Call for Book Reviewers and Bloggers

Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Saturday, Feb 17, 2007


Coy “Cannonball” Buckman is an ex-stock car champion with a very shady past. Wrongfully incarcerated for the death of a young woman during a race, he’s recently been released from prison and is looking to reclaim his good name. Along with his best friend Zippo, Cannonball decides to compete in the highly illegal, underground car rally known as the Trans-American Outlaw Road Race. But he faces stiff competition for the $100,000 first prize. There is country singer Perman Waters, who hopes to use the contest as a way of publicizing his career. There is Wolfe Messer, a German Grand Prix driver who hopes to show up the Americans with his souped-up European automobile. Jim and Maryann are two surfers who hope to win the cash so that they can buy a beach house in Hawaii. And Sandy Harris has brought two of her waitress friends along for the get-rich-quick ride.


Even though Cannonball is the favorite to win, two conflicting elements conspire to keep the bold Buckman down. One is longtime nemesis Cade Redman, who wants Cannonball out of the race…at any cost. And the other, oddly enough, is Coy’s brother, Benny, who’s in debt up to his cement shoes with the mafia. If Cannonball doesn’t win, the entire Buckman family stands to lose…permanently. It’s a demolition derby between good and evil, life and death, as lean, mean automotive machines traverse the highways and byways of this great land of ours, hoping to be the next bicoastal racing champion.


Like a cool breeze blowing across a summer’s evening at the local drive-in, Cannonball is pure, unadulterated B-movie magic. Part cornball chase picture, part idiosyncratic comedy, this sequel of sorts to Death Race 2000 (the same creative team is involved, though the story is markedly different) is a randy reminder of why certain staid formulas seem to always work so well. No matter the premise (illegal race across the country) or personalities involved (hard-bitten ex-cons, hillbilly hick singer), a good old-fashioned land-speed story is entertainment at its most primal.


Call it male machismo moviemaking or a well-honed tapping into of America’s love affair with the automobile, but whenever you pit vehicle against vehicle in an all-out contest to the end/prize/death/revenge, the results are resplendent. Some films have forged their entire identity on such horsepower hijinx—The Blues Brothers, The Junkman, Gone in 60 Seconds—while others have traded on the epic pavement power struggle to underline their larger point (Bullitt, The French Connection, and Ronin are good examples of this supplementary ploy). But for some reason, Cannonball careens off the top of the pleasure dome to resonate with a combination of craziness and craftiness to circumvent all possible pitfalls—not to mention plot potholes. Certainly, this is a low-rent actioner with a budget to match its less than broad scope, and you’ve probably seen better bumper-to-bumper ballistics in modern TV cop shows. But there is a special sublime quality to this high-octane oddity that really gets down deep in your merriment manifolds, producing untold RPMs of rejoicing.


It all begins in the setup. David Carradine, fresh from Kung Fu and Death Race 2000, is the washed-up, recently paroled from prison stock car champion who hides a secret sin that burdens his hardened soul. Winning this cross-country grand prix will offer him redemption and a less tarnished reputation—especially with his correctional officer girlfriend (essayed by the beautiful Veronica Hamel). Naturally, there is a mechanic sidekick—with the great name of Zippo—who idolizes and worships the very seat Dave sits on, and the black cloud of doom hovering over this wide-eyed worshiper is so thick it’s like the near-solid sludge in a frozen crankcase. Add the no-good brother (Corman main man Dick Miller, as brilliant as ever) who’s in hock up to his hemorrhoids with the mob, and the insane maniac bad guy (genre giant Bill McKinney, Deliverance, She Freak) who wants to get back at Carradine for reasons that seem more crackpot than concrete, and the basic cornerstones of car crash bedlam are in place.


But the wonderful thing that director Paul Bartel (Death Race 2000, Eating Raoul) does with his retro road race is flesh out the subplots with conspicuous eccentricities. Indeed, it is the ancillary characters, the oddballs off to the side that really sell Cannonball as something more than a low-rent Smokey and the Bandit. While there is no one here as instantly memorable as Jackie Gleason’s foul-mouthed fussbudget Buford T. Justice, Bartel still gives us the Cole Porter–obsessed Mafioso, the atonal, quasi-talented country bumpkin singer (Gerrit Graham), the self-righteous Euro-trash champion (James Keach) and dozens of delightful cameos. Indeed, throughout the course of Cannonball, be on the lookout for such AIP stalwarts as Martin Scorsese, Sylvester Stallone, Joe Dante, Don Simpson, Mary Woronov, and the low-budget legend himself, Roger Corman.


