e.g., pre-set up in his apartment), so there’s little Cloverfield or The Blair Witch Project kind of shaky nonsense. There are, however lots of subtle (or not so subtle) nuances in the backgrounds, such as the his camera focusing on the Gillie and Marc Puparazzi statues on a Manhattan street, or a six-pack of Angry Orchard beer off to the side, but in the camera’s eye.
As with many of Weather’s films, being the auteur he is (again, compliment intended), this film is episodic in that it is a series of set pieces stitched together. Most of it seems to be his planning or incidental moments (such as phone calls to his mom), which I actually found kind of interesting, and the kills tend of be messy and quick. The body count is nice, and you can take that comment any way you wish to read it.

Séan does a riveting job as David. Even at his most emotional, for example as he’s pounding on a wall in anger and frustration, or when he’s holding his head in literal physical pain, he never goes into the bizarre like he did in his Scumbag Hustler (2014), a film I liked a lot by the way. As for the fodder (i.e., victims), they tend to run from competent acting to a bit on the wooden side, even if their screen time is mostly pretty short. A rare exception to the time frame is with a beautiful woman (Elma Bayliss) who he meets on the High Line in Manhattan. Bayliss does a great job onscreen.

Of course, there could be a reaction to the film with cries of misogyny, and I can certainly understand why considering all the victims are female, but I would like to interject that this is film is a social commentary on a particular sub-set of dudes who hate women. Even with the woman he professes to love, with a chance of return affection, he spews out gender hatred. Yeah, it could be argued about what was Weathers’ motivation to choose a topic like this, but I’m going to pick the side of an indie, no-budget filmmaker who has the opportunity to film guerilla style when he can (episodic), while he can (short scenes), to make a cohesive story about a deranged serial killer. As he explains to mommy on the phone, “I’m not crazy, I have mental issues.”

For me, the one aspect of this that feels weird, other than all the victims being female (even though it fits the storyline) is that Weathers is a handsome and ripped dude. This is presumptuous of me, but I wouldn’t imagine him having trouble scoring. Hey, dude, that’s meant as a compliment, so chill. Besides, I’m not into guys and I know you’re not either. No, put away that knife! Aaaaaarrrrgggg.


Virgin Genocide
Written and directed by Séan Weathers
Full Circle Filmworks
50 minutes, 2018éanweathers

Of course, it’s the virgin who is doing the genocide, not a genocide of virgins. But I start by digressing…

The sequel to The Devil’s Camera picks up from where it left off, with David Cross (Séan Weathers) being angry and decrying his anger at the opposite sex into his/the camera, portraying himself the victim (lessons from Trump?) as he swears a murderous path for himself.

Again playing with visuals, one woman enters a (real) restaurant on 14 Street in New York called The Crooked Knife while Cross is stalking her. I smiled at that one.

Of course, being the sequel, the violence ramps up a bit, though other than fighting and choking, most of the time we see the results of the violence rather than the contact of non-flesh objects (after so many explicit torture porn releases, honestly, it’s somewhat of a relief). So you get the bloody SFX usually without the need to cover your eyes (if yer so inclined). Though I should point out this is more true of the first film than this one.

What’s also a help is that the names of the characters are mentioned this time, so it is easier (or, as they said in my neck of Brooklyn, more better) to tell who is playing whom. For example, I know it’s Shayla (Talisha Lee) who tells Cross the obvious truth that he will get nowhere picking up women by sticking a camera in their face and being rude. Like most Republicans who voted for the present Trumpville administration, Cross is pushing against his own self-interests into a self-fulfilled prophesy.

One of the subthemes is that Cross seems to be obsessed by the film The Sadist, a 1963 so-over-the-top-it’s-great B-indie starring the underappreciated Arch Hall, Jr.; clips of the film are shown throughout both these Weathers’ flicks.

Sara Rosenberg
Of course questions arise as the film plays out: how far will David go before he gets what he wants? Or after? And is there a comeuppance for his behavior? Well, I ain’t-a a gonna answer any of these questions, you’ll have to see for yourself.

Meanwhile the actresses are, again, attractive with varying talents (though they do better in this film), and there is even a cameo from scream queen Sara Rosenberg (who also played in Weather’s 2016 The New York Butcher).

Weathers really does have a style of his own, and yet it’s grown over the years as he becomes more prolific with his output. The themes may occasionally be similar (serial murderers, serial rapists, serial drug abusers), but still worth the view for the nuances. Or just for the story. For guerilla filmmaking, you don’t hear much from Brooklyn, so let’s remedy that, okay, and see one of his films. It may inspire you to make your own, and that would be a good thing.



