Tales from the Rift: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 306 by A. Zombie
Before you mosey on, keep an eye out for pesky episode spoilers.
Reckless as always, Kelly allows her emotions to take the lead after she gets information from Brandy about where Ruby’s living during her long-term impersonation of a school counselor. Armed with a shotgun and the Kandarian dagger, Kelly barges into the middle of whatever the heck is going on in Ruby’s attic. The fight should be decidedly one-sided, but they’ve done a great job interspersing this scene throughout the episode and gave Kelly just enough weapons which do major damage to give her half a snowball’s chance in hell of hurting Ruby in any meaningful way. Unfortunately, Kelly being human is her ultimate downfall. The dagger she wants to use on Ruby goes into her stomach instead. At last Ruby has a body to offer to her sorceress friend stuck on the other side of the portal, Kaya. We all knew Kelly would go out fighting, but for it to be such an ill-advised fight isn’t as satisfying as it should be when we say goodbye to a hero.
We can’t talk about that fight scene without giving huge props to the special effects team for their work on Ruby’s post-grenade regeneration gag. The limbs are fully detailed. Their movement is bizarre yet mesmerizing. A lot of talent went into realizing that moment. It may be just one in a thousand bloody gags on this show, but it’s one that’ll stick in my mind for a while.
On the run from police after Ash fails to reveal Ruby’s demon spawn as the monster he is, Brandy and Ash hole up in the house to regroup. They’re not alone for long. More Knights of Sumeria wind up on El Jefe’s doorstep searching for answers. The best Ash can offer is a look at the long-lost Necronomicon pages and the notes the dead guy left at the hardware store. Driven by a vision, Pablo joins them later. Overwhelmed by his new powers, Pablo accidentally recites a ritual which opens a portal to the underworld. Because of course that’s one of the random things he inherited with his gift. The Knights are thrilled. Their plan has always been to take the fight to The Dark Ones on the other side. Erring on the side of caution, everyone agrees to send Marcus as a scout, first. It’s a rough round trip. The Marcus who returns isn’t the man they sent through the portal. He straight up absorbs other Knights, then spits acid. It’s a great creature design; new effects with the absorbing thing, but holding echoes of previous creatures Evil’s sent Ash’s way throughout the years with the boils and exaggerated limbs.
Pablo is coming along nicely as a hero in his own right, though he’s not going to get far if he keeps opening portals to hell all willy-nilly. During the fight with the mutated Knights, he doesn’t waste time jumping in to grab a weapon. Nor does he grandstand to take all the glory when he’s obviously out of his depth. This revived Pablo is the sidekick Ash needed the whole time. Can they keep on track with these new powers at their disposal? Hard to tell in this episode because while they’ve gained a powerful brujo, they’ve lost their ballsiest fighter.
The guys don’t know that though, so it’s business as usual when Ash returns home after defeating the newest monster and Kelly’s there waiting to hand him the dagger. I would not want to be the one to tell the guys their friend died in the most senseless way possible, but they need to get in the loop ASAP before Kaya puts Ruby’s plan into action and turns Brandy against Ash.
The brain shortage is what will eventually leave New Seattle too weak to protect its infected citizens from the world outside the wall demanding their demise. Fillmore-Graves can’t keep up with demand. On top of hungry mouths without any other option for nourishment, there’s countless brain tubes vanishing into the black market no matter how hard Chase pushes his people to plug the leak. It leaves them backed into a corner, and these guys are in full self-defense mode. The council strongly advises Chase to toss Mama Leone onto the guillotine without a trail. The weight of their failure to provide for the masses is foisted upon Mama Leone’s shoulders in the guise of blaming her for an overpopulation problem. To says she’s sentenced to death is an insult to the justice system. Fillmore-Graves uses the brain shortage to take out a political dissident as a message to anyone who’d disobey them. When it comes to the execution itself, I’ve never seen such a moving scene on this show. Credit to the actors for leaning into it hard and not flinching at the message. This is one of those rare scenes which leaves a lump in your throat. It sets a new tone for iZombie.
Murdering one woman won’t fix the fallout from hungry zombies continuing to live as humans do without nearly enough food to perform the same amount of employer-demanded labor. Judging from the zombie church’s congregation, most new zombies are now homeless and without support systems to aid them until things smooth out in Seattle. Those who are fortunate enough to retain their jobs and houses work themselves to the brink of exhaustion in order to keep the humans from attacking them. Malnutrition in a human saps strength, physically and mentally, making one’s moods unpredictable on top of being too tired to think about work, let along doing it. Compound that with a zombie’s biological needs and the rabid physical response to starvation, it’s not a pretty peek into the near-future. Peyton witnesses how the shortage effects the average citizen in a jarring sub story with a zombie bus driver whose family likewise have changed. The driver is reported by an angry mob for being dangerous behind the wheel at the beginning of the show. Peyton promises to get him more food, which he gives to his family instead. Later in the episode, Peyton finds one of the women from the complaint in custody at the police station and asks the officer with her what’s going on—malnutrition caused the driver to crash the bus. All the blood from wounded passengers sent him into a frenzy. The woman shot him, ending the rampage before it got out of hand. This incident is probably what pushes Chase to put Mama Leone to death harder than the constant nagging from his council.