Still, for all the acting chops and prickly personalities therein, a film like Cannonball is really a director’s medium. How well you respond to its road rage comes in direct proportion to how successful Bartel is in anchoring the action. Thankfully, the man’s skill with a camera is considerable, and while you’ve probably seen better highway histrionics in big-budget stunt flicks, you’ve never experienced the high-speed chase in quite the same way as he delivers it here. Bartel enjoys positioning the camera at or near street level, accenting the feel and flow of the road beneath the wheels. He then cross-cuts to aerial shots of the vehicles in strategic circumstances, allowing the curve of the concrete or the upcoming landscape to dictate the dynamics and suspense.


Certainly, the action sequence has exploded in the nearly 30 years since Cannonball was made (the superhighway surrealism of The Matrix Reloaded‘s freeway fracas comes to mind). But as an example of nuts-and-bolts, no-CGI engine block stunt work, including a couple of absolutely incredible sequences (the gap jump and the pileup), Cannonball has a nice revved-up reality. Sure, it is an over-the-top tapestry of spark plug parameters that pushes the envelope of believability as it roars toward the finish line. But within its muscle car madness breathes a true escapist delight. And what more do you want on a sultry August evening at the neighborhood passion pit than a mindless exercise in gearbox gratuity? While it is the lesser of Bartel’s street beat ballyhoo (Death Race 2000 is just a fantastic bit of futuristic foolishness), Cannonball still delivers the appropriate axle greasing.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Saturday, Feb 10, 2007


On an isolated island in the middle of the Caribbean, Dr. Jake Terrell has made a breakthrough in the study of dolphins and interspecies language. His star pupil Fa has not only learned to understand English but he also has a rudimentary ability to speak it. Hoping to avoid exploitation of his special savant sea creatures, he shuns any press and avoids the in-depth inquiries from the Bland Foundation, who is funding his work. But when a seedy reporter named Curtis Mahoney threatens to blow the cover off the experiments, Terrell feels he has no choice but to bring Fa, and his female companion Be, out into the open. The revelation of the mammals’ special skill only makes matters worse, since it turns out that a shadow organization within the government has planted a spy in Terrell’s own staff.


As Fa and Be are being prepared for introduction to the world, they inadvertently become part of a conspiracy to use trained dolphins as assassins. It’s up to Terrrell and his remaining loyal staff, along with an unsuspected ally, to save the salt water sophisticates and prevent the porpoise murder of the President. And without a Jackal in sight, international terrorism has obviously entered a new era. Step aside all you candidates from Manchuria, it’s time for The Day of the Dolphin.


At the time, there was probably no perceived writing/directing team hotter than Mike Nichols and Buck Henry. Their prior two films together (The Graduate and Catch-22) had been embraced as counter culture calling cards, reel responses to bourgeoisie society and the war in Vietnam, respectively. Nichols alone was a wunderkind, having created such additional cinematic benchmarks as the acting triumphs Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Carnal Knowledge. So when Joseph E. Levine came looking to enforce his contract with Nichols (he was required to do one more movie for the producer), the young filmmaker approached his old friend about doing something completely different, something the two had never tried before. And then they went and made this movie instead. Part science fiction, part political thriller, with some ‘Earth First’ environmentalism thrown in for good measure, The Day of the Dolphin became a highly anticipated collaboration between the creative team.


It also complemented the early ‘70s fascination with the future, technology, earth, and the supposedly intelligent sea mammal species. It was considered quite topical, as it was based on an immensely popular bestseller that capitalized on the current craze for studies of dolphin and porpoise behavior. Scientists were, at the time, making advances in the very subject area, both pro (language) and con (mine recovery) the movie addressed. Add the notorious box office sideshow of George C. Scott and his young trophy wife Trish “Who’s Linda McCartney” Van Devere, and it seemed that a can’t-miss combination of talent and material had been discovered. There was no way it could fail. But remember, this is also what Franz Liebkind and Roger De Bris thought about Springtime for Hitler.


