Tag Archives: Zombies

ARTISTS BEHIND THE IMAGE: Bob Larkin

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ARTISTS BEHIND THE IMAGE is intended to put a name (and sometimes face) to the talented men and women who created the most iconic images to adorn horror VHS boxes and posters from ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. Their art is vital; it’s the reason I (and many of you, certainly) fell in love with horror movies in the first place. This is not only intended as a tribute, but also a minor compendium, meant to collect their works in one single spot. Corrections, additions, or other info? Email me.

I know what you’re thinking: Bob Larkin? The Bob Larkin? The same Bob Larkin that played Martin the gravedigger in Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives? No, this is a different Bob Larkin.

Now I realize I say this every time I do one of these, but I really think Bob Larkin may be the most prolific artist I’ve featured yet. Continue reading ARTISTS BEHIND THE IMAGE: Bob Larkin

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“Cooties” (2015) REVIEW

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Cooties is an entirely safe, digestible horror-comedy film (more specifically, “zom-com”) that average, passive intakers of horror and comedy will probably enjoy. You know that guy at work, the one who always tells you about new movies you just gotta see — yet you never agree with? He will probably really like this movie and highly endorse it. After all, it’s got that guy from The Office! And zombie kids — whoo boy!

More discerning viewers will probably walk away from Cooties feeling nothing at all, no reaction that is positive or negative. It’s not that there is anything necessarily wrong with Cooties, but there’s nothing particularly right with it either. My ultimate issue with the film is that they took an amusing idea and what could’ve been a subversive, funny movie about zombie kids trying to kill adults — and ended up going a fairly predictable route.

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To be fair, it starts out really strong: we’re in a slaughterhouse watching chickens be plucked, sectioned, and run through an industrial grinder, churning out that familiar pink slime, the one that made the headlines a few years ago. But this pink slime is streaked with green: some sort of infectious bacteria which has the potential to turn kids into blood-thirsty monsters.

From there we cut to a bedroom: a sleeping Elijah Wood is rousted by his mom; it’s the first day of school. Only, Elijah isn’t a student — he’s a substitute teacher. A stalled career in Brooklyn as an author sees him back in his home town of Fort Chicken, Illinois (yes, that’s really the name they chose), living at home with mom and teaching elementary school. There, he reconnects with an old classmate — who is now a teacher, too — as well as a handful of other colorful characters on staff.

That toxic chicken meat we saw a few scenes earlier? It’s now in nugget form and being consumed by a little girl at the school. Soon, she turns into a raging zombie, infecting kids left and right, and bedlam briefly ensues. It’s at this point that movie down shifts into auto-pilot: we go from what could’ve been a prime-era Joe Dante or Fred Dekker flick and ease into something more along the lines of something I could see Kevin James or Josh Gad leading.

Zomcoms have an unfortunate history with being unable to find balance. Usually, the straight forward “this is simply a zombie movie but with humor” films are the ones that achieve the most success, both with major audiences as well as cult collectives: Evil Dead, Return of the Living Dead, Braindead, Shaun of the Dead — hell, any goddamn movie with the word “dead” in the title. The ones that fail are the ones that get too clever, too angle-heavy: Fido, Life After Beth, Warm Bodies. Unfortunately, Cooties falls into this latter category and unsuccessfully thinks the simple premise of “zombie schoolkids” can carry an 88 minute movie.

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The funniest characters happen to be the two guys that wrote the movie, Leigh Whannell and Ian Brennan, playing a kooky science teacher and a cocky vice principal, respectively. They feel the most fleshed out and the most unique of the entire cast. And while the always enjoyable Elijah Wood and Alison Pill are well cast as the main leads of the film, everyone else is a one-joke stock character: Rainn Wilson is the macho guy, Nasim Pedrad is the uptight woman, Jack McBrayer is the gay guy. Jorge Garcia is the stoner, and Peter Kwong is the Asian guy. With the exception of Whannell, Wood, Pill, and Wilson, all the other characters barely have a purpose in the movie. They don’t have important dialogue and aren’t necessary to move the plot along or aid in a resolution. They merely exist to perpetuate their one punchline.

In the end, Cooties has a hard time deciding what kind of comedy it wants to go for. I laughed out loud once when, early in the film, Rainn Wilson clotheslines a little girl while running from a horde of zombie kids. But most of the humor is uneven and — worst of all — very safe. Interesting ideas — like today’s kids lack of respect for authority and our culture’s current obsession with knowing where our food comes from — are only briefly touched on and quickly abandoned, and instead more focus is placed upon the Asian janitor who knows kung-fu. Cheap, easy, and safe, if you ask me.

