Archive for May, 2012

A Little Bit Zombie (Who brings hooker boots to a weekend at the cottage?)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , , , , , , on May 24, 2012 by splatterpictures

Horror and comedy is a tricky formula to get right, many times there can be too much of one and not enough of the other. Recently I was able to check out the Ottawa premier of A Little Bit Zombie, a slickly written and well produced little-big Indie-horror, home grown (well my home) in Canada.

The film was directed by Thunder Bay, ON native Casey Walker, and brought to us by Cave Panting Pictures and the producers list is as long as my arm because the film was crowd funded which explained to me how it looks so good and managed to snag fantastic actors.

The story is about a soon-to-be-married couple named Steve (Kristopher Turner) and Tina (Crystal Lowe) Tina is the typical perky but overbearing control freak that is dreaming of the perfect wedding while Steve is the mild mannered HR representative that is just looking forward to a quiet and stable life. They head on up to a weekend vacation at the cottage with Steve’s sister (Kristen Hager) and her husband Craig (played by a very buff looking Shawn Roberts). Unknown to the foursome is that a short distance away two professional Zombie hunters, Max and Penelope (Stephen McHattie and Emilie Ullerup respectively), are taking down a small outbreak while one of the undead are bitten by a mosquito. The insect becomes infected and makes its way to the cottage that everyone is vacationing at.

Steve gets bitten by said insect and slowly starts to become infected. He retains his memories and personality, but starts to grow pale and lose the feeling in his body. Of course there is the unfortunate fact that he is unable to eat anything without projectile vomiting. With the hunters hot on his trail and his wedding just a week away, Steve and his family try to cope with the reality that in order to stay sane he’ll have to consume the brains of living humans.

The writing in this film is fantastic. Dialogue comes at you fast with several jokes firing off at once with a lot of added physical comedy. All of the actors play their parts well and it was a special treat to watch Stephen McHattie play out the grizzled zombie killer. Crystal Lowe also steals every scene she’s in as the bride to be trying to do right by her man. There is a scene where she tasers a potential victim and cheerfully remarks on how cute her pink stun gun which had me laughing pretty hard, but the best line comes out of Shawn Roberts: “Who brings hooker boots to a weekend at the cottage?”

I would say that on the horror versus comedy scale it’s leaning far more into the comedy area than anything else. The horror elements are there and, as a director, Casey Walker’s influences can be seen quite obviously (especially Evil Dead), but for the most part I would say the horror is pretty tame with nothing more or less grotesque than some of the mainstream comedies out these days. There are some great special effects though, and all in all, it was decent but I could have done with a bigger body count or a few more scenes with zombies.

A few story elements I found somewhat confusing. One of the hunters, for example, uses a seemingly magical orb to locate the undead but as far as I remember they don’t really go into any detail about where they got it or how it works. Emilie Ullerup’s character Penelope also seems to believe that Steve is somebody who could eventually find a cure for the zombie plague since he can resist the effects somewhat, yet they never really explain how he is able to. Also I couldn’t help notice that the plot had similar elements to that 90’s comedy My Boyfriends Back which was essentially about a fun-loving but zombie afflicted teenager who still retained his mental capacity. Now that I think about it, I might be the only one who remembers that dumb movie.

Walker said before his film started that this was his love letter to the Zombie genre and it’s apparent that he is a lover of the genre, but I would have to say this works far more as a comedy than it does a horror. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does go to show how precarious a balancing act horror-comedies are. Without the solid group of actors carrying this film it would have probably ended up being fairly forgettable with too much comedy and not enough gore.  I say check it out when it hits DVD shelves this August

“So, what is that exactly?” “Zombie tracker-orb-thing-plot device. Don’t question it!”

Under the Scares (No business like Indie-horror Showbusiness)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , on May 14, 2012 by splatterpictures

Documentaries have a unique position with me in that I can find myself getting interested in just about any subject if I happen to catch a decent doc about it. That being said Documentaries about horror are a particular favourite of mine. The best ones are usually a labour of love that hopes to showcase and educate its audience but Under the Scares seems to go a step further and tries to serve as a list of do’s and don’ts for anyone looking to break in to horror.

The Documentary was directed by Steve Villeneuve and told through the perspective of the good folks at Digger films who are trying to get their very independent movie Stories of a Gravedigger made and distributed.

It could have easily been kept as a personal tale about a few young filmmakers trying to make a movie but that only serves as a framework for the entire picture. Throughout every step they take into completing their film there are intriguing interviews from people all over the industry really providing the substance.

Everything to proper planning, a good relationship between filmmakers and actors and even box art are touched on. Really this entire endeavour seems destined for film schools or anyone looking to break into indie horror.

As I said before there are a tonne of people who contributed to this doc, George Romero, Lloyd Kaufman, Herschell Gordon Lewis and Sv Bell are just some of the people who not only have made names for themselves in horror but got their starts on shoe-string budget movies.