Fillmore-Graves has much more than a brain shortage to worry about. Before her demise, Mama Leone drops some truth on Chase’s broad shoulders. His company has a PR problem. Right now, the world sees a new kind of people making demands for what some consider the most precious part of a person without giving anything in return. Pleas for brains isn’t what the world should think about when they consider New Seattle and their plight. They need to see the positive, how the undead can help mankind. Mama Leone helps sick humans because it makes her feel like she’s doing some good in the world. As far as just causes go, it’s a great one. Fillmore-Graves doesn’t feel there’s room for that kind of rhetoric in their city, however, and those who demand a scape goat get theirs in the end. Renegade may not be gone for good. Liv wants to take up the mantle after being there to witness Mama Leone’s final brave moments.
This week’s case gives Liv an in to Renegade’s operation thanks to hockey goon Geordie Shultz and his friend, New Seattle newbie Levon Patch. Geordie was one of Renegade’s people cut down during Blaine’s raid. Liv takes a trip back to bullheaded dude land, but this time it’s actually kind of fun to watch her playing up the sport in question. Maybe it’s the visual of a woman zipping across the ice to tackle someone without a second thought. I don’t know. The bigger news, not that Liv joining an underground railroad isn’t a Big Thing, is that Geordie’s brain gives Liv proof she needs to shift police focus Blaine’s way again. Blaine is quick to figure out exactly how much information they have, and that so far all of Clive and Liv’s proof lives in her head. The man is Teflon. Nothing sticks. Not even when he slips up and says something about the laundromat, which the others kept to themselves. Just as Clive and Liv jump to find hard evidence, Peyton delivers the bad news. They have to release Blaine on Fillmore-Graves’ orders. Their investigator, Enzo Lambert, manages to pin Blaine’s murders on the budding hate group, Dead Enders. Lambert exists to find ways to claim a zombie murder is a hate crime. Not one of his investigations are to be trusted.
Major and Don E take a quick road trip to pick up a special package for Chase Graves. Settling Fillmore-Graves’ PR problem is a Gordian knot. Every tug in one direction creates a whole new tension somewhere else. In this case, Chase’s desire to silence an outspoken American general turns into kidnapping and (technically) murder. When Don E falls asleep instead of watching Sloane, the special package, she overdoses on U in the bathroom. Major has seconds to make a decision. They can ask the smugglers to pack up a dead body for the bossman, or he can save her so General Mills, Sloane’s father, doesn’t follow through with his threats to nuke New Seattle. Chase doesn’t seem too thrilled to have a new mouth to feed, but he’s sure glad Major delivers Sloane in one piece. At the rate, she may be the only bargaining chip he has left to save the city.
Baby Proof: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 305 by A. Zombie
Nothing’s gone right for Natalie in weeks. First, kidnapped by a psycho who feeds her companion to a wee demon. Now she’s bound to a chaos magnet with a mobile ball of evil and teeth on the loose. Worst yet, the numbskull she has to rely on thinks the best plan is to capture the baby, not just shoot it in the head and walk away. Her suffering doesn’t last long. Mini Ash’s appetite puts any normal teenager’s to shame. Showing his age, he does wind up playing with his food. Which is where the squick factor rises sky high. Mini Ash uses Natalie as a meat suit for the episode’s big fight. Basically, he just pops in and out of her neck and nether region, like Whack-a-Mole, but far, far more disgusting. The sound effects will be the soundtrack in my personal hell when the day comes. Never the less, our hero persists. Ash caps off his spawn’s exit routes with bowling balls and bundles the package up in the car’s trunk. At last he has real proof to show Brandy that Ms. Previtt isn’t human. Like every time where Ash attempts to prove himself sane in public, his proof vanishes, leaving him looking like the real monster. But it doesn’t take a demon baby to convince Brandy to listen to her father. Going against reason, she’s giving him another chance to prove his side of the story.
Before Brandy meets up with Ash, Ms. Previtt, and Ms. Previtt’s blood-coated child, she has to stab a guy and watch him nearly die. Negotiations with possessed Pablo and mouth on Kelly’s leg go south when Pablo rips open the trailer’s roof to grab Brandy. Kelly knocks the young woman free, only to wind up tangling with her demonic best friend. Brandy ends it by stabbing Pablo in the chest. The possession fades instantly. Pablo doesn’t wake in the human realm, however. Dagger in hand, Pablo faces his uncle and the woman messenger who will lead him through the ritual to reconnect his blood with his family and not the evil tainting it. The ritual is a callback to the type of “figure out which of the one thing is right” from Army of Darkness. Only this time our hero gets it right. Pablo is reborn as Brujo Especial.