It’s far from terrible. It’s not just anything, really. I don’t know who it’s aimed at, but if you still pay to see Adam Sandler movies in the theater or think Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson/Jack Black/Ben Stiller are the apex of comedy, then you will probably love this movie. It does have a killer poster, though.

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REDNECK ZOMBIES – 13 Days of Shot on Video! (#10)

With 13 Days of Shot On Video I’ll be reviewing a new shot-on-video horror film every weekday for the last two weeks of October. You can view all entries HERE.

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I’ve said this many times before, but SOV horror movies are not for everyone. One of the biggest factors in deterring the average viewer is the overall aesthetic: bad editing, even worse acting, junky sound, and just a general aura of cheapness. Redneck Zombies is sort of the exception to the rule, however, as it was released by Troma Entertainment — the film company who prides themselves on their no-budget, laughable productions. So in a way, Redneck Zombies was safeguarded from the usual expected shortcomings that plagued the average SOV horror movie; suddenly, those limitations were now strengths. I assert that Redneck Zombies just may be the crossover hit that bridged the gap between shot-on-video and the collective hip consciousness. I can’t name many (if any) friends who have seen SOV gems such as Sledgehammer or Killing Spree, but all of my friends know what Troma is and have seen many Troma films, and even a handful have seen Redneck Zombies. Whodathunk. Redneck Zombies, a vanguard film! Continue reading REDNECK ZOMBIES – 13 Days of Shot on Video! (#10)

Drive-In Double Feature: THE FACULTY & 28 DAYS LATER!

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The whole point of this goofy little “Drive-In Double Feature” thing  brilliant, original, captivating, thought-provoking “Drive-In Double Feature” thing was a simple one: get people talking about horror movies. Possibly introduce others to films they’d never heard of. Get people excited. This includes people who don’t normally consider themselves “horror fans”, as in the case of Megan. While she admitted to me she “didn’t know a lot about horror” movies, she was still a good sport and submitted a piece anyway. And that makes this silly compelling Double-Feature thing all the more impressive: it’s bringing people together, uniting the hardcore gorehounds and the weekend-watchers as one. If there’s one thing I want to be remembered for long after I’m dead, it’s this month-long piece. Anyway, for not being a huge follower of horror, Megan was still somehow able to get to the root of why we watch horror movies in the first place: the Hotties. Take it away, Megan!

When I was a teen girl, my film criticism hinged on one important question: Where the Hotties at? My best friends each had their favorite Hollywood dudes, which meant that I had to see every movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Orlando Bloom, Paul Walker (RIP!), Elijah Wood (my baby!) etc. (Turns out having a Regulation Hottie in your movie does not guarantee it will be any good. The heart wants what it wants.)

You can see these at the Camera Viscera drive-in, but my recommendation for watching these movies is to go to my friend Althea’s parent’s house in Aurora and watch them on her dad’s projection wall. That is the way these films are meant to be viewed. It should also be past 3 a.m., and you should be eating Little Casear’s pizza, and you should be surrounded by 3-5 teenage girls. When discussing the film’s Hotties, feel free to reference the emo boys of West Aurora High School. It should be 2006. You, yourself, should be a teenage girl.

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In Robert Rodriguez’s high school spoof on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a ragtag group of teens discover that their teachers have all been taken over by malevolent aliens. It’s a pretty standard Breakfast Club ensemble—the popular girl, the outcast, the druggy. Most importantly, ELIJAH WOOD is the nerdy school newspaper photographer, which is ideal because I also worked on The Red and Blue, West Aurora High’s premier student publication, which we assembled on Microsoft Publisher every month.

An important thing to know about me at this time is that my AIM screenname was “crazee4elijah.” I had many, many pictures of him taped to my locker. Every weekend, I forced my friends to watch an Elijah Wood movie. The Faculty is pretty much his only non-Frodo role we still hold in any regard.

This movie has a lot of Hotties. It has Usher, pop star Hottie, and Jon Stewart, dad-aged Hottie. It has Josh Hartnett as a burn-out drug dealer, who I grudgingly accepted as a Hottie because the teen mags told me to.

The Faculty is really hokey and self-aware. It has a lot of one-liners that are fun to scream at each other in the cafeteria. In a pivotal scene (spoilers?) Josh Hartnett stabs an alien with a ballpoint pen full of ILLICIT DRUGS. Right before he plows that sucker in, he gets smarmy and says “Guaranteed to jack you up,” which is what he always smarms when he sells his ILLICIT DRUGS. Anyway, it turns out “Guaranteed to jack you up” is a fun thing to yell when you are a teenage girl shotgunning pixie sticks or diet cokes or Bosco Sticks or just for no reason at all.

