Digital Popcorn: Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead

I love zombies (Romero, Sean of the Dead, Zombieland and even the Dawn of the Dead reboot) but lately it seems like the living dead are the fast food of movies and they have a budget and talent pool just as dissatisfying and greasy.

But every once in a while there comes along a movie that makes me rejoice in exploding heads and disembowelment. Case in point, Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014). This Australian entry into the zombie niche grabbed my attention right away with its explosive beginning, three dudes in body armor and low on ammo facing off against a mob of zombies.   Those of you who’re gore hounds won’t be disappointed. It’s a kick in the face in terms of action and special effects, all of which seems rather old school – in a good way.

But as much as I love me some zombie decapitation, I need something more to hold my interest. Fortunately, Wyrmwood takes the time to give background stories to the three main characters. This is done via flashbacks to a time prior to standoff you see in the beginning of the movie. To be honest, the transition to the flashbacks was a bit jarring and could’ve been written and edited better. But none the less the bits about Barry, his sister Brooke, and Benny does a good job giving insight into each character. Unfortunately, the story tends to focus on Barry more so than the other two. He’s an interesting character, but honestly, I would’ve liked to have seen more about the other two.

The basic gist of the movie is Barry has lost his family, except for his sister, Brooke. His sister in turn has been kidnapped by a crazed doctor and his military goons. I won’t give too much away in terms of what happens to Brooke but I will say she’s no ‘damsel in distress’. The chick can kick some ass, and I’m grateful that they didn’t go the exploitation route with her character. It was refreshing to see a strong female character in a genre where traditionally women are zombie fodder or only there to be saved by their man. The crazed doctor is one of those characters that’ll either annoy the hell out of you or you’ll love to hate him. Personally, I hated him and loved the fate he suffered in the end. The dude was seriously bat-shit crazy.

The general atmosphere of Wyrmwood is gritty and dark, but at moments there is dark humor. In particular there was a scene where Benny mistakenly blows another survivor’s head off. Those of you who are fans of the Evil Dead movies will notice some subtle references to its cinematic style, quick edits and use of gore. It’s subtle, but a nice touch, especially the scene where Barry is gearing up for combat.

Wyrmwood does feature fast zombies. I know that’s the source of many bitch-fests amongst horror fans, but they actually have an explanation for why the zombies are fast. They also have a reason for why the zombies slow down. All of this is learned through the characters’ experiences. There’s no wise old man to explain everything to them or the viewer. There’s also only a loose explanation as to how/why the plague started. It’s things like this that piques my curiosity about Wyrmwood’s world.

Wyrmwood manages to present itself as a classic zombie movie, while adding some interesting spins on the zombie archetype. Most of these occur during Brooke’s scenes. The whole idea of controlling or manipulating the zombie mind is an interesting one and the end results of these experiments prove to be more than just weird/disturbing scenes between Brooke and the doctor. In fact, they play a major part in the final climax of Wyrmwood.

The plot of Wyrmwood is pretty simple stuff – survival and finding Brooke. It works well and is entertaining. I didn’t feel that the movie dragged at any point or had any needless filler scene. The climax of movie is intense and has one hell of a conclusion.

When the time the movie ended, I wanted more. I wanted to know more about this fictional world and the characters. I wanted to know more about the crazy doctor and the goons that worked for him. Were they part of something bigger? Fortunately, a part two is currently being made and the actors that portrayed Benny and Brooke are returning. It’ll be interesting to see where they take the ideas started in this movie. If they can do a quality job on the second film I would love Wyrmwood become a cult classic trilogy. I think horror fans need something like it after a serious drought in quality zombie horror.

I would suggest this movie to gore hounds and zombie fans in general. The plot moves at a good pace and there wasn’t any scenes that I felt were merely filler or too long. Wyrmwood manages to take the great things of old school zombie horror while keeping it fresh with its characters and unconventional twists on the zombie archetype.

