Blu-ray Review: The Grapes of Death (1978)

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dFJlhHCHere’s one for zombie completists – Jean Rollin’s The Grapes of Death aka Les Raisins de la Mort, so much better at being a zombie movie than his actual zombie movie Zombie Lake (reviewed here). Some bad, bad grapes are producing some bad, bad wine, making anyone who drinks it into a rapidly-decaying murderous psychopath. Elisabeth (Marie-Georges Pascal) gets on the wrong train at the wrong time and finds herself stranded in the French countryside, defending herself against wine-crazed villagers. It’s simple, and for Jean Rollin, certainly more on the accessible side than many of his dreamy, sexed-up, cheapie chillers.

I can’t help but think it has some subtext too, just going off of French stereotypes as a people obsessed with wine. I don’t know how regularly Rollin drank, but a strong case could be made that The Grapes of Death has a message about how drinking to excess transforms us into monsters. In a country where table wine is as ubiquitous as water, The Grapes of Death may have had more meaning and weight than its lurid monster movie approach would suggest. As an American, I can only guess at it, without providing any deeper thoughts than, “Huh. That’s interesting.”

Blu-ray review: ‘White Zombie’ (1932)

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I assume that anyone reading a White Zombie Blu-ray review in 2013 is asking themselves one question, whether they’ve seen the film or not, “is White Zombie worth owning on Blu-ray?” The scrappy film has survived the ages through public domain proliferation and for providing the name for the band that made Rob Zombie famous. It has almost never looked or sounded good in the years since its release, so the job falls to Kino Classics to make White Zombie a relevant purchase when you could just as easily nab a crappy DVD version for a few bucks or stream it on YouTube for free.

The Chronicles of Horror Movie Night: ‘Dead Dudes in the House’ (1991)

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After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas and Chicago. Horror’s Not Dead’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!

Awesome New Kids on the Block-esque VHS Cover
This week our HMN feature had some build up based solely on the title. Once we began to watch, though, you could hear the sighs in surround sound. The second that opening Troma title card popped up it brought most watchers’ spirits down. Sometimes with this company, it’s a total crapshoot. They will release pretty much anything, and this goes for the stuff they film in-house as well. Still we remained hopeful and were treated to a fairly decent, but kind of boring, zombie tale with Dead Dudes in the House.

Late To The Party: ‘Dead Alive’ (aka ‘Braindead’)

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“I kick ass for the lord!” says the kung-fu master priest in Peter Jackson’s crazy ass film Dead Alive. With dialogue like that what could go wrong? In the case of Dead Alive, nothing. This film is pure pleasure and I had an absolute riot.

I have a theory that horror and comedy share a lot of similarities. My wife stares at me strangely as I laugh when someone is impaled by a kitchen implement, run over by a piece of farming machinery, or blown up in a meaty explosion. These are elements that make watching horror films fun. Dead Alive possesses many of these “quality” moments. With a proper blend of horror, action and comedy Dead Alive is a tasty jambalaya of a horror film.

Dead Alive (formerly known as Braindead) tells the story of a search for the infamous Sumatran rat-monkey. The rat monkey, a legendary creature, thought to be the result of the breeding between tree monkeys and plague rats, inhabits Skull Island, where our adventure begins. The rat-monkey is eventually located and captured, at which time it proceeds to attack the leader of the expedition. After being attacked, the expedition leader receives a rather interesting treatment for the wound (you’ll have to see it to believe it). The rat-monkey is then taken to a zoo located in 1950s Wellington New Zealand.

The Chronicles of Horror Movie Night: Death House (1987)

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After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas and Chicago. Horror’s Not Dead’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!

VHS cover for Death House

I’ll go ahead and get this out of the way – I love John Saxon.

There, I said it and it felt good. Though this isn’t really a secret because I talk about it quite a bit. Probably more than I should. When he accepted my friend request on Facebook I’m pretty sure there was squealing like a little girl on my end. Most probably know the man from his roles in films like Enter the Dragon or A Nightmare on Elm Street, but I’m far more interested in his work in Italian horror films and the seminal holiday slasher Black Christmas. I find something absolutely great about this man and cannot get enough of seeing him onscreen.

