Nosferatu: Phantom Der Nacht (1979), or What Beautiful Music They Make

31 10 2009

Well, folks, I’ve saved the best for last on this Cinematronica horror movie outing I’ve been tentatively referring to as OH MY GOD! THERE’S A DEAD BODY IN MY DVD PLAYER! SOMEBODY CALL THE POLICE!!! We’ve seen thrillers, slashers, paranormal films, and monster movies. Now we come to Halloween night, and if any of you have decided to sit back, relax, and watch a scary movie with your family and friends, make it this one. This remake of the 1922 German Dracula re-imagining, created by Werner Herzog himself and starring the legendary Klaus Kinski, is one for the books. It’s eerie, it’s creepy, it’s frightening, and it captures all the original feel and flavor of the Murnau original. But it does the original even one better by adding Kinski as Count Orlok, who was the most intense actor of his generation. If you watch this movie tonight, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Okay, basically, the original Nosferatu was a German rip-off of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with really only the names changed to ensure they would not be sued. So it follows, almost to the letter, the events of the Stoker vampire tale. Here, though, the names have all been  re-replaced, and are now the names from the Bram Stoker tale. An estate agent named Jonathan Harker has made a lucrative deal recently with a man known as Count Dracula who wishes to buy a castle in Wismar. To complete the deal, Harker leaves for Transylvania, Romania to where the Count lives. After being unnerved by a panicky local populace in Transylvania, he goes and has a meeting with the Count, who is a terror to behold. With a thin white body, claw-like hands, long, sharp teeth like a predator’s, and a completely sleek head, he is seemingly not of this earth. But after Harker speaks to him, he comes to feel for this man, who is lonely and very courteous to his guest. After a meeting in which he catches a glimpse of a small portrait of Lucy, Harker’s wife, he instantly agrees to purchase the property. It seems all cut and dry, but Harker begins to have nightmares while he stays there of the Count, and his wife Lucy, back in Wismar, begins to have terrors of her own. Things don’t get any better as Dracula makes his move toward Wismar, as the crew of the ship moving him begins to die off mysteriously, Harker’s employer Renfield, is stricken with a violent madness, and Wismar itself slowly faces the grip of death as Dracula’s arrival becomes a harbinger of a massive shrink in the population. Who can stop this strange menace that seems to emanate from the hand of the inhuman Count? And will it be at the risk of their very soul if they try?

This is such a good remake. Everything that was so mesmerizing about the original is turned up to 11, and even the details Herzog took a liberty with are exceptional. One of my favorite things he changes here is the humanization of Dracula. He’s not some inhuman beast like the 1922 version; here, you get the sense that he despises himself and what he is, and that makes it so much more fulfilling when the blood starts flowing because you almost felt sorry for him. The distant look in his eyes when he speaks of his nature is an emotional highlight in this film. Herzog really reinforces his reputation as one of Germany’s finest directors here.

The cast is excellent. Stupendous, even. With Kinski as the anchor of the film, it’s hard to fail. His silent intensity is absolutely phenomenal. When he speaks, it resonates with the age of centuries, a lifetime comprised of lifetimes, and it is a wonder to be in the presence of the monster. And he is a monster. Because nothing is more heartbreaking than the one who stabs you in the back after you part from a handshake. I feel for Dracula, I really do. He has a sadness, imbued in him by Kinski, that is so palpable that I could see myself weeping for him. But he is, in the end, a villain, and not only because he must be. There’s something in him that wishes death, invites the cry of the fall upon himself. He is a beast, we the prey, and we two were never meant to be so close. I also enjoyed the acting of Isabelle Adjani, who plays the plucky and strong Lucy. The character is a vast improvement over the original, and Adjani is more than apt for the part. Lucy is stronger and more relatable, and she is also a lot smarter than the dumb-as-rocks character in the silent film. I like her involvement a lot, and it can’t be said that she isn’t just absolutely radiant.

