Day of the Dead (1985)

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About:

A group of scientists and soldiers are holed up in a bunker in Florida after the country has been overtaken by zombies.  While the scientists desperately try to explain what has happened, the impatient military outfit assigned to protect them is eager to engage the undead.  Humanity’s last hope not only faces the hordes of flesh-eating zombies outside their combine, but must try to survive each as well.

Review:

This movie started out really cool.  From the get go it felt so dark and creepy and sinister.  These scientists fly their whirlybird to some Florida town looking for survivors of the zombie apocalypse, one of them desperately imploring through a megaphone: “HELLOOOO?”  Of course the only people who respond are the walking dead.  And not just random bodies in nondescript tatters.  There are brides, clowns, bicyclists; an entire city of human life captured at the moment of their deaths like some gruesome photo.

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We’re not gonna take it!

And then 45 minutes of nothing.  Like, nothing really at all.  The scientists bump heads with the group of military personnel until the end.  Apparently when the zombie outbreak occurred a team was hastily assembled and plopped into an underground keep with the goal of trying to discover what had happened to mankind and if there was any way to reverse the effects.  What follows for much of the movie is some douche bag army guy threatening the scientists that if they don’t come up with a miracle cure soon he’s going to go ahead and bring his outfit to the surface to try and fight off the millions of hungry undead.  It is unclear why the scientists don’t just let him go get eaten.

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Because, like, our compassion is what makes us human, maaan.  

The whole process of trying to diagnose the cause of the outbreak isn’t even a part of the picture.  An overly involved scientist is tearing into corpses and keeps a pet zombie, but all he’s really discovered is that once people turn into zombies they are like dogs, acting on instinct and conditioned to respond to certain stimuli.  Does the group use this information to conduct a mass zombie-training class?  No, the scientist gets greased and his theories never materialize into anything but filler.

Finally at the end one of the soldiers loses his marbles and decides to go out and open the doors for the undead.  There is no reason in this other than to advance the plot, for which I was grateful.  Once the zombies were back in the picture the movie is again highly entertaining, if only for the remaining 20 minutes.  The special effects are brilliant and entirely over the top.  It’s a shame they weren’t showcased throughout the entire length of the film.  I just wish I weren’t eating spaghetti when I watched it.

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Overall: Guinnes

Guinness for strength

Guinness for strength

I’ve run out of explosion gifs, so from now on I’m grading a movie by pairing it to a beer.

Guinness is that beer you grow up believing is the beer to end all beers. And then you get your grubby little underage hands on some and you’re like, “eh…that’s ok.” Actually, when you first try it you act like it actually is the greatest thing ever because you don’t want to look like a chump in front of your fellow pledges. In any case, at some point you switch to something with more of a taste and wonder what all the fuss was about.

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From Beyond (1986)

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About:

Dr. Edward Pretorius has invented a machine that stimulates the human pineal gland, allowing anyone within range the ability to see the horrifying inter-dimensional creatures existing around us at all times.  When Pretorius loses his head to one of the monsters his assistant, Dr. Crawford Tillinghast, is presumed to be his killer.  Only by restoring the machine, and potentially opening a rift into a sinister world, can he prove his innocence.

Review:

Jeffrey Combs, who played Herbert West in Re-Animator, reprises his role as a budding mad scientist, based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, experimenting with taboo and wholly sinister subject matter.  How type-cast can you get?  Indeed, From Beyond, released a year after Re-Animator, is the second effort from the trio of Combs, Director Stuart Gordon, and screenplay writer Dennis Paoli to adapt a Lovecraft tale into a feature length movie.  Combs plays Crawford Tillinghast, the assistant to a scientist, Dr. Pretorius, who has invented a machine that would allow a person to fully experience each of their 5 senses to the extreme, as well as awaken a 6th sense that had become dormant in humans.  Specifically, the Pretorius Resonator establishes a series of mathematically precise vibrations to stimulate the human pineal gland.  This hyper-sensitivity allows the pineal gland to act as sort of a third eye, making it possible for humans to see all the creatures that inhabit the interdimensional space around us at all times.  Got it?