Seen in the far more sophisticated light of this new millennium’s mega-technical binary computer complicatedness, this simple underwater weirdness has definitely lost a lot of its sea legs. By today’s standards, The Day of the Dolphin is a goofy premise, made even goofier by the eventual thriller plot and, in the frenzied final moments, is rendered totally and completely into one of the goofiest movies ever made. But this is meant in a good way. Sort of. Like Darwin in SeaQuest DSV or the cyberpunk sea creature in Johnny Mnemonic, the inherent intelligence of the faux Flippers here becomes part of a campy car crash that, while not an all out disaster, plays more like a nonsensical National Geographic Special with ornery Oscar winners.


It’s hard to pinpoint just what does this movie in. Perhaps it’s the notion of the rather barrel-chested and city-slicked C. Scott donning a wet suit and doing the dead man’s float with his creature cast members while he channels Patton’s more “feminine” side. Or how about the substantial lack of lines for any other member of the cast, save for the scene-stealing slimeball Paul Sorvino as the single greasiest black ops agent in the covert government of America. Maybe the rest of the cast was as seemingly pissed as Fritz Weaver, all watching as the blow-holed, fish eating egomaniacs hogged all the single syllabled dialogue? (F.W. would get his revenge though. He went on to act alongside a megalomaniac motherboard in the computer bore Satan’s spawn silliness from 1977 called Demon Seed). Or possibly it was too many days in the tropics, allowing the baking and stroking rays of the Bermuda sun to confuse an otherwise sound and gifted filmmaker and his cinematic choices. Whatever it was, it turned his cautionary tale about tampering in God’s aquatic domain into Hooked on Phonics with Fa and Be.


And yet the movie somehow manages to squeak out an overall entertaining evening at the motion picture aquarium. Nichols has always been a uniquely skilled visual director, and his gorgeous tropical tableaus are wonderful. He does frame the majority of the film in medium two shots, as if to distance his audience from much of the laughable lunacy going on. But that’s only because there’s a lot to loll your head holes over in The Day of the Dolphin. When Georgie C. forces Fa to speak English and request a repast with his Caribbean Queen Be, he initiates the first interspecies booty call, compelling the horny mammal to mouth “Pa. Fa. Want. Be. Now.” Hell, these precognizant porpoises even get all freaked out when some suit suggests there’s a shark in their personal pool (anticipating the reaction to Steven Spielberg’s Jaws by a full two years). There are many scenes of Scottie in short pants, and musical montages of dolphins attempting the Venus Butterfly. By the time we get to the plot to eliminate the President (which comes so completely out of left field you expect Ted Williams to appear chasing after it), we are ready for anything.


But nothing can quite prepare us for the final moments of the movie where the fraught Fa tries to get his portly “Pa” to look back at him, just once more for one last father/fish fin wave. Indeed, the star speak-and-say sea creatures here give better performances than many of their land-lubbing counterparts. The Day of the Dolphin may long be remembered as the first chink in Nichol’s seemingly indestructible suit of creative armor, but all it really represents is a failed experiment in that most difficult of future shock filmmaking: the intelligent animal adventure.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Saturday, Feb 3, 2007


Kitty is an angry young woman who channels her aggression in less than helpful ways, usually against the more amoral members of Hong Kong society. When a horny hairdresser hits on her in front of his pregnant girlfriend, the vicious Kitten stabs him repeatedly in the groin with a rat-tailed comb. This gets the attention of Tom, a disgraced police officer recently back on the force after accidentally killing his own brother. The fizzled flatfoot falls instantly in lust with the wild woman, but she has other perverted fish to fry. When her father is killed by an adulterous letch, Kitty seeks revenge by breaking into his office building and killing several hundred people.


But her escape is not guaranteed, and just when it seems she will be caught, a haute couture hit woman named Sister Cindy helps her escape. Cindy offers to train the anti-social angel in the art of the professional assassin. Soon, the deadly duo are crisscrossing the globe, committing all manner of murders for hire. But when fellow female executioners Princess and her gal pal lover Baby (both former students of the glamorous Cindy) become adversaries to Kitty and Company, it sets up a tantalizing game of erotic catfight and mouse between the four fatal females with the troubled Tom caught in the middle. Who lives and who dies in this deadly world of honor, loyalty, and lesbianism will be determined by who is the most skilled, the slyest, and the most capable of being a cold blooded Naked Killer.