But let’s not forget that this is a horror, and I was certainly frightened by more than a few scenes. Every time Kinski is on screen, he has that barely hinged demeanor that makes you feel that all bets are off. Look at the clip above and tell me that every second he and Lucy are alone together is not just torture. Renfield is also a scary bastard. At one point he actually freaks out and bites a cow!!! His eyes are priceless, and it’s a highlight of the film. The score by rock band Popol Vuh adds considerably to the mysterious theme of the film. It feels at times that we fall into this movie, as one falls into the subconscious when slumber comes upon us, and Popol Vuh blurs that line between the dream and the reality very well with their intensive score.

A great remake that needs to be lifted high on the ramparts. It might be the best movie I’ve seen from this Halloween bunch, and I’ve seen some amazing movies. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better vampire movie PERIOD, and if you have any idea just how many of those there are, you know that’s a serious statement. I love it; it’s scary, atmospheric, emotional, and well-made. Kinski and Herzog together made a pairing that defied conventions, but exceeded any expectations, and this, their second film together, is a watershed moment when their cohesiveness peaked in so many ways. I think you’ll like it a lot; I give Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht 10 bitten livestock out of 10! My highest recommendation!

Happy Halloween, everyone! I hope you enjoyed my little movie marathon! Tomorrow it’s back to brass tacks with a movie that I think everyone can relate to; Songs From the Second Floor! Until then!!!


PSA: The Messengers (2007), or Play The BOO! Scare Drinking Game

30 10 2009

Well, folks, time again for another scary movie that in my 2 week long series of Halloween-themed movies that I am tentatively calling MOVIES THAT MAKE ME WANT TO HAVE A STRONGER BLADDER SO I DON’T HAVE TO WRAP MY COUCH IN PLASTIC! Today we have a movie that will scare nobody, but might just piss you off enough to give you serious stress-related maladies. It’s your standard “family moves into a house that has a shady history of paranormal activity” a la The Amityville Horror, but feels the need to sweeten the pot with a whole lot of GOTCHA! scares that I’m starting to think are structurally designed to piss me off. It’s really, truly generic, and I don’t think anyone would even remember this movie if it wasn’t for the insertion of Kristen “Eternal Love, Kinda” Stewart, aka Bella from Twilight.

Well, guess what? We’re going on a cinematic road trip to North Dakota! Now, don’t hang yourselves just yet. It’s the struggles of a family trying to eke out a living  from a sunflower farm, and the usual blasé strain a cross-country move on a family. The father is struggling to make this floundering venture work, and the kids don’t understand why they had to move and leave their friends behind, and the wife is having a hard time dealing with it, yadda yadda yadda. Anyway, GHOSTS!!! There are ghosts in the house, and at first only the children can sense it, the young mute son Ben, and the teenage daughter Jess. Odd events around the house, along with unexplainable stains on the wall and terrifying (AND LOUD!) noises mark their arrival, as well as the arrival of a strange guest to their house. His name is John, and he is just some guy who has offered to help the father with the day-to-day of the sunflower business. There’s something not right about him, and there’s something not right with the house, but as usual, parents just don’t understand, and they don’t believe daughter Jess when she tells them that something is up. It’s up to her to unravel the mystery surrounding this boring North Dakota house and the man who says he’s just nobody but is indeed probably somebody. but can she find out in time, or will the ghosts make their presence known more forcefully next time they appear?

Can it get any more bland? I might as well have watched some Cream-of-Wheat whirl around in a microwave for 90 minutes. This was a severe waste of my time, and I feel slightly poorer for having watched it. With a twist ending you could see coming a mile out into the sunflower fields and a concept that has been fucked to the ground, The Messengers has made a fool out of me not once, but TWICE in my life. I watched this once it came out on DVD a while back, and was severely disappointed with what I found. Now, I’m back to review it, and, surprisingly enough, I don’t find it to be very salvageable. The Pang brothers, directors of both Bangkok Dangerous and Bangkok Dangerous, can scratch out horror on their list of genres that they mistakenly alter based on the audience they’re shooting for. Their Asian films are good enough, but when they get to the States they have this distorted view of what we want that translates roughly to, how do you say it in English, uh, BOO! It’s annoying, and I’d really appreciate itif they stopped changing their style to accommodate us filthy Americans.

