Tag Archives: Shaun of the Dead

30 Days of Madness, Day 15 — Deathgasm (2015)

by Tom Kapr

Wherein I attempt to watch one new-to-me horror film every day of October till Halloween and write a quick review. I will end my review with a letter grade like we do on our podcast (A, B, C, D, or F–pluses and minuses are for the non-committal!) and with the movie’s rank on my Flickchart.

deathgasm

Written & directed by Jason Lei Howden.

“Watch out for my aunt and uncle, because they hate you. And, also, they might be demons.”

Deathgasm started off so strong and had built up so much goodwill early on by focusing on unusual characters I cared about. An underdog metalhead whose story actually had emotional weight. The pretty girl he didn’t have to win over but who was drawn to him. The total anarchist of a best friend. A quirky supporting cast, decent acting and writing. One scene showed our hero in full band makeup sharing an ice cream cone with the girl of his dreams and introducing her to metal. Another scene showed him getting brutally attacked by bullies. These scenes and these character interactions had just the right tone. And actually, if this had just been a film about an awkward metalhead navigating life, it might have been good.

But then without so much as a segue it went into full-on apocalypse mode, to which none of the characters reacted in any way that made sense, and soon it was sacrificing character altogether in favor of tonally out of place jokes that did nothing more than up the gore. When the hero straight up murdered somebody just because the guy was an asshole, the movie lost whatever remaining goodwill I felt toward it. It turned into nothing more than another spatter flick with no sense of character or story. And then it tried to be emotionally resonant again. Too little too late.

So many filmmakers think they can do what Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg did with standard-bearer Shaun of the Dead–make a funny, gory, emotionally resonant film, where the humor is organic to the characters and the situations they find themselves in, and the moments that should horrify us do, and the weight of emotion is there because the characters and relationships, even that of the asshole of the group, are never sacrificed for cheap jokes, and all the disparate elements are weaved together so it all still feels like one tonally consistent film. It’s a hell of a trick to pull off, and most movies that try it, including Deathgasm, fail.

Final grade: D

My Flickchart ranking: #2863(out of 3261, a relative 12/100)

Scary Movie Alien Countdown #6: “She says the jungle… it came alive and took him.”

By Tom Kapr

A long time ago, in a federated state far, far away, I began a countdown of the ten scariest movie aliens ever. Then my world turned a little bit sideways, and two months and two thousand miles later, I landed in Colorado. Now life has calmed some, so it’s time to turn back to the wonderful horrors of the silver screen with a film that caused one of the most heated debates ever on the Buried Cinema podcast. And though it still loses my Flickchart vote to Shaun of the Dead, here is number six on the countdown…. (You can read the list from the beginning here.)

Predator is a paradox. Written by brothers Jim and John Thomas (who went on to write a handful of other, poor-to-middling thrillers) and directed by John “Die Hard” McTiernan, Predator is one of those big, dumb, loud, vulgar, testosterone-fueled action flicks for which the late 80s are known. Machismo runs rampant and cheesy dialogue seeps from every seam, not least of which is that immortal line uttered by Jesse “The Body” Ventura, “I ain’t got time to bleed.” However, what makes Predator such a paradox is that it is also one of the coolest and most brilliant science fiction films ever. And it gave us one of cinema’s all-time great antagonists: the Predator himself (played by the seven-foot-two Kevin Peter Hall).

Other Predator aliens have gone on to battle everyone in film from Danny Glover to Adrien Brody to the xenomorphs from the Alien films–even Batman. But when it all began, it was one terrifying, unseen presence lurking in the Central American jungle, picking off platoon commandos one by one as easy as if it were swatting butterflies. As the line from the movie suggests, it was as if the jungle itself had become a sentient, hostile force. Eventually it came to one of the great climactic showdowns in cinema: Predator vs. Schwarzenegger. And when Schwarzenegger finally got the upper hand and saw the Predator up-close, personal, uncloaked, and unmasked, it turned out to be one of the most fearsome alien beings ever conceived–and one of the ugliest (though I’m sure he was very handsome to the ladies back on his home planet).

It’s true what they say, that a picture is worth a thousand words:

Nightbeast is a wuss.

[Editor’s note: I forgot to mention Stan Winston, who is responsible for the awesome design of the Predators and the special effects in the first two films, as well as many other memorable creatures in some of the greatest science fiction films ever made. Stan Winston, the world of the movies will never be the same without you.]

Next on the countdown: “Across the gulf of space, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic regarded our planet with envious eyes and slowly, and surely, drew their plans against us….”

30 Days of Madness, Day 23: Fido

Fido (2006) Written by Robert Chomiak, Andrew Currie & Dennis Heaton. Directed by Andrew Currie. Starring Carrie-Anne Moss, Billy Connolly, Dylan Baker, K’Sun Ray, Henry Czerny, Tim Blake Nelson.

Dad likes a good funeral, as long as there is a separate head coffin.

Fido sort of picks up where Shaun of the Dead left things, with zombies being assimilated back into society as manual laborers–if Shaun of the Dead had ended in 1950s American suburbia. This film mixes two of my favorite things: it’s a zombie flick with a 1950s retro-aesthetic. And I love that the film opens with a schoolroom full of kids being shown a black-and-white educational short film reel about the “zombie war” and its causes and effects. It’s a clever way to bring the audience up to speed and set up the premise–a world where zombies are an part of everyday life.

Timmy’s father wants nothing to do with him and his mother gives him only the pretense of attention–she’s actually more worried about how his being bullied or his response to his father’s neglect affects the neighbors’ perception of her than about his feelings. Timmy also has a lot of questions about zombies that most seem afraid or embarrassed about. So when mom buys their first zombie, Timmy soon goes from seeing it as a thing to liking it as a pet to developing something closer to a human relationship with it. (It soon becomes clear that naming the kid “Timmy” is a Lassie reference.) Even Mom starts taking an interest.

I have to say that Carrie-Anne Moss is positively smoldering in this film.

Carrie-Ann Moss, Dylan Baker, Henry Czerny, and Tim Blake Nelson are all great in their roles as typical 1950s adults dealing with the usual 1950s issues of status, public intimacy, repressed emotions, corporate loyalty, and zombiphobia. And of course, there is Billy Connolly, walking (or maybe shuffling) the fine line between zombie and human.

My only quibbles with Fido are that the climactic scene at Zomcon headquarters needed to be more thought out–perhaps they were cramming to keep it close to a 90-minute running time–and that the child actors tend to be distracting, either not well-cast or not well-directed. Other than that, it’s a great movie and goes immediately into my zombie movie canon.

My Netflix rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

–Tom Kapr