The Legacy of Christopher Lee

So, most of you that are horror fans know Christopher Lee from his days of Hammer Films. For me his most powerful roles were those he did for Hammer. They’re also ones that stood out to me as a teenager and have had a profound influence on my own creativity. A lot of good actors have portrayed Dracula but for me Lee’s performance was second only to Bella Lugosi. Much like Lugosi and Vincent Price, Lee was able to embody and personify evil in way that transcended mere acting. He could convey emotions with a mere look upon his face that was more impactful then any spoken word yet was done with a subtle nuance that rather then comical overacting. Sometimes when you watch a movie with a famous actor there’s the tendency for the actor to overshadow his role. I don’t see the character but instead instantly recognize the actor as playing a part. But with Lee this wasn’t the case.  He had the ability to absorb the nature of the role he played and it allowed me to suspend my sense of disbelieve over the course of the movie.

When Lee was cast in Lord of the Rings it was a brilliant thing. I felt that he gave a powerful performance and seeing him act alongside Ian was a real treat. It was also great to see Lee introduced to a young generation that may not have been familiar with his talent.

Lee was an icon of the horror genre who’s long resume in the movies will continue to inspire and entertain. It is sad to know he will no longer be among us, but the contribution he’s made to the genre will not be forgotten and I think that is what any artist would want to leave behind.

Digital Popcorn: Horns

Earlier this week I watched the movie Horns (2013) which is adapted from the novel of the same name by Joe Hill. You can read my review of the book I wrote awhile back here.  When the movie was first announced I was a bit skeptical. I loved the book but I didn’t like what I’d seen from press releases. I wasn’t too impressed with the casting of Daniel Radcliffe as the main character Ig. He just didn’t fit the vision of the character I had while reading the book. Not saying he’s a bad actor. I gave it some time and watched the movie with an open mind, and I’d say that it is a pretty good adaptation of the novel. Yeah, there are little bits that annoy me, like why’s it set in Washington state? Wasn’t the book in Maine? And the casting of Lee didn’t work for me at all. In the book I had the impression he was a slick lawyer with a clean cut appearance and charming smile. A dashing good looking man while Ig was the scruffy nerd. The actor that played Lee didn’t look the part at all, not that he did a bad job acting – he was fine, it just looked like he was in his freshman year at a junior college instead of being a lawyer. There were some other minor changes but not too bad. I really liked the opening scene with Ig and his girlfriend and how they repeated it later in the movie. Visually it clever. There are scenes such as the one with the mother of the bratty girl in the doctor’s office and the fist fight between members of the media that are brilliantly acted and well adapted from the book. In fact I believe it’s exactly the same which is great cause Hill has a flair for dark comedy. Dark twisted comedy.  The best scene I would say is the one between Ig and his mom. That one even elicited a surprised gasp and laugh from my wife. One of t hose ‘Oh shit!’ moments and definitely one that’ll stand out in my memory.

On the downside I didn’t care for the heavy CGI effects toward the end of movie, but I did love the makeup sfx on Ig in the later half of the movie. Quite brilliant stuff. Ig’s horns grew on me, yes that’s a pun, as I watched the movie. When I first saw them I thought they looked really fake. Like Halloween costume fake. But honestly, I stopped nitpicking while watching the movie because the storyline and characters were engaging. I think that’s the sign of a good movie.

As far as the book goes what really appealed to me about it was the characters and the relationships they had in it. I felt that the movie fell short in this department. The love between Ig and his girl is a major part of the book and the driving force behind Ig’s actions after her death. The movie tried to capture this but it’s hard to do through short flashbacks. In that way the movie was lacking in depth.

Horns is well acted and directed as a stand alone movie and as an book adaption. It’s plot is plodding prior to Ig’s horns so if you’re looking for busted heads and zombies and gore you’ll have to wait quite awhile before you see any blood. But if you like smartly written and well acted supernatural horror that deals more with people then beasties then you’ll dig this one even if you’ve not read the book.

Digital Popcorn: Evil Lurks In Innocence

The video I posted above is a short horror film that is part of the HB Film Fest which is taking place online via YouTube. I learned of this particular short film via my friends over at Thy Demons Be Scribblin (which are worthy of your time if you enjoy horror and heavy metal).

Normally, I find movies that use hand-held camera shots to be annoying. It seems like every time it’s done by someone with a case of the shakes. But in ‘Evil Lurks In Innocence’ the hand held shots are tolerable and I didn’t really get bothered by them. The only time they get wild is during a fight scene which makes sense given the circumstances. This scene is rather short as well which helps, too.