The cast is basic, bare-bones, and that’s a shame considering the names they generated. I didn’t expect much from McDermott, who seems more comfortable on TV than he does on the silver screen. There’s not much to say about his character, the father; I guess I believe that he loves his family, which is some kind of vague compliment. Penelope Ann Miller visits the set every now and then as the doting mother, and, well, she tries. John Corbett and Kristen Stewart are the only two break-outs here, because they’re actually trying. John Corbett plays John (no relation), the worker who has something he’s not telling everyone. He starts out so friendly, but his intensity slowly ratchets up as the movie progresses and makes the film bearable. And I won’t pick on Kristen too much, because she actually puts forth a lot of effort here. She’s not a virtuoso or anything, but I appreciated the fact that she took the part seriously and made the character believable in her petulance, as well as sketching her own shady past with a few broad brushstrokes.

And there’s not a whole lot more to say. The Messengers is a movie to avoid unless you’re just a horror movie fanatic who can’t get enough of them. And even then, we’re talking bottom of the barrel here; you can surely find some good ones you haven’t seen yet if you look hard enough. It’s not very imaginative, it’s not very skillfully executed, and, with the exception of a few moments, its much less frightening as much as it is infuriating in its insistence for scares. Don’t go see this film, I promise you won’t be missing out. I give The Messengers 3 filthy Americans out of 10. Boo.

Tomorrow’s Halloween! I picked the best horror film I could think of for this very special occasion! Tomorrow you and I BOTH need to watch Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht starring Klaus Kinski! I’ll tell you why tomorrow!

The Others (2001), or Heathen Children

30 10 2009

Welcome back everyone, to today’s installment of AHHH! SCARY IMAGES AND LOUD NOISES MAKE ME LOSE CONTROL OF MY BOWELS! The Others is one of those films that I’m guilted for having not seen. I tell people I haven’t seen The Others, and, all of a sudden, it turns into “YOU haven’t seen THE OTHERS?!?! I thought you liked movies?”, and I am thusly shamed by the community I work and play in. Nevertheless, it seems that I was indeed missing out on an effective horror film that utilizes a mixture of different scare tactics to try and attack the viewer. It’s dark, rich, and stylistically textured. And while the acting did not impress me on many levels, it’s still a nice film to check out to get a case of the creeps this Halloween.

In a posh British mansion just after the Second World War, a prim mother of two named Grace struggles to raise her children alone. The two children, Nicholas and Anne, have a sensitivity to light, and this becomes quite problematic for her and stressful having to deal with it by herself. She hires a few people to help around the place, and this seems to be the ideal at first. But strange things begin to happen to her family after they arrive, things that one cannot easily explain away. Her daughter Anne claims to have seen people who don’t live in the house, and perhaps don’t live at all, with her odd descriptions of them. There are doors that close without anyone closing them, instruments can be heard clearly even when there is nobody playing them. It’s all very odd, and while the children seem to be at peace with this, it deeply disturbs Grace. She goes one day in a heavy fog to see an exorcist, leaving the children to be tended to by the odd servants. But they are not the ones in any peril, because in the deep, blinding fog outside the mansion, the questions run even deeper once she finds her husband wandering around, who was apparently killed in the war…

Spooky stuff. It’s a period piece set after the war, but the stuffiness of the house makes it feel much older. It’s the fact that all the drapes are pulled shut for the children, and even during the day, everything is lit by a hurricane lantern. The ambiance is suffocating, intoxicating, and yet unknowingly inviting, as if the spirits of the house beckon to the life within us as keepsakes of their former selves. The house itself is really a character, and really the most important character in The Others, because it is the prison, the window from which our protagonists look out of, and the others look into.

