Monday, September 5, 2022

Reviews: 5 Various Zombie Themed Films: Pop Punk Zombies; Zombie Fight Club; Zombie Hunter; Zombie Women of Satan; Female Zombie Riot

 Reviews: 5 Various Zombie Themed Films

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2022
Images from the Internet

For a while there, Zombie-based films were everywhere. Arguably, the “death knell” of zombies are being constant was the television show “The Walking Dead.” At first, it started a new spurt of Zombie releases, but as it went on and the story started to deteriorate (as most shows on for that long do), it started to cool down a bit. But it never went away. Other than found footage, it seems like Zombie films appears to be a choice for new filmmakers. It’s understandable. There is a lot of bang for the buck, and showing off SFX is a nice notch in the director’s belt.

These films below are not ranked), but are listed alphabetically (with one exception as it is a sequel), all from TubiTV. Note that my snark is truly meant to be fun and rib-poking with a touch of stream of consciousness, and I looked for titles that were a bit…different. I had just the right low-budget expectation for these films, so I was not blindsided by anticipating a theatrical extravaganza experience. After all, when it comes to the cheese level, there are times when ya want melted brie on artisan bread, and at others, Cheez-Whiz on animal crackers. I enjoyed these films for precisely what they are. All of these releases are recent, since the millennium. Links to the coming attractions for all of them are at the bottom of each review.


Pop Punk Zombies
Directed by Steve Dayton
Staytone Productions
84 minutes, 2011
You know how on social media when the question comes up “which band would you have liked to have seen,” usually giving images of dead musicians? This film takes that one step further…perhaps more. Dameon David (Adam Hatfield) is a music producer. What he does is wait in cemeteries for the undead musicians to rise, and then captures them and trains them to play the titular pop punk in a band called Viscous Vegan (great group name, actually). Yeah, I know this makes no sense and is kind of insulting to musicians who have put their lives into their music. But let’s see where this takes us. The (living) protagonist of the film is Eddy (Ian Kane), who just broke up with his girlfriend, Lisa (Laura Savage); 5 minutes in, and I can already see where this is going. There is also Eddy’s best friend, Ciez Jones (Nick Marinnuci). And what I see, in part, is the gray filter used to make this look almost black and white, with some color as an artistic choice (makes it easier to hide the color of the fake blood later on). As Eddy and Ciez go into the club, The Warehouse (a music joint in Lacrosse, Wisconsin), it is obviously a real music venue by the posters of shows on the wall, such as SNFU, Jesus Lizard, and The Melvins. While there is good music on the soundtrack by the likes of The Disabled and Cockney Americans, as for the Vicious Vegans…not so much. When the show starts, a member of a “rights” group (think PETA for zombies) lets the zombie musicians loose, and then the second act and the fun starts. Will Eddy be able to save himself? And what about Lisa, who is also at the gig? Either way, there is plenty of young’ns in the place (to which they are all locked in) to build up a nice body count. The slaughter starts relatively early, so I’m wondering how they are going to fill up the time. For once, the zombies stand straight up, are smart, and they are fast and strong. They even know how to fist-fight and on occasion have calm conversations. These aren’t your normal Romero ramblers, and there is little consistency with zombie behaviors throughout. The story is incredibly silly, and the acting matches it. The editing is also annoying in that whomever did it must have been brought up on MTV videos because it is hard to tell what’s going on sometimes. I certainly appreciate that they tried to do something a little different here, but it doesn’t really work. The dialogue is bland and oft times nonsensical, the zombie movement is inconsistent, and the characters have zero personality. There is lots of gore shots, but in such close-up that it is hard to tell what we are looking at, at times. The dullness of the image (that near black and white thing I was talking about) hinders more than helps. One thing I did like, though, was the bit about social commentary, how zombies are just going to replace living humans in the work force. Sound familiar?
Trailer is HERE 