Overall, I enjoyed this story a lot. It’s hard to take a trope like exorcism and put a new twist on it but ‘Evil Lurks In Innocence’ manages to do just that.  The story begins with the main character doing a video blog about movies, which is a regular staple on YouTube. What starts off as a typical playfully antagonistic relationship between the main character and his sister rapidly transcends into creepy and bizarre behavior on this sister’s part.  This behavior has negative effects on the family as well which ultimately leads to an exorcism which goes awry.

The acting in the film over all is well done, in particular by Jacob Brooks who plays the main character, Jeremey.  His reactions to what happens to his sister are believable and help carry the movie. I think with a lesser actor the film would’ve fallen flat especially since Jeremy has the lion’s share of dialogue.  The rest of the supporting cast do well in their limited roles.  I felt that Irene Leonard (Mom) and Arthur Hedin (Dad) did a good job conveying the stress/anger/horror of the situation.  Although they had only a few lines their body language and expressions did a superb job at expression a feeling of  anxiety and terror and frustration.  Kimberly Rosewell who plays the sister Kelly, is equally great. There’s a stark contrast between Kelly’s behavior in the first part of the movie compared to how she transforms through the movie. The scene with her in the kitchen is one of those scenes that’s both shocking and disturbing without a single drop of stereotypical gore you’d expect from a horror movie.  It one of those scenes that’ll stick in my memory.  It clearly conveyed that there’s something really fucking wrong with her.

Where the film reveals shines is at the end with the climax of the excorcism. The special effects are quite superb and the shock factor is fantastic.  Although it is the shortest part of the film it is most certainly the most memorable part of it.  That’s not a slight against the rest of the film.

Since it comes in at around seven minutes long, Evil Lurks In Innocence doesn’t tie up all its loose ends or develop the characters as deeply as a feature length film will do.  But that’s not necessarily the purpose of a short film.  Evil Lurks In Innocence is a tightly written, well acted film with good camera work and great special effects on a small budget that any fan of horror should enjoy, and if you like it go on and vote for it!

Who Ya Gonna Call…

So, the supposed cast of the new Ghostbusters movie was announced today. http://www.vox.com/2015/1/27/7923953/ghostbusters-women-cast

I can still remember when I went to the movie theater with my family to see the original Ghostbusters. I loved it then and I still like it a lot.  I think these days I appreciate it more for the HP Lovecraft influences.  I even used to watch the Ghostbusters cartoon.  I even had the paper and dice role play game.  Yes, I am a dork.

The whole idea of making a new Ghostbusters film could be a lot of fun, as long as it is not a dread ‘reboot’.  I also hope, but doubt, they use phsyscal special effects like the old ones rather then bombarding the screen with CGI.  Stop animation has a quirkiness to it that works well with a supernatural comedy.

Guardian Angel With A Six-Gun?

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Clint Eastwood is my favorite actor when it comes to Western movies.  My favorite movie of his is Pale Rider, which I recently watched again.  Although I remembered the plot and characters there was something that struck me while I watched it.  There’s a scene early on in the movie where Preacher (Eastwood) is washing up and the camera is behind him and you see a circular pattern of bullet hole scars on his back.  Despite it being Hollywood, and the rest of the movie being rather realistic as far as a Western goes, the scars seem a bit unbelievable that he’d be able to survive that many shots in such a vital area as his upper body.  As the movie proceeds there’s a scene where the leader of the hired guns seems to know a man that matches Preacher’s description but insists that man is dead.

This all got me to wondering if Preacher is not a real man. Perhaps he’s a guardian angel of sorts out to protect the gold miners. Besides the scars from gunshot wounds that’d be  nearly impossible to survive, another  reason why I thought that is because there’s a scene where the character Megan is reading a passage of Scripture referring to the ‘Pale Rider’ in the Bible when Preacher shows up.

Maybe I’m just reading more into it then there really is.  Perhaps the writers didn’t intend for people to get that impression. Even if they did it’s a very minor and subtle subplot to what’s your typical ‘David vs Goliath’ storyline. (Oh no! Another Biblical reference!)

Regardless, I still like that idea of Preacher being something other than a man.