A great concept combined with a historical realism seldom present in horror makes for a gripping story. I really cared about all these characters, even the frigid beast of an actress Nicole Kidman evoked some inkling of emotion from me, narrowly evading the Least Wanted List today by actually doing a good job. She plays Grace, and although she had to grow on me, she eventually settled on my heart like dust on a long British mantle. It has a lot to do with director Alejandro Amenabar’s excellent handling of not only her character, but the world she lives in. I enjoy Grace because of what she is in the world Amenabar built; she’s a shadow in the midst of shadows. She is a dark woman in a dark house with dark thoughts in her mind. Her whispers are soft and thread-bare, her movements are slow and graceful like grand old drapery, and the life she has made in the secluded country estate is quiet but tinged with a vague anticipation. She really is, in many ways, tied to the house, as both an actress and a character.

Among the other things that set this film apart, I particularly enjoyed the score by Amenabar himself; it is incredibly fitting, and undeniably moving. Some of the tracks seem to blend in with the visuals as if it had transcended the senses. The set design is immaculate, with almost all the film taking place either in the creaky Victorian house or the surrounding murky forest. Wonderful setting for a scary movie. And Christopher Eccleston dazzles as the mysterious Charles, Grace’s husband who was thought to be dead. I won’t say too much about his character, but he does an excellent job in a role that could have easily been loopy.

There’s a lot to love with The Others. The source of fear here is the complete unknowable will of the others, and the impenetrable cowl that Grace casts over the dark world of the house. it blurs the lines of reality and even the lines between life and death, and it was done in a tasteful, almost delicate way that I can respect as a film connoisseur and a horror junkie. If you haven’t seen it yet, you HAVE to check it out once. I give The Others 9 1/2 light allergies out of 10. A high recommendation!

Keep both eyes peeled for my review of everyone’s favorite barn house thriller, The Messengers! Coming soon!

Bad Storm Knocked Out The Internet! I’ll Return Tomorrow!

29 10 2009

Sorry, folks! A bad storm here in H-town knocked down my internet temporarily, so I’ll have to finish tomorrow! You’ll get not only my review of The Others, but also my review of The Messengers! Sorry, again; I’ll pay you back in quality work!

The Devils (1971), or The Horrors Of Organized Religion

28 10 2009

Well, folks, welcome to another scare-tastic edition of HORROR MOVIES THAT ARE CURRENTLY ON MY HARD DRIVE (PROBABLY ILLEGALLY) THAT ARE VERY FITTING FOR THIS HALLOWEEN SEASON! Today is a movie that is unreasonably hard to find in America. Despite its power as a modern masterpiece of terror and suspense, because of its intense sexual nature it has been constantly ignored by many as a simple exploitation film and has been denied a mass-produced American DVD. But if you can find a copy, no matter the quality, you’re in for a real Halloween treat today, because The Devils, despite its ill repute, is a masterful film about religious fanaticism that is both awe-inspiring and down-right spooky. Ken Russell put much of his mind and soul into this film, and it shows in every gripping, gut-wrenching moment of this film.

Set in the 17th century, we follow the tyrannical sweep of the fanatical Cardinal Richelieu throughout the frightened French countryside. He has convinced King Louis XIII to destroy the local defenses around the cities of France to prevent those damn Protestants from uprising and usurping the Catholics. Louis thinks it’s fine, but he tells the Cardinal he musn’t destroy the defenses of the city of Loudon, as he made a personal promise to the governor. Unfortunately for Loudon , the governor has recently perished, leaving it in the hands of Urbain Grandier, a well-regarded priest. He’s stirring up a lot of trouble in town among the ladies due to his highly sexy 17th century nature, and he’s making the rounds with a couple high-profile dames. One of whom, Madeline du Brou, he marries in a simple secret ceremony. This enrages a deformed nun named Sister Jeanne, a hunchback who has a deep lust for Grandier, and wants it really bad from him, going so far as to superimpose him on Jesus’ body in her sexual fantasies (!!!). When the government comes in and demands the fortifications be destroyed, Grandier has to keep his wits about him and do what he can to prevent this from happening. Unfortunately, this turns out to be nigh impossible when it is revealed that Sister Jeanne has accused Grandier of witchcraft, as well as seduction of her convent, two devastating charges against him. The church begins to turn on the one man who can save the city, but when the church turns on you in the 17th century, there’s really no recovering. And when a mentally unstable inquisitor named Father Pierre Barre comes in to investigate, the entire sad state of affairs devolves into psychotic religious fervor that threatens the entire town of Loudon.