Zombie Fight Club (aka Shi cheng)
Directed by Joe Chien
Sun Entertainment Culture; Six Doors Film Productions; Scream Factory
95 minutes, 2014
There is no question where the title came from in this Taiwanese film, that is in both Mandarin and English; they seem to indiscriminately jump between the two, with clear captions for both. The original title translates to “Corpse City.” This is a nice mix of the zombie apocalypse, gladiator films, and a bit of the Resident Evil franchise. The first two acts starts “30 minutes before” the zombies hit the fan in a high-rise apartment building (taller the building, the more tenants, the more zombies). We are focused on a criminal cartel into drugs and kidnapping (and rapping), with lots of sex, cleavage and nudity (only female, of course) in the first 10 minutes. But then, the sky “looks funny,” as one character states, but it’s the bath salt pills that get people to start turning into (some are fast, some are slow) blood thirsty flesh eaters. It’s not because they died, they just changed. And did I mention this is on Halloween, so people think the zombies are just in make-up, at first? While the practical SFX make-up and gore looks pretty good, the CGI explosions, gunfire, and blood splatter (including the on the camera lens cliché), do not; it looks quite fake and distracting. When crooked soldiers come to attack the cartel to steal their money, in the middle of a zombie uprising, the action is bloody and enjoyable. Lots of close-ups and quick edits magnify the action. There is even an Oldboy (2003) style corridor fight, except with the undead rather than gangsters. Act three takes place one year later, with zombies ruling the world and a small group of the living being underground, ruled by a sadistic ex-school teacher (Jack Kao), who has a strange relationship with his zombie daughter Nana (Abby Fung), filling the “Bub” position from Day of the Dead (1985). He sets up a gladiatorial system of people fighting zombies in a bread and circuses situation, where he fills the Caligula role, gambling for the likes of water and leather-clad, bikini wearing women. This is a post-apoc version of the Christians vs. the lions. The zombies, at this point, have physically deteriorated, and the make-up nicely expresses that, being more skin-and-bones. At this stage, the two protagonists are Andy (Andy On), who was one of the “soldiers,” and Jenny (Jessica Canbensey), who we met in the first part. He is the top fighter (and there is a decent kung fu fight scene between him and another living human), and she is abused in other ways. Can they survive and make it out? And if they do, is there anything worth saving on the surface (shades of 1976’s Logan’s Run, Batman!).
Trailer is HERE 


Zombie Hunter
Directed by K. King
Arrowstorm Entertainment; The Klimax; Well Go USA Entertainment
93 minutes, 2013
I ain’t a-gonna lie: the reason I chose this one is because Danny Trejo is featured on the poster, and has top billing. Hopefully, it’s not just a cameo to sucker in suckers like me. The origin story of the zombies is told in the prologue: natas (seriously?) is a new drug (that looks like Pepto Bismol), much like with Zombie Fight Club (reviewed above), is the cause. The situation quickly escalates until the landscape looks like something out of a Mad Max scenario, right down to the narration by the anti-hero, of course named Hunter (Martin Copping), who even drives what looks like Max’s Interceptor car. He is bitter, bored, talks slowly in a raspy Christian Bale/Batman whisper without the lisp, and is a heavy drinker since he has not seen anyone alive (other than zombies, of course) in six months. Well, you keep riding around in the desert, what do you expect? Well, that’s just me, I guess. The film tries hard to be a bit artistic, and it does work, with the use of overlapping images, occasional monochrome filter, and title cards with the names of people, zombies (e.g., Death Angel), and “important objects” (e.g., Tequila). Flashbacks are stylized in red filters and look close to comic books (closer to Tim Virgil’s Faust than, say Spider-Man). Eventually, he forcefully gets involved with a commune, including tough Father Jesus (Trejo) that calls everyone “gringo,” slow witted bully and blow-hard Lyle (Jake Suazo), and the Ginger and Maryanne of the group, oversexed and cleavatious Fast Lane Debbie (model and exotic dancer Jade Regler, who gratuitously gets to show off her pole skills), and white-bread with a whole other side, Alison (Clare Niederpruem). The last two minimal characters are pilot Jerry (Terry Guthrie) and Alison’s 15-year-old brother who is both a horndog and dumb as a post, Ricky (Jason K. Wixom, who has a phenomenally long IMBD listing). The make-up effects look really fine and practical, and the blood splatter is incredibly obvious CGI. There is also a really cool (yet CGI) monster that is inconsistent, but enjoyable looking. Trejo gets to show off his familiar tats while calling the creature a “puta.” This made me laugh. While there is some extreme gore thrown in here and there in the first half, it picks up towards the middle, as does the road trip, in Zombieland fashion (2009), encountering “eaters” and some clown with a chain saw. There are a few good jump scares, and the action scenes are well choreographed and extremely bloody. That is on point. However, there is one thing that drove me crazy, and I have some questions. First, the annoying part: the inner monologues are annoying and unneeded. Perhaps they were looking for a Noir flair? As for the questions: where does Hunter get his stream of cigarettes and booze? And where do the women get all their make-up, especially Fast Lane Debbie, who wears a ton? And I hope I wasn’t that stupid when I was 15 (between him and Lyle, the word “retarded” comes up a few times in the dialogue). Actually, nearly everybody makes some bad choices, some more than once. Also, why does the amount of blood on Alison’s white top keep changing? Sometimes the blood of the zombies is red, others it is that Pepto pink. Why? And what were those creatures? Despite my questions, I found this very satisfactory in the bloodletting and especially the zombie make-up.
Trailer is HERE 