It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before, not even in your wildest, most freaked out girl-on-girl fantasy. Imagine taking a small bit of John Woo’s The Killer, adding a sprinkling of A Chinese Ghost Story, incorporating Daryl Hannah’s deadly gymnastic replicant from Blade Runner with some of the over the top cinematic style of Peter Jackson circa Dead Alive, and mixing with a heavy dose of erotic Asian lesbianism featuring some incredibly fine looking Chinese chicks who kick all kinds of ass, and you’ve got just a small idea of what the Naked Killer is all about. Except it’s much more than this. It’s a meditation on feminism and chauvinism. It’s a telling cultural commentary on the paternalistic nature of Hong Kong/Chinese society. It’s a take-back-the-night style empowerment statement about sexism and perversion.


But mostly, it’s a fantastic, unbelievably entertaining look at four vivacious kung fu killers, vigilantes of vice who are equal parts beauty and beast, uniformly capable of inflicting pleasure and pain with their deadly hands. Naked Killer uses stylized sets, unusual camera angles and lens, super model montage moments, and your typically brilliant quick-cut Asian action set pieces to create a world unto itself, a place where the police are bumbling incompetents, where fashion plate divas are highly skilled and trained terminators on the destruction prowl for the sexually sick and twisted, and where there is admiration and redemption amongst even the most vicious slayers. Naked Killer is like witnessing the creation of a new form of film language, one in which the cartoon, the carefully choreographed, and the cautionary tale are weaved into one wild, wacky, totally satisfying entertainment experience.


It’s hard to describe, in simple terms, why Naked Killer is so special. It’s like a decadent, deadly Pachinko game come to life. It’s a stylized girlie graphic novelization of psycho hot babe killers as channeled through and re-imagined by Quentin Tarantino. It’s violence made feminine and therefore, far more brutal and precise. With its hierarchy of anti-heroes and villains, we see the seductive and manipulative Sister Cindy sitting on top and playing the battling factions of the dominating Princess, the ersatz innocent Baby, and the femme fatalism of the cruel Kitty against each other until it becomes an entire Asian fetish magazine collection moving and murdering in the flesh. But this is not a film completely bathed in the nonsensical nudity of its cast; in reality, there is very little skin shown here. What we get instead is a sensual, shocking experience where the same sex overtones are far more spicy than any actual bed aerobics.


Indeed, the action scenes are much more passionate and provocative than any babe-on-babe ballyhoo could be. When Cindy and Kitty battle to escape a high rise building parking lot together, the deadly duo’s tag team reign of terror and destruction is far more erotic in its Sappho sisterhood than some softcore exchange of cheek pecks. Between the oversized firearms in Kitty’s “claws” and Cindy’s supersonic throwing daggers, the phallic weapons of man turn the tables on their testosterone fueled creators, helping the “weaker” sex beat and blast their brains out. Naked Killer is girl power gone gonzo, a geek’s wet dream doused with libido lightening messages about Chinese society’s misogyny.


Still, this isn’t all serious political grandstanding. Naked Killer acknowledges that nothing beats incredibly attractive Chinese women massaging and fondling each other, all in the name of honor and power. And the stars are all drop dead(ly) gorgeous. Wai Yu’s performance as Sister Cindy is a combination of socialite and scholar, teacher and terrorist. The fact that her fashion is as deadly as her fists is what makes her such a standout center to the film. Chingmy Yau’s Kitty is dangerously ditzy, the out of control novice who needs a few hard knocks to understand her own inner skills. As the sinister and seductive Princess, Carrie Ng combines menace with exotic mystery perfectly. And Madoka Sugawar as Baby personifies her name, looking childlike and cold-blooded at the same time.


As the sole male lead, Simon Yam as the befuddled cop Tom is also very good, but he does occasionally seem to be lost in a far more intense drama about personal blame and attempted redemption. He doesn’t seem able to capture the proper camp qualities that his cast mates can. Still, under Fok Yiu Leung’s masterful direction, with its eccentric perspectives and brilliant compositions (an overhead shot of Kitty and Cindy lounging is particularly memorable) everything comes together delightfully. Aside from all the gratuitous violence, kinky sex, and hidden sociological agendas, Naked Killer is first and foremost a fun filled rollercoaster ride with a great group of fetching female action stars. What more could you want from a movie?