The Devils is an engrossing, terrifying film about power and control in a number of different aspects. Louis just wants to control absolutely without acting, the despotic Cardinal wants control over the Protestants, Sister Jeanne wants control over Grandier’s heart, and Father Barre just wants to the power over the life and death of men. And meanwhile, Grandier, played by a brilliant Oliver Reed in one of his finest performances, is having power constantly taken away from him by forces beyond his control. The world these characters live in is a brutish, fatalistic vision of the past that seeks to damn the audience while it simultaneously damns all of its main characters.

If you need any proof that this film is frightening, simply take into account the fact that this film is set in a time when the Catholic Church held all the lives of the Western world by the throat. If that thought doesn’t chill you to the bone, perhaps you haven’t reckoned that concept long enough. While there are a number of scenes in this film that over-exaggerate the fervor of the day (the ritualistic orgy outside an exorcism, a nun masturbating with the femur of a heretic (!!!)) it’s really, sadly, not all that far off. This is a film where people are punished for ALLEGED WITCHCRAFT with forced enemas and punished for “CONFIRMED” WITCHCRAFT by burning at the stake! It’s easy to look from our ivory tower of relative religious tolerance in 2009’s America and say that faith has a relevant, important place in today’s society, but if the God that speaks to Christians today is the same God that spoke to Christians back then, then maybe we should all take a look at our moral priorities while God gets a forced enema to shut his fucking mouth for a second.

Is that not scary enough for ya? How about some intense Grand Guignol action? This is not only a personal message film by madcap director Ken Russell, but it’s also a visually arresting one that brings back to mind the exotic imagery of his later film, Altered States. It’s a beautifully crafted horror with creepy imagery abounding. Sister Jeanne, played by Vanessa Redgrave in a breakout performance, is creepy all by herself, the way she flirts back and forth with her own twisted demons. The use of skulls and demonic faces, flickering and flashing on the screen, is also a nice touch in some of the transition shots. I love how they framed Father Barre in some of the interrogation scenes; he feels at times to be a demon from another world, a frothing lunatic with a sincere love for pain and death. Ken Russell designed this withe the idea to inflict some real fear, and I think he succeeds; he did with me at least.

There are a number of proclivities to The Devils that makes it a very special movie. It’s dark, it’s piercing, and it has that moral lucidity that can only come from a director who’s not afraid to point a finger and declare everyone to be wrong. And everybody IS wrong in The Devils. You might not even like its hero, Grandier, because Oliver Reed isn’t exactly known for his Downy softness. But you will think nonetheless, and when I think during an intense horror movie, I come up with some of my best ideas. So check it out if you can find it. It’s quite a disturbing film with a number of graphic scenes you won’t soon forget. I give The Devils 9 1/2 charred femur marital aids out of 10! A high recommendation! Click this link if you’re interested in purchasing The Devils on Amazon, one of this movie’s only (legal) outlets!

Gird your loins, everyone! I have The Others coming up tomorrow! Until then!

Carnival Of Souls (1962), or The Man Of My Dreams

27 10 2009

Carnival of Souls might just be the best thing to come out of an attempt to make a B-movie I’ve ever seen. Shot for a paltry $33,000, this is a very intense, mood-heavy horror that I found to be both mesmerizing and evocative. Compared to most of the films I’ve seen to cost that much from the 60s, I could name maybe zero that were worth 85-90 minutes of your time. This one, though, is a boon to the low-budget American feature, a mind-bender with a palpable terror in it, and just a damn fine feature. If you haven’t seen it, I don’t blame you, but now’s a good time to check it out and scare the tar out of some of your friends.