Kelly welcomes Pablo back with a kiss. It’s such a wholesome moment tacked onto that brain-melting fight that I wished the scene lasted a few more minutes. Instead Pablo rushes off to save the world alongside his pal because he knows crap’s about to hit the fan. Fans. All industrial sized. It’s a good thing Pablo didn’t mess up the ritual like Ash borked his or no one would have Ash’s back. Why not Kelly? She’s on a separate mission to take Ruby off their problem list for good.
Brainless in Seattle Part II: Review for iZombie 404 by A. Zombie
Watch out, you may swoon over the episode spoilers below.
Brother Love’s influence spreads through the downtrodden zombie citizens in Seattle. One man uses his rough encounter with Fillmore-Graves goon Russ Roche as fuel for Angus’ new persona to toss on the smoldering fire within the community. To them, he’s the only to reach out a kind hand since their sudden departure from living society. He feeds them. Picks up their spirits when they’ve resigned themselves to being “dead” to the people they love. Not to mention, he has this uncanny ability to pick a target for his rage and project that onto the masses with a few magnanimous acts to sew the seeds of Us vs Them. Major steps right into this perfect storm on the search for Tucker, the man Gladwell scratched while being recorded. After his friends abandon Tucker, he steals the phone with the video and finds solace in the anger Brother Love preaches. That’s where Major catches up with him. The congregation shout at the Fillmore-Graves employees. Angus uses the moment to praise the Chaos Killer, and issue a stern warning that if Major ever shows his face at church in Fillmore-Graves clothes again, that’ll be his last day having a face. And people think this dude’s a role model. Okay, Sure, Jan.
The Scratching Post crew drops a load of truth bombs in this episode thanks to the brain Blaine and Done E eat in order to find Renegade. The guys use honesty as the best policy, allowing the brain to cough up visions while they operate their businesses almost as usual. There’s a plethora of hilarious throw-away lines from these two. Blaine eventually gets enough information from his illicit snack to find the laundromat where Renegade operates. The calm sanctuary I enjoyed last time is a horror show this episode after Blaine’s guys shoot their way in to grab Mama Leone. Chase Graves doesn’t look too thrilled to be face to face with his supposed nemesis, but it seems like he’ll go through with Blaine’s deal. Wonder how Graves will justify his actions to Mama Leone’s face.
Catching Bruce the coyote takes a lot of patience, a dash of subterfuge, and a large dose of overacting. After several days running a stakeout at the building Bruce uses to torch his victims, Clive and Liv need a new method. Mama Leona, before she’s taken to Fillmore-Graves, tells Liv to try an online ad. Ravi offers himself as the bait, really overworking an upper crust British accent during the video call to set up a meeting with Bruce. The acting doesn’t get better when Ravi waits for Bruce with SWAT, plus Liv and Clive, on standby. Despite the flightiness from the romcom brain, Liv’s passionate about putting Bruce in his place when he claims they have no evidence. I think Mama Leone’s chat about wanting to feel needed after becoming a zombie put some pep back in Liv’s crime-fighting step—that conversation also reminds us how awful Blaine actually is when he’s not oozing charm.
Throughout the various stakeouts and meetings to prepare for catching Bruce, Liv is relentless about talking around Clive’s relationship problem. So much so, Clive snaps at her when she flat out says he should break up with Dale without giving a reason why. It takes the entire episode for Liv to open up about what she saw at The Scratching Post. Turns out Clive and Dale are trying an open relationship, but he’s not keen on hearing the details. Sorry, my man. If you haven’t already heard these details, you’re not in an open relationship, you’re just grasping for a connection that isn’t there. Communication is key, but Clive’s always been a locked door emotionally. It’ll bite him in the ass.
The Great Tim Saga comes to an end. Thankfully. When the gang head to The Scratching Post for the human/zombie mixer night, and Liv’s maybe-date, they must first face off with The Not-yo Man Major Savage. Gladwell and her new partner dose their commanding officer with blue wrestler brain as a joke. It leads to a heartfelt, but laughable scene with Major and Liv having a post-breakup talk about how much they just want to see the other person happy, no matter what. Kudos to the actors for getting through that scene at all. Every time Major opens his mouth, one can’t help but laugh hysterically. With that talk, and several others from Peyton about fate, ringing in her brain, Liv manages to just converse with Tim for the first time since they met. That’s when she finds out he’s a whackadoo Brother Love follower. Good riddance to bad rubbish; she tosses him like a pair of torn pantyhose. The episode wraps with the same sort of fun energy that charmed me during the last episode. We have most of the central cast in one place, hanging out, being silly, dancing, and no one’s worrying about anything. I forgot these characters could laugh so much without their faces cracking. Here’s hoping we get to see more of this, but I’m pretty sure the fun days are gone, what with Team Overlords getting ahold of Renegade and all.