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So this guy is standing behind you right now – you just can’t see him

Tillinghast is actually the less-nutty of the two, and after getting bitten in the face by an interdimensional eel, tries to warn his mentor of the dangers his Resonator poses.  But of course Pretorius isn’t going to listen to his little bitch of an assistant, so he cranks the machine up to full blast and, well, gets his head bitten of by some unseen otherworldly monster.

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It grows back…sort of

Ok so all that stuff above takes place before the title card.  So now we have Tillinghast in a mental hospital as the presumed schizophrenic killer of Pretorius, babbling on about interdimensional monsters running around biting off people’s heads.  Enter Barbara Crampton (also of Re-Animator fame) as Dr. Katherine McMichaels, the District Attorney’s appointed psychologist sent to determine the mental state of Tillinghast.  When she remains unconvinced of his schizophrenia, the DA releases him into her care and they return to the lab to recreate the experiment in hopes of proving his innocence.

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Also to have one crazy-ass slumber party!

This is right about where the climax of the movie came for me, the point at which I was most excited to be watching it and convinced it was going to be a good one.  Alas, as these films are wont to do, the whole thing began unraveling shortly thereafter.  Frequent readers (hi, Dad) know that my main bugaboo is glaring plot holes.  The little inconsistencies don’t bother me – if someone is wearing a blue shirt in one cut and a red one in the next, I really don’t mind that because it doesn’t detract from the actual story.  What drives me crazy and ultimately ruins a movie for me is when the story comes to a screeching halt because we are supposed to jump over a giant gap in logic and just accept it for what it is.  I can’t do that.  I will become disengaged in what is currently going on in the story because I am still so hung up on that thing that didn’t make any sense that happened thirty minutes ago.  From Beyond did not have one such egregious plot hole, but several.  I was practically squirming in my seat as soon as the opening credits finished up.

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Although to be fair several factors contributed to my squeamishness

My favorite character in the film is the policeman, Bubba, who had been sent to accompany Tillinghast and McMichaels for security.  When everyone hauls their gear into the Pretorious house, he casually brings along a giant fucking ninja sword.  This is a small detail – no one even mentions it.  So the whole movie I’m waiting for this thing to come into play, and it never does!  What a tease!

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Get back here, you tease!

Bubba is also the only voice of reason throughout this whole thing, so naturally he’s the first to die.  I had to watch his death scene a few times because it made zero sense and even now I have no idea what went down.  While Tillinghast and McMichaels are getting swarmed by interdimensional bugs, Bubba discovers that shining a flashlight on them makes the bugs disperse.  He then looks like he has an idea, probs involving the ninja sword, but accidentally drops the flashlight like a total bozo.  It lands in such a way that the beam is now focused on him, and the bugs swarm all over his body.  But wait, I thought they didn’t like the light?  Yea, well, now they do.  Deal with it.  By the time the bugs are done with him  he is reduced to a justifiably confused head atop a completely skeletonized body.


musical emphasis added by YouTube user ‘CannibalCuisine27’

Definitely coming from out of left field is the spare bedroom / sex dungeon in Dr. Pretorius’s house.  I guess this has something to do with the good doctor’s mortal quest to stimulate the senses.  In the movie they find this room full of whips and chains and gimp suits, as well as some video of Dr. P doing some real nefarious acts with an unknown mistress.  The characters keep coming back to this room just to, y’know, convene and shit.  Only after Tillinghast gets all his body hair ripped out by a laundry room monster and is passed out in the sex dungeon’s guest bed does Dr. McMichaels find him desirable enough to strap one of said gimpsuits onto herself and straddle him.  I wasn’t really sure what this had to do with anything, but we do get to see some extra beefy ass cheeks in the scene, so I let it slide.

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some serious USDA Prime beef

By the end of the movie these guys are just shooting for broke.  Tillinghast’s pineal gland becomes so stimulated that forehead balloons to Rihanna size, until finally the thing just pokes itself out of his head for some fresh air.