It all begins on a bridge, similar to the short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”. Three young girls decide to fool around and drag race on a bridge with three young, cute boys. The boys accidentally bump the girls and they plummet off the bridge, presumably to their deaths. But it’s not all cut-and-dry, because one of the girls, an organist named Mary, somehow survives. She emerges from the river, shaken but apparently alive, and tries to get on with her life after the terrible tragedy that befell her. Something’s different, though, after the crash. She can’t shake this horrible vision of a gaunt, pale-faced man staring at her, beckoning to her. She sees him in mirrors, in public places, in the privacy of her apartment. Even when she moves to Salt Lake City to fill a position for a church organist, she sees him silently staring at her, calling to him. And it becomes more than just the Man, as more and more ghoulish figures arise from the ether to torment her while she struggles with the burden of this life without life, this ghastly, lonely existence, where her only tie to reality is an abandoned pavilion that calls to her betwixt the great gulf of reality and the disturbing world of the Man. What does the Man want from her? Where did he come from? Will she ever be able to rid herself of him?

Better evidence that the simple ideas can be the most effective has rarely been found. I went into Carnival of Souls not knowing what to expect, and I came out genuinely unnerved. It’s not a film to be taken lightly, and even fans of modern horror films with the BOO! scares and the loud music can respect its power. It has an ability to frighten that lies in its unknowable, mysterious nature. We don’t know the reason the Man desires for Mary, where he comes from, or why he is tied to the abandoned pavilion, but we  feel that he’s a malevolent spirit that won’t rest until she’s in his grasp. It’s his relentlessness that gets me. Poor Mary is in shambles by the end of this film, because the Man is always popping out at her when she feels she’s safe.

Director Herk Harvey is an innovator, a man truly before his time when it came to making horror. He has such a knack for finding the most visceral shots, the most tingle-inducing scenery, and the most haunting music. It’s very, very impressive for the budget. He also had a knack for make-up, because here he actually plays as the mysterious Man who desperately wants the company of our heroine Mary. And does anyone recognize the name of Herk Harvey from anywhere besides this? Well, if you ever had to watch educational shorts, or if you just like watching those old, antiquated pieces of shit, you’ll remember him as the director of a vast amount of Centron Productions! That’s right, if you were ever instructed on school spirit, choosing industrial arts in high school, peer pressure, or good hygiene by a shaky, disembodied voice, it was probably a film made by Herk Harvey! This was his ONLY feature film, and it leaves me to wonder what might have been if he had continued to make more features throughout his life.

Candace Hilligoss is Mary, our tragic hero. She must face all this terror alone, inside a veneer of stability and control for the outside world. I saw a lot of potential with her as a leading woman here. She’s brave but not afraid to show her vulnerabilities to the camera. When she’s playing the organ, her dainty feet gingerly touching the pedals as the pours her heart into the song with her fingers, I saw a lot of character in that; it’s the only escape she has from the Man and his Carnival of Souls. And when that too is tainted by the otherworldly power of the Man, I felt a genuine tug on my heart strings. She’s a very well-rounded actress, and it’s a god-damn shame she’s not in more films.

So a very frightening film that’s not for laughs (even though Mike Nelson, on a commentary track for the DVD, mocked it soundly). Carnival of Souls is a movie about the unknown. Herk Harvey pulls and twists on the imaginations of the audience with his inexplicable imagery for 85 minutes, and even when the ending is finally revealed to you, you won’t easily forget the eerie build-up to it. I highly recommend Carnival of Souls for any serious horror movie-watching marathon! I give it 9 Centron Productions out of 10! A high recommendation!

Tomorrow we’ll be taking a gander at The Devils! Until then!

Hard Rock Zombies (1985), or Even Death Can’t Stop Their Rocking!!!

26 10 2009

What a concept! Hard Rock Zombies has to at least be in the running for one of the kookiest and most enjoyable B-movie plots I’ve ever heard. This was a movie I picked up in a compilation of about 30 or so others, and normally when I do that, I end up with about 2 movies and 28 coasters. But this was definitely a highlight that should be regarded with the likes of Street Trash and Dead Alive as one of the forerunners of gross-out horror flicks and a testament to the awful, awful taste of the 1980s.