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When I first laid eyes on Cillian Murphy’s weird face, I thought, “Hmmm, yes, here is a man whose picture I could haphazardly glue to my chemistry binder.” Cillian is a scruffy, snake-faced Hottie with piercing, sociopathic blue eyes. (My teenage M.O.)

He plays Jim, who wakes up in a hospital to find London abandoned. In the 28 days since he went into a coma, a rage virus has spread through the city and beyond; infected humans are angry, violent and most importantly, fast. When Jim wakes up in the hospital bed, there is a moment where the camera pans over his naked body from above and you can see his penis. This split-second shot of a far-off, flaccid dick SCANDALIZED 16 year old me.

The infected are zombies, sure, but they aren’t the archetypal stumbling, rotting flesh version. In a way, they’re more human, stripped down to their most predatory form. Jim finds a group of survivors who are looking for a military outpost, a promised safe haven where society will be reborn. It’s not just a movie about survival; it’s a movie about humanity’s ultimate insignificance. It’s a movie about what it means to keep living when everything around you dies.

“Do you know I was thinking?” Jim asks in one scene.

“You were thinking that you’ll never hear another piece of original music ever again. You’ll never read a book that hasn’t already been written or see a film that hasn’t already been shot,” bad-ass co-survivor Selena responds.

This dystopia really stuck with teen me. The repercussions, I knew, were dire. You’ll never read another Teen Beat. You’ll never hear another Fall Out Boy album. You’ll never get to casually run into Elijah Wood after his DJ set and tell him about the dream you had in 2005 that he got hit by a car in front of your parents’ house and you had to nurse him back to health. What a grim future, indeed.

Megan Kirby lives and writes in Chicago. You can find her on twitter at @megankirb, tweeting to @woodelijah in vain.

“Night of the Creeps” (1986) REVIEW

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Ho-lee shit this movie is great. It’s so perfect, it’s not even funny. It somehow manages to blend three styles of horror film into one. It takes the 50s B-movie genre, the zombie genre, and the space alien genre and mashes it together into this beautiful, funny, cohesive gem. This is yet another late-80s classic that is very ‘punk rock’ in its execution and isn’t afraid to be funny. That’s the main problem with horror films today — they lack humor.

As I mentioned above, this film somehow manages to bring together three of the most opposite genres perfectly. The first third of the film is in black and white. A couple sits on lovers lane. Over the radio they hear an announcement: a maniac has escaped a hospital for the criminally insane. The girl, scared, wants to go home, but the guy isn’t having it. He leaves to take a leak, and while he’s gone she ends up being slaughtered by the escaped maniac. However, the boyfriend isn’t so safe either, as he discovers a weird canister on the ground from which a leech-like alien jumps out of and into his mouth.

Years later, a young college student falls in love with a girl on campus and decides in order to win her over he must join a frat. As part of his pledge, the young guy has to steal a cadaver from the university medical center cryogenics lab. He and his buddy do so, but little do they know the body they attempt to steal is the corpse of the young man who ate the alien leech many years ago.

You can see where this is going: upon defrosting the body, the leeches reanimate and cause the body to come back to life. The leeches also multiple and spread from person to person, usually by flying from the infected’s mouth into the victim’s mouth. Hell breaks loose on campus and it’s great.

This was directed by Fred “The Monster Squad” Dekker and stars genre staple Tom Atkins. What’s not to love?

“Demons” (1985) REVIEW

dI may lose some friends over this, but I was never huge Argento fan. In fact, I think Suspiria is a tad overrated. The only movie of his that really did it for me was Tenebrae. And while, perhaps not as well-known or prolific, I much preferred stuff by his Italian peers such as Lucio Fulci, and Ruggero Deodato, and Lamberto Bava. Demons was actually written by Argento and Bava with great results. Another 80s punk rock horror film, this one combines some of my favorite things: punk rock fashion, cinema, and zombies.

A group of strangers are invited to see a mysterious movie at a theater. While the movie is playing, one of the patrons goes to the lobby and sees a mask on display — a mask that is featured in the film everyone is watching. She scratches her face on it and soon becomes a bloodthirsty demon. She attacks the filmgoers, who then turn into demons themselves one by one. All hell breaks loose — and it’s awesome.

The movie is super enjoyable, with goopy, gory effects. The soundtrack is chock full of heavy metal, and even features Billy Idol and Accept! This was followed by an equally enjoyable sequel, this one opting to go with a new wave soundtrack (rather than metal), featuring The Smiths, The Cult, Peter Murphy, and Love and Rockets. Don’t be a dummy — see these movies!