Each week, Halloween Horror Marathon does some themed posts. We sleep in on Sundays, then watch a zombie flick. We call it Resurrection Sundays. This week, we look at the compilation film Zombiethon What are the best parts of any horror film, for any teenager? The violence and the nudity. Here's a Wizard Video collection that functions as a highlight reel of any number of classic zombie flicks from the '70s and '80s. The films themselves, if you've actually seen them, are almost universally terrible. With the exception of Fulci's Zombie, all the movies presented here benefit greatly from being truncated and edited. Oasis of the Zombies actually seems interesting and fun (it is not), for example. I mean, if you reduce the absurdity of The Invisible Dead to a collection of scenes with naked Caroline Munro, it's obviously going to be something more intriguing than it actually is. The best part of the edited / reduced films is the way A Virgin Among the Living Dead is, essentially, just the added footage Jean Rollin shot for the film's re-release in 1981, meaning that this is literally nothing like the original picture in any way, shape, or form. It all peters out at the end, with quite a short blasts from the oldest film here, Astro-Zombies. The flick's charmingly awful, but after a solid hour of breasts and blood, the cheesy cheapness of this "classic" feels anticlimactic. The interstitial wrap-around bits are quite fun, pretty funny, and even (in the case of the first one) shot fairly well. You could easily pull these bits and make your own highlight reel -- perhaps with stronger films. I'd love to see 10-minute cuts of Bud the Chud and Return of the Living Dead mixed up with Mutant and Messiah Evil. This is considerably more good-natured than the other Wizard compilation, Filmgore. Even the inclusion of wrap-around segments from Elvira can't keep that from seeming just a little bit nasty. This, though, is basically a perfect thing to throw on in the background of your Halloween party. Throw on some creepy film scores or funky disco -- either way, you can delight in the nakeys and zombies. You can snag this from Full Moon Features as a three-pack that also features Filmgore and Savage Island. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kVyEqHtS1s[/embed]
Each week, Halloween Horror Marathon does some themed posts. We sleep in on Sundays, then watch a zombie flick. We call it Resurrection Sundays. The Dead Next Door has always been one of those zombie movies which popped up on lists of lesser-known cult flicks, but never really ever came up as a best-ever. When I watched it the first time, it obviously didn't make much of an impression, because I couldn't remember much before this viewing other than "I know I've seen The Dead Next Door before." Within five minutes, it all came rushing back, and I remembered that this is what I want every zombie action movie to be! It's late '80s vintage, but this scrappy little Ohio movie readily predicted quite a bit of the modern zombie Rennaissance. There are elements of The Walking Dead (except it's not boring), World War Z (book, not movie), and lifts from the finest pieces of Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. I really hope the cult leader's look is supposed to be a Deathdream homage, too. The Dead Next Door is b-movie sci-fi horror all the way through. There's a level of science that seeks to cure the zombies, or allow them to speak, but never actually goes so far as to actually explain any part of the contagion. In addition to being a delightfully weird zombie flick, it works as an action movie, too. Think 28 Days Later -- but fun, instead of nihilistic killjoy boring. Once you learn that Sam Raimi worked as a secret producer, The Dead Next Door's tone makes a lot more sense. The tone's not quite splatstick, because rarely is there a wink or nod to the camera. It's played fairly straight, but then again, every bit of dialogue being looped in post helps keep it from being something you'd take too terribly seriously. Still: it's got a sense of internal logic, there's a definite scruffy style to the whole affair, and it's not just a mish-mash amalgamation of disparate pieces. It's a ridiculous movie, yes -- much like Night of the Creeps, characters are named after famous horror directors -- but it's way more entertaining than most films at ten times the budget. It kind of peters out at the end, but I enjoyed the hell out of myself, and given the enthusiastic devotion to the bizarre plot, you'd think this would be way higher on the list of must-see zombie flicks. It looks like Tempe Video will release a definitive Blu-ray / DVD combo later this month, which also includes the soundtrack on CD. They still have a few copies of the 2005 DVD release, as well. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRpPDGHeFqs[/embed]
Alain Silver and James Ursini's new tome, The Zombie Film: From White Zombie to World War Z, is out now from Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, and despite some flaws, it's worth grabbing, especially for those newly interested in the genre, although longtime horror buffs can find a few new grains of information. The Zombie Film essentially waffles between seriously in-depth analysis and what seems like a galloping rush to include as much material as possible. While Silver and Ursini should get a huge pat on the back for organizing the book into chronological and locale-specific chapters, rather than just churning out an A-Z list of reviews and summaries, few films get near the analysis they deserve. Granted, that's excepted by films covered in sidebars -- Kiss Daddy Goodbye, for instance -- and George Romero gets an entire chapter devoted to his films. However, it seems that the authors' focus is on completeness, with an emphasis on introduction. The films which don't receive their own chapters or sidebars are covered in more thorough detail when they're less well-known. That approach is a very logical and entertaining approach -- I've seen Return of the Living Dead dozens of times, but Night of the Seagulls was completely unknown to me. As an aside, I watched it a couple of days ago, and I was thoroughly entertained by the film, which completely redeemed the Blind Dead films after the very awful Ghost Galleon. [embed]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KVtx-mki6I[/embed] A big hole in the book is that there's no discussion of the two very different kinds of zombies which we've seen over the last eight decades -- the living dead vs. victims of some virus. The Zombie Film would seemingly be the perfect place to do it, yet they instead have a ridiculous sidebar like Linda Brookover's "Top Ten Reasons Why I Hate Zombies" taking up several pages. However, creatures which exist in the between, defying direct categorization provide ample opportunity for discussion of differing tropes. Jennifer's Body or I Am Legend both provide beings which exists somewhere between zombie and vampire, and John Edgar Browning's sidebar, "Of Beginnings and Bloodlines", explores these differences while making the very accurate and clever observation that Matheson's "I Am Legend" introduced the concept of zombies, plural, a major factor in genre development. If you can get past the the fact that there are a few grievous spelling errors, and grammatical issues like periods for commas, along with the slightly superficial gloss that covers half the book, you should be fine. It is a trifle irritating that Silver and Ursini not only cover certain films very briefly, but also avoid offering any sort of opinion. Opinion is usually only offered if a film is particularly bad, and even that's reserved for acting more than anything else, with "wooden" being the particular descriptor of choice. The Zombie Film is available now, and you can buy it direct from Hal Leonard Books.