All of them and many more actors, FX artist and the other main stays of horror that are interviewed have stories of triumph and defeat when trying to push their films out the door and it seemed almost therapeutic to some of them to vent their frustrations of the common mistakes they see from what is now becoming an oversaturated market of Indie horror that has come on the toes of the digital age.

Not only are the technical aspects discussed but also making sure by the end of it you can try to build a career. Under the Scares reveals an interesting world where distributors can hand pick what films they decide to promote and how much they would see for it. For many moviemakers it means getting next to nothing with little chance of ever building a career beyond that initial movie no matter how much money it could potentially make. There is a big message of self promotion and networking with a emphasis on making sure you are making good deals.

Some of the most interesting advice coming from Hershall Gordon Lewis wasn’t really about breaking into notoriety with his splatterfilm Blood Feast but rather how to promote yourself and get that good deal where you’ll actually see the kind of money you were promised.

There really is no pretty picture painted at all. They portray making these Indie films as truly hard work that will more than likely leave them penniless; which begs the question of why would anyone even want to consider doing it in the first place. The simple answer is passion for the genre and filmmaking in general and that is the overall message I think you can take away from it.

The number one quality I judge any documentary no matter the subject matter is the sincerity in which it was done. Steve Villenenuve and everyone at Diggerfilms have made something truly sincere here. Not only does it show a casual audience just what it takes for that crazy horror dvd to finally make it to your hands but it’s also a can’t miss educational tool for anyone interested in making film. Check it out.


Virgin Witch (She likes Birds!)

Posted in Updates on May 7, 2012 by splatterpictures

 I hope you like nudity and an absence of plot. When I was getting ready to watch Virgin Witch I had an idea of what I was in store for based solely on the films reputation as a throw away exploitation film.

Released very limitedly in 1971 and then given a wider release in 1972 Virgin Witch was something that was attempting to make a quick buck off of the occult and the figures of their actresses. The actresses primarily being Vicki Michelle and her sister Ann Michelle both of whom amusingly like to deny the films existence. The movie was directed by Ray Austin who was also responsible for House of the Living Dead, that would be the 1973 version mind you, the one that has nothing to do with the living dead and in my opinion is actually worse than this.

Okay so the plot is that two young ladies are looking for work. Of course they are warned beforehand about the evils of getting into modelling and how it’s just a ploy to lure pretty girls into taking off their clothes with promises of fame and fortune.

Initially both girls’ agree that modeling is a bad idea but for some reason Christine (Ann Michelle) is drawn to it after reading a job offer that was seeking out models. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be a magic spell, or Christine has magic, but they do this big close up on her eyes and flash the shot with images of famed modelling agent Sybil Waite (Patricia Haines). They meet and it’s fairly obvious Sybil is a lesbian and very much interested in Christina. Sybil sets up a fake photo shoot and takes her and her sister (for moral support)

This is pretty much where I would assume the horror elements would come in to play. We got naive girls, we got a secluded spot and we got an…apparent plot by a group of witches to initiate virgins into their cult. But no, all this goes on without a single jump, scare or creepy moment. Sure there are a few oddball situations that involve random people coming up the mansion and not speaking. Seriously that’s all they do. They creep on Betty and she runs around lamely until she falls over. I couldn’t help notice that a lot of the guys in this movie didn’t seem to button up their shirts either.

The oddest thing of all is that aside from everyone wanting to have sex with the girls, and the initiation just being about them losing their virginity there is nothing sinister going on. The big twist that I’m going to tell you is that Christine herself is the evil one. She spends the movie just manipulating everyone around her as she tries desperately to learn the dark secrets of witchcraft and eventually try to become high priestess of the cult itself. This really comes out of nowhere and I was scratching my head trying to figure out how it was supposed to make sense.

A positive thing I will say about the film is I actually liked the look of it. Everything just had that classic 70s vibe to it, which isn’t really saying much since it was the decade that the film was made but still I enjoyed that aspect of it. A good scene that does a lot to really set the mood of the era is a small musical number set in a jazzy club where the song “You go your way” is preformed. Of course it has nothing to do with anything but a catchy tune nonetheless.

Like I said before there is a lot of nudity but not really a lot of sex and the sex that does happen is creepy and not “Oh this is a horror movie that’s so creepy” more like “Ew, this is creepy”.  I don’t mind that sort of thing and it’s not really a knock against the movie at all. Actually thinking about it right now I doubt I would be able to pay attention to it for the short 88 minute runtime if not for the fact that I was distracted by boobs.

If you like Exploitation movies from the 70’s and you haven’t yet seen Virgin Witch I would say give it a go but if you’re the type that is looking for something to terrify you or fascinate you with a deep story I say keep moving, nothing to see here.

“That’s right ladies to obtain ultimate enlightenment you need only have sex with me. I’m a doctor.”