Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! In today’s Journal, 31 Days of Spooky Stuff continues with a look at four zombie movies: WORLD WAR Z, BURIAL GROUND: THE NIGHTS OF TERROR, I WAS A TEENAGE ZOMBIE and MIDGET ZOMBIE TAKEOVER.
The Best – Reserved for the absolute cream of the crop.
Highly Recommended – Very good. Far better than your typical film and one that I will remember for some time.
Recommended – Just what it says. This is a good film and earns a recommendation. Don’t think that because it’s not one of the top two categories that these films aren’t worth your time. The “recommended” tag is a winner and nothing to sneer at.
Barely Recommended – The middle of the road. Those films where I didn’t feel it was a complete waste of time, but it didn’t set my world on fire either. Not bad, but leaves me feeling bored and/or apathetic.
Disappointing – Close but no cigar. Does a few things right but is ultimately a whole lot of wasted potential. Not recommended.
Awful – A bad movie. Pure and simple. Not worth your time.
The Worst – The Britta Perry of ratings, though not as entertaining. The bottom of the barrel.
What was the film trying to accomplish and how well did it meet those goals?
In addition to (or sometimes despite) that, how does the film hold up on sheer entertainment value?
FILM GEEK JOURNAL – ENTRY 76
(31 DAYS OF SPOOKY STUFF – DAY 14 – OCT. 14, 2013)
BURIAL GROUND: THE NIGHTS OF TERROR (a.k.a. LA NOTTI DEL TERRORE, THE NIGHTS OF TERROR, ZOMBIE 3, THE ZOMBIE DEAD) (1981) – An archeologist starts digging close to an isolated villa and immediately incurs the wrath of the dead, who rise from the grave to feed upon him. Later that day, a group of people arrive at the villa with the intention of getting away from society and into each other’s pants. Very soon however, they are dealing with the ever multiplying hordes of the undead.
Andrea Bianchi’s (STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER, MALABIMBA: THE MALICIOUS WHORE) has gained quite a bit of notoriety over the years. It’s corny as can be and contains a number of plotholes, even by the standards of Italian horror. The film is remarkably effective, both as a popcorn film and as a nightmarish horror film. Like a nightmare, the danger seems ever-present and things don’t make much sense.
BURIAL GROUND (on-screen title: THE NIGHTS OF TERROR) is also known for its icky subplot involving a little boy who has incestuous feelings towards his mother. Before you start calling Child Protective Services however, the woman’s son is actually played by a 26 year-old dwarf, an illusion that doesn’t fool the audience for a moment.
For all of its craziness, BURIAL GROUND is a blast. Highly Recommended.
I WAS A TEENAGE ZOMBIE (1987) – A group of teenagers look to score some weed, but what they get turns out to be a bust. Trying to get their money from the Cheech-like dealer Mussolini, they accidentally kill him and dump him in the river, the same river that just got a nasty helping of toxic waste. Mussolini comes back as a zombie and starts killing off the teenagers. Once most of their party has been killed, they decide to put their most athletic loss in the river with the hopes that he will return to take care of their nemesis. But when he comes back, he’s kind of bummed to be a teenage zombie.
Believe it or not, this film was made available on Hulu by Criterion. And honestly it’s the most unlikely film to bear the Criterion moniker. It’s closer to the spirit of a Troma acquisition. The director, John Elias Michalakis, was a sound editor on THE TOXIC AVENGER and was an actor in SPLATTER UNIVERSITY. So, not heavily involved with the house that Toxie built, but certainly close enough to get a feel for the material. This one feels like a bunch of kids having fun and seeing what they could put together.
What they put together works for the most part, but suffers from a lot of dead space (no pun intended). It also leaves the viewer feeling much more melancholy than a film of this sort should. Good soundtrack though.
It’s worth noting that the title character’s makeup color seems to change from scene to scene, as times appearing green, grey, yellow or even blue. Barely Recommended.
MIDGET ZOMBIE TAKEOVER (2013) – Amanda throws a party for her friends (none of whom look like teenagers), which as everyone knows is a cue for the zombies to invade. Some of these zombies are short in stature, leading to the humorous title. The group holes up in the house while they get picked off one by one.
This film is a comedy. Not only that, but director Glen Berggoetz is very happy that his film might be considered bad. That is the point. It’s supposed to be like the worst zombie movies but also like the worst SOV films, a movement that was pioneered by people like Todd Sheets. MIDGET ZOMBIE TAKEOVER is cheap and it will test your patience. But it’s also kind of enjoyable. And when this is what the film was going for, it’s hard to dislike it. Hey, I laughed.
The title is a bit of a misnomer. “Midget” is considered a slur but still appears in dictionaries to describe someone 4’10” or shorter. Which means that this film does not contain so many dwarves per se, just very short zombies.
Incidentally, the print I saw of this film was in black and white, as shown on Mr. Lobo’s CINEMA INSOMNIA. Apparently, there is a color print of this out there, though I am still unsure which is the director’s preferred cut. Please take this review to apply to this altered version. Recommended.
WORLD WAR Z (2013) – A retired United Nations envoy (Brad Pitt) is brought back into service when zombies suddenly start surging across the globe. In order to keep his family safe, he agrees to go on a mission to discover the source of the outbreak and find a possible cure. And that’s it. That’s the plot.
Ten years ago (could it really be that long?) I was writing for Horror Express. Because of a sudden surge in high-profile films, I predicted that 2003 would be the “Year of the Zombie.” It turns out I was right, but even I underestimated the genre’s resilience. I did not foresee the WALKING DEAD comic book series, which led to an acclaimed television show that seems unstoppable. I did not realize the pop culture fascination that would emerge surrounding this genre which had already existed since the mid-1960s (even further back, if you count the voodoo zombie stuff). It is because of the mainstream acceptance of the trope that we have WORLD WAR Z, a severely dumbed down, $200 million eyesore of a film that takes a feast of potential and instead tries to dress up stale leftovers.
I have been told that to compare WORLD WAR Z to a video game is an insult to video games. However, the script seems to have more in common with something released by Electronic Arts rather than Paramount. Brad Pitt goes to various locales, encountering one-dimensional people of little consequence and always fighting more swarms of anonymous zombies at every stop. Much like a game, the zombies fly from off-screen or even fall from the sky, where they switch and chatter their teeth. Pitt moves through these obstacles, advancing from checkpoint to checkpoint, until the anticlimactic ending which leaves room for the franchise to grow, perhaps with downloadable content.
This is why I grow frustrated with mainstream cinema. WORLD WAR Z is intricately put together and designs to appeal to a wide audience. But to do this, it has no real substance. The zombies of this film could just as well be wild animals, or hurricanes or tsunamis. This is just Hollywood disaster porn with rotting flesh. Awful.
Number of films covered in the Journal so far: 319
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