Unfinished Business: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 304 by A. Zombie
Whoa, pal. Watch out for episode spoilers below.
Now may not be the right time for Ash to go on some weird bonding trip with Brock, but it’s happening. The duo vanish from Ash’s house in the midst of bagging parts from the reanimated body pretending to be Brock, but wasn’t Brock because Brock’s ghost has no idea Brandy exists until Ash vent-rambles to his father. Are you confused yet? Welcome to the Evil Dead fandom, we subsist solely on confusion and fake blood.
Ghost Brock and Ash hop back to 2012 via the elder’s memories. Back when Ash’s interests include laying low and not much else, Brock has a visitor insisting he must speak to the savior. The adamant Knight of Sumeria has the missing Necronomicon pages which he must give to Ash. Brock’s having none of it, telling the guy to get going and that Ash wants nothing to do with the demon stuff, it’s already ruined his life quite enough. In typical Williams fashion, Brock opts to nut-shot the Knight instead of escorting him from the hardware store. Which is how Brock winds up with a dead man in his cellar. This guy just boards up the door, locks the building, and never turns back. This family doesn’t know how to deal with anything. Lock up a dead Knight, who isn’t actually dead by the way. Leave Cheryl’s room untouched like some weird shrine. Ash can’t even deal with Evil the right way, constantly butting heads with anyone who shows him which path to take. If coping skills were oxygen, they would’ve asphyxiated long ago.
On the bright side, since the Knight is still in the basement, that means Ash just has to break into his own cellar and pickpocket a corpse. And fight an evil wall painting with what appears to be a mystical television of sorts showing Brandy’s friend in distress. Or as we call it, just another day at Ashy Slashy’s Hardware Store and Emporium.
On the flipside, the mayhem in the basement sends the Necronomicon into fits. Ruby arrives home in time to receive a warning from a servant to The Dark Ones. That thing in the basement? It’s a portal, and The Dark Ones are about to use it to make their way to this realm. The only Knight Ruby knows about is Dalton. He’s still reenacting Vlad the Impaler’s greatest hits, so Ruby jaunts over to the cabin for a little chat. Dalton’s not the one who triggers the portal, of course. In a bid to still appear powerful, the fool brags about finding the dagger. We don’t have to worry about that problem again, before Ruby’s spell to push back Evil broke, Dalton blows off his head.
Kelly’s in more danger now, and the punches just keep coming. It doesn’t take long to figure out where Pablo went after running down Dalton. With Brandy tagging along to keep her safe, Kelly’s truck is rammed by deadite Pablo on a motorcycle. He’s intent on dragging Brandy through the windshield. By some miracle, the ladies fight him off long enough to get back to Ash’s. Kelly takes a bite to the leg, but it doesn’t stop her from wanting to capture and cure Pablo. I’m not so sure her feelings will be the same after the bite on her leg transforms into Pablo’s mouth.
The good thing to come out of Ash’s trip down memory lane with his father is Brock knows every woman in Elk Grove. When Ash needs to find Ruby’s new place, it takes Brock all of a second to think up the location for the real Ms. Prevett’s house. The woman Ash seeks isn’t home. He does find unfortunate hitchhiker Natalie upstairs handcuffed to a sink. She’s singing to a baby way, way older than what we saw in the last episode, but just as terrifying. Being who he is, Ash assumes he can just chainsaw his way through the handcuffs, not fully comprehending why Natalie keeps gesturing for him to be quiet. When he finally gets the gist, his robo-hand shorts out, leaving he and Natalie attached to the sink, facing off with a shrieking hellspawn. Ain’t fatherhood grand?
The downside to the short episodes is when the action gets going, I get greedy and want more right away. This episode leaves every plot thread except Brock’s flapping in the wind. Waiting a week to find out what happens is cruel, but this show’s magic would be lost if they had extended episodes. Admitting the truth doesn’t mean I have to like it, though.
Brainless in Seattle Part I: Review for iZombie 403 By A. Zombie
Before you zip on by, please know there’s episode spoilers in this review.
The human smuggling subplot takes the spotlight in this episode, highlighting a too-real fear about trusting a stranger with your complete safety while in the pursuit of something highly illegal. In this case, romance trumps common sense, bringing Annie Wallace to New Seattle on Love’s light wings . . . okay, so they roll into town in a nondescript vehicle. This episode encourages one to wax poetic, believe it or not. There’s a lot of ridiculous commentary on lust versus love, but the non-romance portions of this romcom are probably some of my favorite scenes from the last two seasons.