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Saturday, Jan 27, 2007


It’s almost time for the big annual Chili Cook-off, and the citizens of Butte County are blissfully unaware of the evil all around. While performing top-secret experiments in his lab at DuTech, the evil Dr. Stern has stumbled upon some unstable DNA. When his assistant is exposed to it, she melts into a pile of radioactive poo. Hoping to cover his corn-flecked tracks, the insidious experimenter disposes of the genetic mess in the local sewer. As fate would have it, escaped serial killer and noted fecalphiliac Jack Schmitt is using the subterranean lemonade and fudge freeway to mastermind his escape.


Naturally, the authorities stop him and before you know it, Schmitt is covered in the bad Doc’s dirty doody water. He dissolves and mutates into an eight-foot-tall killer piece of crap that stalks unsuspecting victims while they’re on the throne. FBI Agent Hannigan, who first tracked Schmitt in his pre-feces days, is brought back on the case to crack this butt nugget nastiness once and for all. But she needs help, and all she has is a drunken, dejected sheriff, a couple of dunce-capped deputies, and an entomologist with a cat carrier filled with about a million flies. Will the foxy Fed and her collection of incompetent law enforcement fools be able to stop this BM beast before it stinks up the competition con carne? Or will the Monsturd be the last loaf standing?


Somewhere between genius and the juvenile lies Monsturd. It is either the most hilarious, well-intentioned horror spoof ever conceived, or the lamest one-joke jive ever unspooled onto celluloid. Your reaction to it will be based solely on how you respond to the following statement: A biochemical accident causes a serial killer to genetically meld with a sewer full of shit to become a gigantic fiend made of feces. Hijinks ensue. If, after digesting that description, you’re doubled over in laughter (or at least smiling and snickering), you’re going to absolutely love this film. If, however, you believe the idea is sophomoric, simple, and just plain stupid, you’ll probably find Monsturd another in a long line of dumb demonic drivel. And no one would blame you for approaching this movie apprehensively, like you would the restroom after your obese roommate has finished flushing out the last of his 7-11 burrito.


Films like Jack Frost (killer snowman), Killer Tongue (sinful oral appendage), and Killer Condom (‘nuff said) have pushed the envelope of terror ticklishness into the patently absurd, but Monsturd sets a brand new skidmark in fright flick tomfoolery. Showing a sense of style, a commitment to clever cinema and a brand of humor far more developed than your normal labor-of-love videodrome, this is one of the best, more entertainingly satirical monster movie massacres ever created. Like Mulva: Zombie Ass Kicker and some of Troma’s more “toxic” titles, Monsturd gets it all correct: atmosphere, references, and wickedly witty execution. It can occasionally lapse into retarded toilet humor, but what do you expect from a movie with an evil entity of excrement as its lead character?


No matter your predilection for the premise or the bad-taste tone, you have to admit that co-writers/co-directors/lead actors Rick Popko and Dan West (talk about your hyphenated multi-tasking power trio duo) have crafted one of the best looking, most professional-feeling no-budget homemade films ever. The two-year in the making ode to offal far exceeds the cinematic stylings of most independent films, and shows a buttload more imagination and fun. Gleaning inspiration from such diverse sources as Herschell Gordon Lewis, mainstream movies, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and Italian horror heavyweights Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci, this cornucopia of crapola is a blissful bowel movement of joyful dung jokes wrapped inside a brainy farce with hilarious characters.


Using a set-piece style that gives each actor a chance to shine, the highlights are absolutely hysterical. Such standout sequences as the hippie hand puppet interrogation, the overly dramatic domestic dispute over a filthy commode, and the stream of consciousness megaphone spiel from the cops deliver untold moments of solid gold giggling. And then there is poop. Everyone knows that turds are a laugh riot. Little kids enjoy playing with their own stool as a simple pastime. The Bear in the Big Blue House seemed pleased to address the potty training of those burdened by “booms.” Heck, any comic worth his weight in brick backdrops understands that Hershey squirts are the skills that pay the bills. And Monsturd ladles on the loads with septic tank-like regularity. After all, this is a movie about a killer doody. Poo is gonna fly, fling, and fight for its life. Folks are gonna meet their maker at the pinched loafs of a psychotic shite. Puns, metaphors, and similes are tossed at the audience in groan-inducing dog piles. And it’s all funny as hell.