So, we’re following the exploits of possibly the greatest band ever, called, um, let’s just call them The Group. The Group tours the country with their manager playing “hard rock” that sounds more like Journey than anything approaching hard. They’re playing some town in Who Cares?, USA, when they’re warned by a shy girl named Cassie not to go on the next scheduled gig of their tour, in the hilariously-named town of Grand Guignol. The Group appreciates the advice, especially dreamy frontman Jessie, who has a bit of a crush on Cassie, but they HAVE to go; there’s a major talent scout that happens to be there in the armpit of nowhere (CONVENIENT!). So they go, blissfully unaware that the town is just pulsing with hatred towards them and their loud, “hard-rock” music, including the sheriff, most of the townsfolk, and Hitler’s deranged, deformed family (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). That’s right; ADOLF HITLER lives in Grand Guignol, and he has plans to kill The Group (for some reason)! It’s a dastardly plan that ends up killing The Group member by member, but what Hitler doesn’t know is that Jessie, in his studies of the occult, has perfected a bass line that can bring the dead back to life (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and in the event of his death will be played at his funeral so he can be revived as a zombie to wreak havoc on those that wronged him and to protect his living loved ones.  So get ready Adolf, because this Journey knock-off group doesn’t take shit from anyone, dead or alive!

Can you believe that? Adolf Hitler? Bass line of zombification? Journey considered “hard rock”? This is crazy stuff!!! I found myself slack-jawed and wide-eyed all 85 minutes of Hard Rock Zombies. It’s so insane and so ridiculous that you’ll find yourself wondering just what the hell is going on from time to time. Director, producer, writer, and probably caterer Krishna Shah must have had a field day making this low-budget fun-gasm. I really feel like I’m having a good time when I’m watching this film, which is what the hell I’m watching movies for in the first place, isn’t it? The Group even bursts into song a few times on their misadventures, music video-style, so even though the songs kinda suck (the “Na-Na-Na” video above is pretty bad) I still can’t help but get swept away in the happy-go-lucky feeling.

Have you ever seen a guy eat himself? How about Eva Braun turning into a werewolf? If the effects team for Hard Rock Zombies can be congratulated for anything, it’s being original. The gore effects and off-the-wall creatures for this movie are surprisingly original and effective. To a certain extent; I’m not saying this is the next coming of 80s Weta, but there was some neat stuff going on here. The death scenes for The Group were well thought out, the zombies look a little above average, and while it wasn’t a bloodbath, everyone got a little bloody, and that’s what we’re looking for in a movie like this. And keep an eye out for the eccentric set design for Hitler’s house; it’s Nazi-tastic, and it answers unequivocally that age-old question; did Hitler perform his own experiments instead of just having them commissioned by top Nazi scientists?

Actor E.J. Curio plays Jessie, the leader of the band. He’s an 80s heartthrob if ever I saw one, and it’s a shame that he never went on to do much else as an actor (besides some Playgirl spreads; seriously NSFW). He’s young, he’s a singer in a band, and I really get the feeling that he thought this would be a big break for him. That’s no slam against him; on the contrary, this really adds to the fun element to the movie. He puts a lot into it, they all do, and I really appreciate how much fun they made this. And just as a bonus for picking me up out of the funk I was in after seeing An American Haunting yesterday, I’ll even put up a link to his new band’s Myspace page. His band’s called Silent Rage, and it’s not very good, but if you like cheesy 80s, um, one reviewer calls it “melodic hard rock” , then take a stab at it HERE.

Hard Rock Zombies was made with the idea of laughing in mind. I firmly believe that you can’t make a movie like this without having some sort of cognizance that what you’re doing is fucking nuts. The problem is if you start to either take it too seriously or not enough. They knew what they were doing, and I think they did a good job of it altogether. It’s kitschy Halloween fun that will leave you in stitches from all the HUH? moments thrown at you and all the Dead Alive-esque splatter horror-comedy elements involved. I give Hard Rock Zombies 7 “hard rock” ballads out of 10.

Tomorrow we get serious with a scary movie from the 60s called Carnival of Souls! Until then!