Sunday, November 25, 2018

Review: Predator World

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2018
Images from the Internet

Predator World (aka Aliens vs. Titanic)
Directed by Jeff Leroy
Girls and Corpses / Tom Cat Films / Sterling Entertainment /
Wild Eye Releasing / MVD Entertainment

85 minutes, 2017 / 2018

By looking at the poster or case for this film, one would hardly know this was a futuristic Love Boat-ish broad comedy filled with sex and drugs, and lots and lots of CGI, including nearly everything except the hills outside Los Angeles and some of the alien rubber suits. Actually, this part of a sci-fi sub-genre that includes such titles as Spaced Out (1979; aka Outer Touch) and Zeta One (1969; aka The Love Factor).

Survivors?: Brenton Jones, Jin N. Tonic,
Kelly Erin Decker, William Gabriel Grier  
The initial flight of the party space boat this time is called Titan-1C (aka Titanic, hence the original title). After a CGI meteor shower of rocks containing CGI scorpion like creatures take over and destroy the ship, a group of six survivors wind up on said planet, unintentionally taking the alien creatures with them.
Between the sex and the drugs (pills that seem to be a cross betwixt ecstasy and Viagra) is a story of survival on a hostile planet, with these scorpionish thingies crawling in and out of people’s various holes and turning them into rubber suited, full size aliens and back to human-looking form.

Now, if the viewer of this film is going in expecting a high-end Predator kind of thing, well, that’s a problem. This is as cheesy as they come, with cheap special effects, over the top acting, and taking the easy way out as often as possible (most likely due to budget constraints). But the sets and the rubberized creatures are no worse that the first season of the original Star Trek or Lost in Space, the latter of which was also cheesy fun when it came to costumes, sets and storylines.
Tasha Tacosa
The problem, though, is while the cover doesn’t necessarily looks like a mega-budget blockbuster, it also falls short of its promise with the likes of wannabes, such as Richard Thomas’s Battle Beyond the Stars (1980). Personally, I do not hold it against the viewer who was annoyed by the film as it stands. At least under its original name, there’s some indication of spoof; its present moniker is nothing short of confusing.
Anyway, getting back to the meat of the film, there is a lot of cartoon violence, nudity and sex, especially in the beginning with Victoria De Mare and Bree Olsen giving a cameo nude quickie before being infested by space bugs that makes them and the captain (Leroy’s go-to-guy, Robert Rhine, who was also a producer) look like bug-eyed Snapchat photo apps.

The crash survivors include two couples, some other guy, and possibly the only smart person among them from the crew, Lana (Tasha Tacosa). Of course, no one pays attention to her when she says, “We need to stick together,” and before you can say losing your virginity, there’s drug-fueled sex, metamorphoses, and alien infestation of various shapes and sizes.
Decker and Grier
Honestly, of the six, the women fare better than the men. Tacosa mostly does a fine job though she seems to use a bit too much face squinting to show emotion. I have to say I am quickly becoming a fan of nerdy cute Kelly Erin Decker as hesitant lover Terri, who I’ve seen play very different roles in a couple of other films now (Devil’s Domain in 2016, and she was especially effective in Halloween Pussy Trap Kill! Kill! in 2017). Pink wigged Diamond, played by Jin N. Tonic (aka Jin Miller), is an empath who can feel the emotions of others. The guys are Terri’s boyfriend Kenny (William Gabriel Grier), Diamond’s lover Dirk (Brenton Jones), and Zak (Harlan Post). The latter three play to the lowest common denominator; Grier seems to act here more with this eyebrows. But I have to say, they all look like they are having fun, and that is kind of cathartic for the viewer, as well.

Bree Olsen and Robert Rhine

Of course, references abound, such as the Alien franchise (of course), Night of the Living Dead (1968), Snakes on a Plane (2006), The Thing (1982), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (various), and even South Park. Also, the smaller CGI alien creatures (which we see much more than the rubber suited ones) have a lot of humanistic mannerisms, such as high-fives and rubbing their own head when confused, in one case for example.

The only extras are a wack of Wild Eye Releasing trailers, including this one (though it contains way too many spoilers, if you ask me).

While this film will certainly never win any prestigious awards, it serves its true purpose to be mindless (and I mean mind-less) fun. The six survivors are attractive, and don’t really have to put in much work to make the film happen, because it is what it is, once you know what it is – and it’s pretty obvious within the first minute of viewing, if one is paying attention, whether it’s a disappointment of a promise of higher quality or not. And it’s certainly no worse than the likes of Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988) or Sexsquatch: The Legend of Blood Stool Creek (2013). Sometimes one is in the mood for a sloppy joe rather than steak.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Documentary Review: The Walking Dead Girls!