But somehow, even with massive amounts of rump pudding soft-serve soaring around the screen (and onto actors and props and sets, etc.), the moviemaking manages to rise above the obvious bottom-rung classification to make “number two” Number One for fans of fright and funny. West and Popko are obvious pop culture junkies—you can count the numerous references they make to classic films, odd cult faves, and current comic creations. Between riffs on Blood Feast, Jaws, Alien, The Evil Dead, Se7en, Day of the Dead, Ghostbusters, and South Park (the guys’ own animated rip-off of the TV show is brilliant!), they manage to steal from a veritable Who’s Who of horror and monster movie icons to infuse their film with Simpsons-like irony. There are even hidden in-jokes and tossed off asides (pay close attention to the “Wanted” posters in the police station) to add a depth of demented vision to all the ca-ca craziness.


West and Popko are fine directors, able to keep the action moving while copycatting framing from their film favorites. The acting is also superb. Comedy is all about timing and tempo, and everyone here—from the directors themselves to Paul Weiner as the alcoholic sheriff Duncan and Beth West as the only fictional FBI agent that would make Scully seem sunny—is up to the challenge. With a dozen other professionals and non-performers (who stick out like a riotously funny bone) Monsturd gets to combine the best of all worlds to make a movie about bowel movements that is gross, yet great; charming, yet ready for a whole mountain of Charmin.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Saturday, Jan 20, 2007


The title alone should have horror film fans drooling in undeniable anticipation. It encapsulates almost everything about the genre that fright fiends love. Then, when you happen upon a synopsis of the plot, the schlock circuits inside your macabre mentality blast into overdrive. A superhero serial killer battling a mad scientist who wants to overthrow the planet by turning the populace into zombies? Where do I sign up? Well, the answer is imprinted all over Caleb Emerson’s motion picture madness. With his second feature film, Die You Zombie Bastards!, this Massachusetts moviemaker is out to recapture the glory days of bad b-movies, a canon covering the campy classics of the 1950s up and through the VHS variables of the ‘80s. And the results are ridiculous – and absolutely hilarious.


The story does indeed start out bizarre, and then gets even stranger. After decapitating a group of hunters in the woods, murderous madman Red Toole (a spectacular turn by actor Tim Gerstmar) goes home to his weird wife Violet. After a little corpse grinding of their own, she presents him with a present – a homemade hero kit, including a red suit, big yellow rubber boots, and a cape made out of human flesh. How thoughtful. Meanwhile, a trio of sex bomb scientists tries to locate the legendary Amphibious Guy, a sea creature noted for his unusual genital prowess.


Unfortunately, they instead run into newly exiled alien uberlord Baron Nefarious, and he turns the girls into zombies. It’s the skuzzy spaceman’s goal to conquer the world, using his living dead device to turn the entire planet into walking corpses. Once he sees Violet, the Baron decides to kidnap her as well. Lost without the love of his life, Red dons his outfit, takes to the streets, and slowly makes his way to the desperado’s island retreat. Along the way, he must battle horny Swedish sluts, consult a Jamaican jinn, and decipher the stunted English of rockabilly legend Hasil Adkins. If he does, he will defeat Nefarious and get his vivisection-loving Violet back.


Like The American Astronaut, Rock and Roll Space Patrol: Action is Go, or the bravura Bleak Future, Emerson is definitely functioning within his own idiosyncratic space, a self-helmed universe where evil alien villains live in overdone mountaintop hideouts, sexy scientists explore exotic locales for a well endowed creature from the hack lagoon, and mass murderers make love among various and sundry severed body parts. It’s a place where local legendary slashers don coconut masks, and Rastafarian sages spend their time divining fortunes from their bathtub. It is also a land of penises – lots and lots of penises. For some reason, Emerson is obsessed with the male member, giving us multiple examples of fake phallus to laugh/cringe over during the course of the film. Yet the movie never feels overly gratuitous or sleazy. Instead, all the scatology is presented like a series of sketches in a Middle Schooler’s assignment notebook.


