Archive for the ‘zombies’ Tag

I Walked With a Zombie (1943)   1 comment

zombie poster2

“Everything good dies here, even the stars.”
-Paul “Cheery” Holland (Tom Conway)

Betsy Connell (Frances Dee), a Canadian nurse, takes a position caring for the wife of a wealthy plantation owner in the West Indies.  The land owner, Paul Holland (Tom Conway), a dark, brooding soul, wants the best for his wife.  He feels guilty because he wouldn’t let her leave him for his stepbrother, Wesley Rand (James Ellison) and now she’s kind of out of it.  Jessica Holland (Christine Gordon) walks around the island in a trance wearing a diaphanous white gown.  It seems she came down with a fever which settled in her spinal column and turned her into a zombie.  Sounds logical.

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“Take a left at the hanging goat.”

Since Jessica has no mobility problems, I wonder if the spinal column she’s using is a spare she keeps around for emergencies.  Anyway, Betsy adapts quickly and soon she’s solving everyone’s problems and falling in love with the host.

love
“This guy’s as suave as Dean Stockwell.”

Adapted by Curtis Siodmak and Ardel Wray from Inez Wallace’s story and Charlotte Brontë’s book, I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE watches like JANE EYRE GOES TO THE TROPICS, but with sugar cane instead of fox hunts.  Dee plays the altruistic martyr, Jane Eyre.  Conway is the dashing, yet damaged Rochester, and Gordon plays the unbalanced Mrs. Rochester.  In this case, Jessica/Mrs. Rochester goes mad, not by excess, but by the influence of voodoo and guilt.

jessica
You know, zombie spinal fever affects three out of five unfaithful wives.

Edith Barrett, who plays Paul and Wesley’s mother, Mrs. Rand in I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, is the faithful servant, Mrs. Fairfax.  In a cool movie twist, Barrett plays Mrs. Fairfax for real in Robert Stevenson’s JANE EYRE (also 1943) with Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine.  I love this kind of stuff.

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“Heathcliff!”
“No, no, you fool!  Wrong movie!”

Director, Jacques Tourneur and producer Val Lewton do atmosphere like few others and the film abounds with moody staircases, rocky beaches, and billowy curtains.  Frenzied bongo-heavy religious ceremonies and scary walks through the cane fields add a nifty exotic tone and the acting is wonderful.  The leads work well together and Dee and Conway have a lovely romantic rapport.  The ensemble is good too.  Sir Lancelot has a nice part as a local calypso singer.  Veteran character actor James Bell plays Jessica’s doctor and Theresa Harris is Alma, the Holland family’s maid.  Harris has a nice part in this film.  She plays a servant, but not a cartoony or brainless one.  Alma speaks with an authentic, but not exaggerated accent and is a sensible person.  For a black actress in the 1940s, that’s a coup.  It may be unusual for movies of the 1940s, but it’s not for Lewton’s films.  Watch THE LEOPARD MAN or CAT PEOPLE and you’ll see non-white actors and women playing intelligent, multi-layered parts.  It’s refreshing.

theresa harris
Alma

I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE is classified as a horror film, but it’s more of a drama/thriller with zombies added for spice.  I like it.  A talented team of people both in front of and behind the camera make it a fun watch and the setting looks lovely in black and white.  It flies by, too.  The film packs a lot into its spare sixty-nine minutes.  Also, Tom Conway.  I love Tom Conway.  He’s so dashing, it hurts.

skullrock
This is the damnedest game of jacks.

 

 

 

 

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Deathgasm (2015)   Leave a comment

deathgasm poster

Brodie’s mom is out of town. Actually, she’s serving a stretch for a meth-induced sexual assault on a shopping mall Santa. His mom’s indiscretions force Brodie to live with his aunt and uncle who he describes as “balls deep into Jesus Christ”. It doesn’t go well.