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2018
Images from the Internet

The Walking Dead Girls!
Directed by Tyler Benjamin
Cheezy Flicks / MVD Visual
70 minutes, 2011

There has been a rash of zombie-related tribute films of late, such the cartooned Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated, and Nicolas Garreau’s Fan of the Dead. Now there is the new 75-minute documentary, The Walking Dead Girls!, which further celebrates the newly coined and arguably questionable term, “zimbie” (equivalent of zombie bimbo).

There are some interesting interviews here, conducted on the fly by actress Luna Moon (who also hosted the episodic soft-core Vamp Vixens). Let’s start with that…

It would almost be pointless to have a documentary about zombies in any fashion without interviewing the man, himself, George A. Romero (even though this is supposedly about women zombies). He appropriately comments how none of his films are actually about zombies, but the humans who are put in the extraordinary circumstance of being surrounded by the creatures, and how the living interact socially. It’s been documented how his flicks, such as The Night of the Living Dead series, have a strong socio-political bent (consuming ideology, consumerism, fascism, etc.). As always, he’s a master talker, and his brief comments are interesting. It just amazes me that he’s getting old, because it means I am, too… [Note: most likely you know; Romero passed away in 2017.]

Another interview is with Lloyd Kaufman, who created Troma Films. Though most of his films are not zombie related (e.g., Toxic Avenger [and the sequels], Class of Nuke ‘Em High, Tromeo and Juliet, and Terror Firma), he did direct Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead. No matter, the admirable Kaufman, who refers to himself here as “a married gay man” (he is hitched to Patricia Kaufman, Film Commissioner of New York State; they have three children) talks about how he went to Yale with Oliver Stone and George W. Bush, and goes on to discuss how hard it is now to get his (and other indie) films distributed in theaters and television, since the Clinton media deregulations. Oh, and though not mentioned here, his book, All I Need to Know about Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger, is worth looking up.

There is a talk with one of the original ‘80s “scream queens,” Linnea Quigley, who’s short, butch haircut is a bit of a shocker. She explains how hard it was to play Trash in her breakout Return of the Living Dead (and how much she is happy having done it), and also her role in Night of the Demons. I had a chance to meet her at a Chiller Theatre convention in New Jersey in the early ‘90s, and she was really sweet and charming to me and the rest of the nerdfanboys.

Evil Dead is given a couple of nods, despite it not actually being about zombies. There’s a brief but very humorous interview with the very-underrated Bruce Campbell, talking about his early career. Also, there is a reunion of the three women from the first film, Betsy Blake (who does her demonic giggle), Ellen Sandweiss (who was attacked by a tree in the film), and Sarah York (was credited as Theresa Tilly). They look a bit matronly now, but prove that they can still scream quite effectively. It was a joy.

Some of the other interviews include Martin and Day of the Dead’s John Amplas (who is now an Associate Professor that teaches acting in Pennsylvania), Terry Alexander, the Jamaican pilot in Day, and Boyd Banks, a stand-up comic who appeared in some of the later Dead films and remakes.

We are shown some shots of a couple of conventions (where many of the interviews took place), such as ZomBcon, held in October 2010 in Seattle, and Portland, Oregon’s very humorous Zombie Walk, performed that same month (just coz it’s zombies, do all of them have to have a Thriller dance? Sheesh).

As a connecting thread (threat?) to all the interviews and conventions, we watch the shooting of a zimbie cheesecake calendar, which is shot in pretty straightforward poses, other than the models being made up to look undead (post-dead?) We watch seven of the month’s models as they arrive (i.e., “before”), are made up, their shoot, and on their way out of the studio. Luna gets to ask some Q&As, including asking the participants whether they prefer “slow or fast zombies?” and “brains or flesh?”

The mannequins’ occupations vary from, well, models, to adult actresses and exotic dancers, with ages ranging from 21 to 34. Some come across as kinda vacuous, but others are pretty sharp, with monikers like Mandy Apple, Sexy Lexi, Dara Davey, Lilith Eve, and Natasha Timpani; others just use first name only. While none of them inspired me to desire buying the calendar, it was interesting to see the process from beginning to end.

There’s not a lot of social value to this documentary, but hey, we’re talking about zombies, so the point is the fun quotient, not whether this will inform us about world hunger (unless they desire human flesh, of course). It’s a cool breeze way to enjoy an afternoon with fiends. And as for me? Slow zombies if I'm avoiding, and quick zombies if I'm one of them. And flesh over brains (as food) because it’s less work and quicker to be eating; I like chicken over lobster for that very reason.

Originally published at