You’re soulless if you don’t enjoy a good makeover montage once in a while, I’m just saying.
Back to our victim. Annie unfortunately never meets up with her online sweetheart. Once she is in the city, Bruce the coyote shows his hand, murdering the girl to sell her brain on the black market. She’s a scrapper, puts up a bit of a fight, leading the killer to leave part of her brain behind—just enough for Liv to make milk chocolate brain-bons. This woman went through life falling in love with every other person, always assuming they approached her with good intentions. That’s rarely true, as shown by how easily Annie fell into Bruce’s trap instead of finding someone like Renegade, who so far appears to be the genuine article, someone who just wants to help. Annie’s brain makes its way to Romero’s, where Don E purchases it to feed their high-end clients, along with a mime’s brain to mix things up a little.
The undead are reaching the desperation point with the low brain supply. Fillmore-Graves suspects there’s only four months of brains on-hand for the expanding New Seattle population. Legal sources ae slim. Illegal sources can’t bring them in fast enough without garnering interest from the government. As it is, Clive suspects there’s a serial killer connected to Annie’s death, bringing them that much closer to pinpointing the cause as a black-market brain trade. Cracking down on border crossings isn’t dissuading the desperate from entering the city for what they see as their only chance to thrive—for example Annie witnesses an execution when they pull up to the gate. Desperate for a hand-up against the coyotes, Chase Graves appeals to Blaine’s business sense for aid. If Blaine delivers Renegade, he gets to run his businesses without interference. It’s too good a deal to pass up. By the episode’s end, Blaine locates, and devours, one of Renegade’s clients. Yet again proving he’s one of the most determined people in this universe. Finding the woman herself won’t be as simple. Liv can’t even locate her again after revisiting the laundromat and has to wait for Mama Leone to find her instead to ask about the other coyotes in town.
By far the worst part of the episode is Liv’s constant, “Oh, this is the guy for me. He’s amazing!” On the flip side, this easy-going, happy Liv pumps life back into this character. She’s hanging with Peyton again. They harass Ravi into a makeover montage, which brings such a smile to one’s face, their nose might just crack off. Not saying it happened to me, but I heard a friend suffered such a sad fate. Ahem. Anyway, I’m thankful we get another crack at this version of Liv. She’s the Liv we’ve been missing and didn’t realize it. Although she never actually finds it, Liv drunk on love is by far the best Liv. That truth makes it even harder to accept the production’s decisions to kill everyone Liv’s fallen for since the beginning. Give us what we want, people. Content Liv without the angst for a little while longer, please. And more montages.
On the romance flipside, Bozzio might be stepping out on Clive. While playing tonsil hockey with a random guy she fell in love with, Liv spots Dale in a similar situation moments before she takes the guy off the dance floor at The Scratching Post. Of course romantic-brained Liv thinks the only way out of the situation is to tell Clive the truth. So far she’s declined to come right out with it. Instead Liv winds up harassing the new uni, Michelle Hunter, insinuating that she should hook up with Clive. Yes, it’s a moment worthy of a thousand facepalms.
The romcom brain antics go into the next episode, thank goodness. It seems unlikely they’ll wrap the entire brain trade story now, but I suspect we’re heading back toward the good ol days where Team Zombie went head-to-head with Blaine’s empire. Mix in his new, powerful allies and this fight is far more one-sided than last time when Major almost single handedly wiped out the brain smuggling business by blowing up a butcher’s shop. Speaking of Major, will he stick by the company when he learns they sent the city’s mob boss in to do their dirty work?
Zombie Reviews . . . Rise of the Zombie (2013) By A. Zombie
Rated: NR (Contains violence, gore)
Starring: Luke Kenny, Kirti Kulhari, Prem Thapa, Pinky Negi, Ashwin Mushran, and Benjamin Gilani
Language: Hindi and English
Let’s see what happens when someone takes a micro-budget film and does the genre justice, just for once. Please. My brain couldn’t take another poorly executed script. Luckily when deciding to take a chance on Rise of the Zombie, it didn’t end in utter disappointment. That’s not saying this is an insanely great film, but for what they accomplished, it’s not awful. It may even be—dare I say it? Re-watchable.
Here’s the abbreviated storyline:
Relationships are difficult to maintain when Mother Nature calls to your soul, even more so when that love leads one to become a wildlife photographer. Neil Parker’s love life isn’t anywhere near as stunning as his work in the field. Matter of fact, it’s become extinct. Vinny Rao is tired of spending days, sometimes a week or two, wondering where Neil disappeared to this time. In typical Neil fashion, he makes an appearance at his buddy’s bachelor party right after the breakup and before his hangover’s played out, he is on his way to his favorite place out in the middle of nowhere. Does he tell anyone? There’s Thapa and a few others from the nearby village who bring him supplies when he doesn’t want to bike in, but no one from home has a clue.