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Too…many…dick jokes!

Yea the weirdness doesn’t stop there.  For no reason whatsoever Tillinghast’s newly acute senses are giving him a craving for human brains.  His preferred method of dining, sucking it through a person’s eye socket like he’s taking down a jell-o shot, makes for some great cinematic special effects but unfortunately does nothing to save this movie from absolutely imploding.


as rendered by Trent Shy (@TrentShy)

Overall: 5

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This movie is not unlike an explosion – starts out exciting enough, but quickly subsides into a lingering sulfur stink.

After I saw this I had to read the story it was based on, just to see where these guys went wrong in transitioning it to the big screen.  Turns out Lovecraft’s story is only 4 fucking pages long! – meaning most of the shit in the movie was completely made up from scratch.  In the actual story Tillinghast is actually the evil genius, the he invites some skeptical friend over so he can simultaneously prove to him he was right all along and enact his revenge by feeding him to an ephemeral monster.  I guess that’s not surprising that everything bad about this movie didn’t actually come from the grandfather of horror stories.  Good thing he made Re-Animator much longer, otherwise Gordon and Paoli, left to fill in the gaps with their own imaginations, would have probably turned that into a total stinker as well.

 

Re-Animator (1985)

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About:
An ambitious medical student creates a serum which he believes can bring the dead back to life.  Disregarding warnings and threats from the faculty, he and his roommate set out to prove that death can be beaten.  But when their experiments go horribly wrong, their academic reputations are the least of their worries…

Review:
I hate to admit that the first time I tried to watch this movie I fell asleep during the opening credits.  My bad! Re-Animator was a great flick and well deserving of its cult status.  I think in order for these types of movies to be a success it is important they not take themselves too serious, which is something Re-Animator certainly does not do.  The gore is so abundant and over-the-top all you can do is laugh in between dry heaves.

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This guy knows what I’m talking about, lol!

The protagonist, young and ambitious medical student Herbert West, is a complete dick head for most of the movie before suddenly morphing into the beloved hero at the end.  He transfers into Miskatonic University after studying abroad and immediately starts shit with faculty member Carl Hill, accusing him of plagiarizing his work on brain death and teaching his students outdated theories.

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also a known dick to pencils

Turns out there is a reason the little bastard is so brash, and it’s because he’s invented a serum that, when injected into a corpse’s brain steam, will bring it back to life.  So far it’s worked on rabbits and cats, so it’ll probably work just as well on the stiffs down at the local morgue, right?

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I don’t see why not

West ropes his new roommate, Dan Cain, the darling of the Miskatonic med school, into helping him gain access to the morgue and test his neon goo.  Also brought into the fold is Megan Halsay, Cain’s hot fiancee and daughter of the school’s surly dean.  Dean Halsay is already not too keen on Cain banging out his daughter on the reg, so you can imagine he’s more than a little purturbed when he finds out he’s also bringing her along to poke and prod at dead bodies.

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Best date night EVER!

My favorite scene is when West tests his re-animation serum on Cain’s dead cat, Rufus.  In  a Pet Sematary homage, the cat comes back to life even more demonic than cats are normally.  The two chase it around with a croquet mallet and baseball bat until thy finally make it explode by throwing it really hard against the wall:

Fuck you, demon toupee!

I don’t want to give much more away, but I will whet your whistle by letting you know that what ensues is plenty of re-animated corpses bleeding from each and every one of their orifices, guts spilling out by the bucket-full, and a dismembered zombie head going to town on a great pair of damsel boobs.

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Baby, you’ve reanimated my heart ❤

Overall: 8
When it comes to zombies, I prefer rotting corpses brought back to life, as opposed to the ‘living dead’ model where people are turned after being infected by a virus.  Because the zombie genre seems to be chalk full of these latter types, Re-Animator struck a chord within my stone cold heart.  As mentioned, the gore for this movie is phenomenal; the make-up and special effects are top notch and the death scenes are really creative.  If you are looking for a good old fashioned splatter fest, you’ve found it in Re-Animator.