When another BYE week came up for Horror Movie Night I decided to pull out the film I’d been waiting to see for a while now. Saxon has one sole directorial credit to his name and it’s a horror film! Not only that, but a zombie film! Death House, or Zombie Death House as some may know it, is pretty much a typical late 80s horror flick rife with all the problems that stigma might entail but with plenty of cool moments and, of course, your daily dose of Saxon!

AMERICAN ZOMBIE Review. [Netflix Watch Instantly]

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Directed by Grace Lee, 2007
Written by Grace Lee, Rebecca Sonnenshine

Mockumentaries as anything other than comedy are damn near impossible to get right. A self-serious mockumentary, as with a horror movie without scares, is a recipe for disaster. Alas, AMERICAN ZOMBIE avoids failure on an epic level (something another recent zombiementary, THE ZOMBIE DIARIES cannot claim), but it is too worried about appearing realistic and legitimate to actually entertain. One of most appealing aspects of documentaries is experiencing that which would be unbelievable if it wasn’t true. If a “documentary” is inherently fictional and it doesn’t appeal on a visceral level, the question is begged: What is the point?

I think the “point” is that it’s easier to make a mockumentary than a traditional narrative film. Or at least it’s easier to make it professional-looking. And that is certainly one of AMERICAN ZOMBIE’S strong suits – it looks and sounds like a real documentary. The acting is solid, the cinematography is very documentary-like, and the zombie-infected world it creates is relatively believable. As a genuine documentary it may have been informative and enlightening. As a mockumentary it’s completely and utterly boring.

Cruelest Schwag Ever? Capcom Teases Internet With Zombie Shirt.

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As picked up on, Joystiq put up some pictures of the Coolest. Shirt. Ever.  A shirt so cool, chances are you’ll not only never own one, but you’ll never see one.  That’s just mean.

Unless you’re going to the San Diego Comic Con that is, in which case you can just stop by Capcom’s booth and take part in their RESIDENT EVIL: THE DARKSIDE CHRONICLES promotion where they’ll be giving a free shirt to anyone who plays a round of the Wii game in co-op.  How insufferable.

In case you can’t tell from the picture, the shirt in question is of relatively inconspicuous design until you flip it over your head, at which point you’re instantly turned into a member of the T-virus’ horde (or whatever letter virus that series is up to these days).  Yeah, you’d kinda look like a moron doing so, but, hey, I’m just waiting for a flash mob of people wearing the shirt to start dancing to Thriller.


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Directed by Tommy Wirkola, 2009
Written by Tommy Wirkola, Stig Frode Henriksen

DEAD SNOW could have been great.  DEAD SNOW should have been great.  Sadly all the couldas and the shouldas and the good intentions don’t change the final product.

Half of it is a good horror, the other half plagued by pesky things like script and acting and direction and, well, anything involved in putting together a motion picture.  Jump into the Nazi zombie slayings at DEAD SNOW’s mid point and you’ll have a blast.  Watching it in full spoils the experience with groans and eye rolls and half-bored off-screen glances.

I’m no sour puss.  I like my fair share of mindless entertainment, I don’t think I need to flash any credentials in that regard, and I’m not expecting SCHNIDLER’S LIST,  but when you go as bare bones concept as teens at snow lodge versus zombies, I require a little more than zombie’s tackling people in the snow for forty minutes.  The last act makes up for this dearth, however, kicking off with a commendable head splitting gag and rolling through with a few dismemberments and one fantastic throat prosthetic.  It’s not enough to distract from how flatline mediocre the rest of the picture is, though.  I am not a gore hound.  I need more than a few solid bits of ingenuity on a budget to satisfy.

Maybe I’m just becoming jaded.  Loving a movie about Nazi zombies should be a default for a horror fan, right?  The problem with DEAD SNOW is that the undead chompers in question might as well not even be Nazis.  The only thing that defines them as soldiers of the Third Reich are their uniforms and a super lame origin story told by the cliched local who warns them thar city folk (yep, they have a bumpkin equivalent even in the snow caps of Norway) of the legend of the gold greedy Nazis.  That last bit sets up the plot, which (as RJ Sayer pointed out) is an almost identical convention to GARFIELD’S HALLOWEEN ADVENTURE, just swap out ghost pirates looking for gold with Nazi zombies looking for gold and a fat cat for some dumb coeds.  Wirkola and Henriksen’s script doesn’t even have the heart to build a revenge story a la Carpenter’s THE FOG.  Nope, just Nazis who want some gold.  Fascinating.

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