While on a hike, Neil is bitten by an aggressive bug. The wound festers, no matter how much he cleans it. Neil hallucinates, falls into a fugue state, and suffers intense nightmares. A few times he goes into town, inspired to reach out to Vinny, but she ghosts calls made from unknown numbers. The infection on Neil’s arm spreads. His lucid moments are fewer and fewer. A shift in his appetite leaves him scrounging for bugs. Unaware of any changes, the villagers invite him to party with them. He leaves with a woman at his side . . . then wakes with her bloody hand, only the bloody hand, in his tent. Neil’s appetite grows unchecked. Anytime someone comes to help him, he attacks. The nutrition gives him blessed few aware hours to try and reach Vinny, pushed by visions of their relationship.
Two weeks pass before Vinny realizes there’s actually something wrong this time. With the help of Anish, Neil’s soon-to-be-wed friend, and Dr. Dave Parker, his father, they eventually track down a phone Neil uses often in the village. Unfortunately, luck’s not on their side after that.
For the budget, this film is beautifully shot—with a few exceptions toward the end where the quality intentionally degrades to heighten the weight of Neil’s transformation. The overly-shaky attacks aren’t how I’d handle that transition, but it still works for this story. The opening sequence is mesmerizing, making the audience forget for quite some time that they’re watching a horror movie. They play a lot with the overall tone of the film. It’s very much a romance at the get-go with the gorgeous POV shots as Neil works, then shifting into the break-up scene after, followed by the raucous bachelor party. Even Neil’s decision to bolt to the middle of nowhere fits a romance outline. Everything changes after the bug bite. Gone are the crisp landscape shots. The world is unfocused. Neil’s attention shifts down, down, down as his appetites change, taking the camera with it. It’s rare to see this much attention in a genre film this size.
The use of quiet time in the script is probably what saved the film from being tedious. Neil is alone a lot. When he is around people, the discussion is all mundane because there is no mass outbreak. Neil’s the sole threat to the villagers and up until the end, he has no clue just how dangerous he is to those around him. The heavy lifting on the speaking end is left to Vinny and the others in Mumbai. They’re always pushing the urgency to find Neil, though we know he’s too gone to care. Where everything, unfortunately, falls apart is the final act. The resolution isn’t satisfying because there’s no resolution. Vinny makes it to the village and it more or less ends there. Five more minutes of story to wrap it up wouldn’t have hurt.
Special effects and makeup are the weakest link in this movie. Neil’s wounds are simplistic and don’t stand up to close-ups. There’s a moment where he angrily rakes the flesh off his arm, except the makeup is obviously nothing more than greasepaint over liquid latex so it’s not graphic, as intended, but more like we’re watching the actor clean up at the end of the shooting day.
Where the makeup falls short, the actors pick up the slack. Kenny does a bang-up job bringing a unique physical presence to Neil’s transformation. When he plays through the lucid moments, it’s gut-wrenching. Honestly, this single performance makes the film worth at least one watch. He’s bringing a lot to the table in a film most people won’t give the time of day, which is a disservice to oneself as a genre fan, honestly. Cringe through the makeup and watch Kenny deliver a zombie acting class. Seriously.
There’s a lot which could’ve made Rise of the Zombie a higher quality genre offering. However, for the budget, they managed to deliver a better movie than domestic releases with the same kind of money. I’m giving this film three disemboweled torsos out of five.
Booth Three: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 302 by A. Zombie
This is a rare moment where we need to issue a content warning. This review and the episode it concerns contain adult content. Also, there’s episode spoilers below.
One would think cramming Ash’s head up the rectum of a cadaver would be the lowest point on the gag factor for this show. I’m here to tell you, it got worse. So much worse. I’ve actively forgotten the episode thrice in self-defense since watching it. When the teaser said Evil would go for Ash’s seed, they meant all of it. Even what’s left “in the tank,” so to speak. With that in mind, let’s catch up with the Ghost Beaters the morning after Ash’s estranged wife lost her head.
First, we’re taking a quick pit stop on the side of a country road. After consummating her relationship with the Necronomicon, Ruby’s pregnancy progresses at lightning speed. Wherever she’s going, that trip’s on hold. The precious demonspawn refuses to wait any longer. Luckily, a hitchhiking couple spot the distressed driver. The guy screws up enough courage to check the gore-coated car. Great timing, too. The baby needs its first meal. The baby and Ruby have an astounding bond, and a grandiose plan for the future: kill Ash and his bloodline so his demonic spawn can take the savior mantle.