Brodie (Milo Cawthorne), a self-described metal head, wears leather and studs and listens to Skullfist and Nunslaughter. He doesn’t fit into life in the boondock suburbs of New Zealand until he meets Giles, Dion, and Zakk. Together, the four outcasts form a band. When they find a piece of music that summons demons to earth, the teenagers and their friend Medina (Kimberley Crossman) have to battle their newly demonic neighbors to gain control of their town and send the evil beings back to hell.

Part Carrie, part Footloose, and part Shaun of the Dead on steroids, Deathgasm tells the story of a lonely outsider who decides impulsively to take revenge on all the people who’ve mistreated him by using satanic powers to wreak havoc on his town. You know, Tuesday.

Like the title character in Carrie, we get to know Brodie and we like him. He has tattoos and 8 Foot Sativa posters and he’s a bit of a smartass, but he’s a sweet guy. Listening to death metal takes him out of his sad existence.

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Brodie’s heavy metal daydreams.

Unfortunately, it also unleashes evil forces which threaten to end all life on earth. Love, loyalty, betrayal, and sacrifice all play parts in this story of high school angst and zombies.

Director Jason Lei Howden keeps the pace brisk and the extreme violence comical in his first full-length feature. You have to love a film in which the main character chainsaws his aunt, kills a half naked zombie with a weed wacker, and beats his uncle to death with a marital aid. I like that Brodie and Zakk (James Blake) weren’t all good or all bad and that Medina, though blond, had a brain. She could also handle an axe like a lumberjack.

medina

Medina takes no prisoners.

Deathgasm moves fast and doesn’t always go where you think it will. I cared about the kids and hoped they’d vanquish the newly demonic. The cast, who were all new to me, did a terrific job portraying misfits forced to save the world. The music fit perfectly and the broad slapstick humor worked. A few scenes stood out. After shooting a video for their new band, the eponymous Deathgasm, Brodie runs into his crush, Medina, who asks him to have an ice cream with her. Brodie and Medina sit on a park bench and enjoy their cones with Brodie in full heavy metal makeup. It’s funny and sweet. Another favorite scene has the math teacher, newly zombified, facing a pretty fresh-faced girl and vomiting blood on her for a reeeaaaallly long time. Disgusting, yes, but also funny.

Deathgasm is creative and funny. It tells a story of teen friendship and love set against a backdrop of heavy metal music and satanic undead killers. Brutal, man.

ice cream

Awww.

Psychomania or The Death Wheelers (1973)   Leave a comment

Psychomania_poster

What a bad film.

A gang of way too pretty British bikers called The Living Dead terrorize motorists and generally annoy people. They have so much fun at it, they decide to kill themselves so they can come back from the dead and act like fools forever. Sounds logical. Toads play a part somewhere though the movie never says how. People catch toads, wear toad rings and pendants and feed toads in a weird modern art terrarium.

Psychomania A
“Later, we’ll have toad-kebabs!”

The leader of The Living Dead, Tom Latham (Nicky Henson) lives with his mum (Beryl Reid) in an über modern mansion that looks like something out of A Clockwork Orange. He must be rich because his butler is George Sanders who looks bored and a bit drunk. Honestly, Sanders must have lost a bet. Anyway, the destructive and somewhat aimless bikers discover that if they die, they’ll come back to life so they can do more stupid crap. That seems fun so the thirty-year-old teenagers keep offing themselves and coming back to life.

grave
“Ready!”

Since they don’t do anything vastly different when they come back than they did before they died, I’m not quite sure why they bother and after 45 minutes of this I lost the will to live. I guess I was supposed to care if they lived or died, but the characters were so poorly drawn and the story so dull, I just wished it would end. Don Sharp directed this film also called The Death Wheelers. It’s not a tour de force, exactly. Mostly, the camera sits still as the bikers ride around and kill themselves off, which is fun. I did like that part. They also wear nifty motorcycle jackets and turtlenecks with funky, gigantic goggles. I’m not sure that’s enough to hang an entire film on though. As I said, it’s a bad film, but it can be a fun watch.

genius
“Please kill me.”- George Sanders

I’m still not clear on the whole toad thing, but no matter. Toads don’t figure enough in biker films these days.

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“Someone point me toward my bike. I can’t see a thing.”

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