Zombie Women of Satan
Directed by Warren Speed and Steve O’Brien
24:25 Films; Growling Clown Entertainment
85 minutes, 2009
Somewhere in England’s northeast, there is a traveling carny group called Flesharama, who have a strip club called The House of the Golden Lotus. They include (of course) the nearly always shirtless Sydney Smallcock, aka Pervo the Clown (writer, co-director Warren Speed), the ringmaster Johnny Dee Hellfire (Seymore Leon Mace), who is also the manager of the mangy troupe, trying to keep them somewhat in line while women are twirling their pasties on stage but, if you’ll pardon the cliché, it’s like herding stoned sex-crazed cats. For some reason, there is also well-known rock singer, Skye Brannigan (Victoria Hopkins). There are a few others, but they are more future fodder, as there is not a likeable character among them, which seems to be a common thread in zombie films so we can cheer their demises without guilt. Meanwhile, out in the countryside, Tycho (Christian Steel) is running a cult of himself and a bunch of loosely clad and beautiful women on a rural and isolated farm (think Spahn Ranch and Manson). This locale is also where in the basement, a mad scientist and father of Tycho, Dr. Zander (Bill Fellows) is experimenting on other women that are brought to him by his leather corseted daughter, Red (Maryisa Kay), for scientific experiments to form zombies is carried out. Our carnival and stripper end up there for a podcast interview, and viola, so much for “never the twain shall meet.” Once the half-clad (and seemingly really bored) women of the cult accidentally get dosed with the zombie formula, that’s when the start of the second act and the fun begins. The mentality of the film is somewhere around a 15 years old teen boy. For example, the sheer amount of bare breasted zombies, masturbation, sex with said zombies, parents who are deranged, and extended shitting/fart scene that is about three times longer than it needs to be (sorry, but after Blazing Saddles in 1973, this kind of fart joke is passe); though a shorter fart joke earlier works better. The story is kind of silly and the dialogue is about Middle School level, with profanity substituting for anything meaningful. I’m talking generally, because there are some really good lines in here as well; The acting is decent though occasionally a bit over-the-top, though Hopkins comes out the best (there is a reason she’s top billed). As for the communion, the blood and gore mostly look pretty good, though occasionally the blood looks a bit syrupy at times. It’s a bit of a mindless watch, but sometimes that just what ya need, right?
Trailer is HERE 


Female Zombie Riot (aka Zombie Women of Satan 2; Female Zombie Riot: Not Walking Dead, Hot Babe Zombies Galore, get your Grindhouse on!)
Directed by Warren Speed and Chris Greenwood
Growling Clown Entertainment; Bearded Maverick; Gravitas Ventures
95 minutes, 2016
This film picks up a couple of years after the conclusion of the first film. Pervo has become a “Justin Bieber,” hero media darling that transformed into a tattooed, drinker who has fallen from grace, but remains true to his nickname. Even from the start of the film, there are bare breasts a-bouncin’ everywhere. The other part of the story is of the Zander clan, who ran the cult in the first film. Well, what’s left of them as they are all over-the-top insane, and they plan to kill Pervo (who they blame for their family’s demise), but first get him to a party and turn everyone there into zombies. Then there are a group of women from a Call Girl Service, in push-up bustiers, who are looking to kill Pervo because he owes them so much money. The problem is that the first half of the film is the set-up (which could have been done in 20 minutes rather than nearly 50), before we see any of the zombies. And most of the characters are so unlikeable, especially the overacting and incredibly badly written moronic Zander clan, that the 50 minutes feels twice as long. Maybe they could use the theme song by the Beatles: “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party so I’ll Go…Topless.” The bigger the bust, the faster the top comes off, proportionately. There are lots of zombie attacks, but I think they’re trying to be humorous like Shaun of the Dead (2004), but the humor only occasionally clicks (though, I admit, when it does, it works). As one (of the more annoying) character enters the party room at the top of a landing and shouts, “Now, this is what I call my kind of party.” I am guessing that the writers were “borrowing” it from Austin Powers (1997)  when he says, “This is my happening baby, and it freaks me out.” You know it’s from Powers, though, because women in corsets, at one point, are called “Bots” (as in “FemBots”). But I wonder if they are aware that Austin took the line from Russ Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970, written by Roger Ebert)? So, like the difference between ThanksKilling (2009) and its sequel ThanksKilling3 (2013), the first one was okay, but the second one was not as good.
Trailer is HERE 

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