In Elk Grove, things inside the Williams’ household are tense. During her first night under her father’s roof, Brandy doesn’t sleep a wink on her dead aunt’s bed. Due to his complete lack of empathy, Ash’s attempts to console his daughter are met with a burning desire to burrow into the center of the earth and vanish forever. Brandy’s day doesn’t look up until her school counselor leaves a message. We can’t blame Brandy for passing up Ash’s brand of comfort. He’s brash and doesn’t even know tact is a word, whereas the counselor is all heart, giving Brandy a shoulder to weep on without judgement or emotional burden. Too bad it’s Ruby in disguise because Brandy genuinely needs an adult on her side who isn’t emotionally younger than herself.
There’s not a lot of reassurance coming from the other adults in the Ghost Beater house. Matter of fact, things are downright hostile whenever Pablo addresses Dalton or the Knights of Sumeria. There’s a dangerous mix of jealousy and distrust driving Pablo’s mouth, and it’s such a setback for a character who literally rose from the dead after being possessed by one of the evilest things to crawl from the Darkness. Why bring him back to be angry and petty about everything? Also, don’t we get enough toxic masculinity from the main character? Dalton is oblivious to anything which isn’t defeating the Dark Ones or worshipping El Jefe, which makes Pablo’s posturing that much more ridiculous. Throwing off the uncomfortable vibes tossed her way, Kelly still makes an effort to help Pablo by passing on Dalton’s warnings about the returning Sumerian script. The Evil touched Pablo once already, if his condition persists, he will be consumed by it and kill them all. Proof comes when Pablo has a vision where a nude, masked woman passes on a note from Pablo’s uncle, the Brujo, stating pretty much the same thing. Ever helpful, the Knight also gives the duo a rundown of how his people fit into the story. Basically, while the Dark Ones were banished by one of their own, the Knights took advantage and stole the Necronomicon. That book was then stolen again by a Knight hoping to harness the Necronomicon’s power. Spoilers, it didn’t work.
Something in the conversation with the group at the breakfast table inspires Ash to run a quick errand after dropping Brandy off at school to talk to her counselor. See, Evil keeps referencing Ash’s seed, along with threats to his offspring. Being a giver, Ash spent years donating to Cryobank, a facility which aids infertile couples, if you catch my drift. Ash isn’t a sometimes giver. He’s been donating frequently. Most of the samples at Cryobank belong to Ash or Brock. One shudders to think of how many Williams offspring are running around. While the desk clerk checks records for him, bribed by a 30% off coupon, Ash takes a private moment in booth three. Just another deposit for a good cause. He’s interrupted when the magazine he’s ogling is possessed. Yes, they start this week’s big fight with a living adult magazine, every man’s best/worst nightmare. The fight spills into the clinic’s lab. The lead technician, Mrs. Lam, turns deadite. She’s got one mission. Ash can’t stop her from smashing vials of semen on just about every surface in the lab. The tile floor turns into a Sperm Slip ’N Slide. It’s not until a CO2 canister bursts that Ash finds a way out of his mess. Mrs. Lam gets a faceful of CO2 and Ash shatters her skull.
Somehow, Ash walks away with only one stain to give away where he spent his afternoon. Astounding since the lab’s still dripping his “mansauce” when he pulls in front of the hardware store to regroup with the Ghost Beaters.
With the threat to his progeny breathing down his neck, Ash opts not to hyper-focus on the Evil about to kill his daughter. Oh, she’ll be cared for; he claims Brandy is his priority. But on the other hand, Ash believes he’ll have no problems running his business, building a family, and defeating a foe they haven’t met yet. Okay, they have met, but Ash doesn’t know that the last Ruby he spurned is the one behind the attacks. Boy is he going to be surprised. Pretty sure that’s the theme for his life: a surprise at every turn.
Head’s up, there’s episode spoilers in this review
Keeping with the trend that Liv only eats the worst people in Seattle, this week she’s stuck with the brain from Sandy Brinks, a rude, old white woman whose hobbies include casual racism, sexually assaulting her staff, verbally abusing anyone with a heartbeat, and pickling her liver. She’s the kind of rich person who lets a golf ball fly downrange without notice. Ironically, it’s a golf ball through the eye which puts Mrs. Brinks’ mean spirit down for good.
Brace yourselves. This Liv is extra awful.
How bad can it get? Well, the moment she ingests Sandy’s brain, Liv begins treating Clive like The Help, going so far as to refuse to sit beside him in the front seat and constantly questioning his intelligence. This isn’t the only racist behavior recalibrated for zombies in the episode. When Major is on patrol with the rookie Fillmore-Graves recruits, they run into a group of human supremacists harassing a restaurant owner who just happens to not be white, as well as a zombie supporter. When it looks like they’ll disperse, which of the guards do they manhandle in retaliation for being talked down to by Major? Gladwell. I’d be all for this writing team attempting to dismantle established racism with biting humor and social commentary, but as always, they’re too ham-handed.