Such a spoof-a-riffic approach may bother some, especially those who hate for their favorite cinematic categories to get all tangled up and tacky. Yet Die You Zombie Bastards! is so expertly realized, so perfectly set within its own insular world that its not long before you forget all the movie type muck-ups and simply enjoy the entertainment being offered. Emerson is an expert deconstructionist, always finding the easiest way of taking the piss out of a situation. When our amiable anti-hero, the spree killer turned crime fighter Red Toole, speaks to the police, he puts on an air of thespian authority that’s so arch it’s richly insane. Similarly, when Nefarious goes on his rogue-mandated rants, he brings the kind of broad mannered mania that convinces us he really wants to rule the world. Since the actors clearly understand what Emerson is after, and share his peculiar view of how plot and personality are created, we witness a kind of cinematic symbiosis, a coming together of subject and approach that gets better and better as the movie motors along.


Indeed, Die You Zombie Bastards! never stops striving to bring something new to the terror title lampoon. When a Swedish bartender tells her story of Olaf, the nasty cheese demon who attacks young women with his breast wrecking fondue, the manner in which Emerson envisions the situation – first person POV shots, skinny imp arms stirring the lava-like fromage with insidious glee – sends us over the edge into pure dopey dada enjoyment. Similarly, the mandatory last act melee finds Red battling Nefarious while zombies take on robots, ninjas and some hilariously disobedient dog men. It’s a shame that more filmmakers don’t fill their films with as much imagination as this stellar satiric celebration. Granted, some of if can easily grow grating (the dominating dick jokes, in particular) and some may feel that, toward the end, Emerson repeats himself instead of striving for new narrative ground, but overall, we appreciate Die You Zombie Bastards! for what it aims for more than the targets it sporadically misses.


As stated before, it’s important to have actors who comprehend the crackpot conceits of the movie’s main motives. Without a cast ready to go along for the goofball ride, you end up with artistic elements battling at cross-purposes. Gertsmar does his utmost to fill out even the most ancillary role (he plays several here) and Geoff Mosher is masterful at capturing Nefarious’s clueless confusion. As Violet, the cannibal bride and loony lover of Red, Pippi Zornoza is far funnier when she’s not chewing up the scenery. In her initial scenes, she’s so over the top that we tend to dismiss her. But when Nefarious tries to taunt her during a pre-matrimony meal, the gal’s callous comeuppances are classic. Perhaps the most surprising turn is offered by ‘70s/‘80s porn idol Jamie Gillis. Mr. Meat Puppet plays Stavros, a kind of guardian angel/fairy oddfather for Red’s fantastic voyage. Instead of going for camp or cool, Gillis actually makes his supernatural sage a three dimensional entity, something we miss when fate steps in and turns things tragic.


But for many, the appearance of outsider rock god Hasil Adkins will be the butter on this terrific stack of puzzling pancakes. Old, doughy, and equiped with songs about such standard sonic facets as bacon and eggs (no…seriously), Adkins adds that dive bar David Lynch lunacy to the film, kind of like a rancid Roy Orbison with an entire back catalog of psychosis to draw from. His scenes one on one with Gertsmar are great, especially when you see the actor struggling to get the musical muse to make some sense. Like a detour into a visit with Satan’s personal songstylist, Adkins’ appearance is priceless – and even a little sad once we learn his unfortunate real life fate. It’s the final cherry on this silly sundae overloaded with luscious ice cream craziness and ribbons of fully f**ked up fudge.


Companies like Image should be proud of providing quality queerness like Die You Zombie Bastards!, especially when they give viewers a chance (via commentaries and featurettes) to learn a little about this kind of project’s production history. Once we witness the Herculean effort put in by Emerson, his company, and his more than happy to help crew, we see the signs that something special is about to be created. No one enjoys the process of independent filmmaking this much and doesn’t end up making a minor motion picture masterpiece. In this case, Caleb Emerson manages the full classic cult creation. While 2007 has barely begun, it is clear that, come 12 months from now, Die Your Zombie Bastards! will find its way onto some year end ‘best of’ list. Those who don’t cotton to this kind of lo-tech treat are missing something very extraordinary. More than surpassing its inferential moniker, this is definitely a movie to “die” for.



Image Entertainment’s‘s DVD version of Die You Zombie Bastards! was released on 16 January, 2007. For information on this title from Amazon.com, just click here


Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements
Win a 15-CD Pack of Brazilian Music CDs from Six Degrees Records! in PopMatters Contests on LockerDome

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.