Brinks’ brain leads Liv to alienate everyone in her social circle. There’s not one person she doesn’t talk down to, including Brinks’ driver during an emotional interrogation. The woman sexually manipulated him, much to his shame. Despite that information, Liv blurts out that he took money to continue the relationship, therefore making him a WHORE. Yes, she says it in capital letters, like a scarlet A she intends to brand on the man’s forehead with the ferocity of her accusation. Which shouldn’t have come as a surprise given how the show’s handled sex workers in the past, but this isn’t a willing adult doing his job as intended. His continued arrangement with Brinks took advantage of his position on her staff—textbook harassment. In the Court of Liv’s awfulness, that seems to translate to real consent, not prolonged coercion. Someone needs to take a long look at the way they view the world and how it keeps shoving problematic language in Liv’s mouth.
No one on Brinks’ staff is without reason to kill her, for glaringly obvious reasons. The suspect winds up being a mother whose sick child is denied permission to pass New Seattle’s wall in order to undergo a life-saving surgery. In probably the best twist, Liv’s awful behavior wears off in time to help this family. Is that enough, though? Saving one child can’t possibly cover up all the awful things this character has said and done in the name of distracting herself from her new reality by diving in head-first. Everything Liv’s done for four seasons bred from a deep desire to not hate herself for changing into something else—the classic “teen girl hits puberty and loathes her new body” story, but with a grown woman and zombies. We have a deeply selfish character, constantly drawn to similar brains, and it’s only now that we see her reaching out to do something more than the bare minimum with her new self. I get self-loathing taking over, but this is fiction and foisting every bad behavior onto one character and expecting the audience to pity her after four years of refusing to mature is short-sighted. That’s not saying she’s irredeemable, it’s just going to take a lot of work.
The secondary story line with Angus is about as pleasing as a root canal without medication. Religious fanatics in genre pieces are so old hat, the idea has returned to the dirt and waits to begin the lifecycle anew as something completely different, maybe a butterfly or hummingbird. Angus has these zombies all riled up, feeding them brains from an unknown source. They even hold a parade, hosted with church resources. What’s most uncomfortable about this whole thing is my ability to no longer overlook the news stories released in December and January concerning the actor. Why? First, the producers kept a line in which Angus greets a girl by saying, “Well aren’t you the most beautiful girl in the world,” and she’s maybe six, obviously afraid. Later, there’s a moment in which Angus switches from speaking normally to male parishioners during communion to his tone going breathy, slightly deeper for the woman. Both instances were . . . off. Uncomfortable to watch, and not just because the guy’s too good at playing crazy. We’ve been promised this season is the last for Angus. That moment cannot come soon enough. Let’s get the creepy old man stereotype off a show which uses more than enough appalling personalities to manipulate the plot.
The story line with Mama Leone has the most promise for this season. So many things have gone wrong in Seattle since Liv turned Z, it feels like there were no good people left, or those who claimed to be good were too easily influenced by the promise of power, like Major. Yet when we get to the laundromat with Ravi, Liv, and the sick boy, the show’s tone changes drastically. Liv is remorseful in ways she rarely expresses unless confronted. There’s no one lurking for a gotcha. It’s just a group of people doing the best they can to help those who have no voice in their new world. Please let this be the swing in Liv’s life we’ve waited for. I’m all for Liv joining the resistance, fighting the zombie establishment. The base is laid, what with Liv and Major on the outs again over their differing opinions on how to handle to handle integration between humans and zombies, not to mention Major’s seeming lack of concern about humans suffering under the new regime. Peyton will be a good ally should Liv go down this road, with her insight into what the Mayor has planned, as well as glimpses of policy from Fillmore-Graves.
Zombie Reviews . . . The Z Effect (2017) By A. Zombie
Rated: NR (Contains adult language, violence)
Starring: Michael Navas, Scott Schlueter, Steffie Grote, Douglas Wilcox II, Charles Gordy Swalm, and Cali De La Rosa
Sometimes, just sometimes, a bunch of people need to band together to shoot a zombie movie. No rhyme. No reason. Just the unrelenting want to add to the genre in a small way. Which is why it feels like there’s more and more micro budget films flooding the streaming market. Camera technology put this burden in our eager, capable hands. Mankind will ride this idea into the ground and back again. Got no money? Doesn’t matter. Apparently zombie films practically make themselves these days. The Z Effect takes the mico budget idea and does its best to stretch the limits of what they can do on-screen.
Without warning, the dead return to attack the living. Missing not one beat, Mike and Scott band together to stay alive in the face of so many horrors. It’d be easier to go on if Scott knew whether his girlfriend Natalie survived the initial undead wave. Nevertheless, there’s nothing they can do about being separated. Scott can either move on, or get bit by one of the numerous adolescent zombies who keep tripping him up morally as they search for supplies and a viable car. Along the way, Mike and Scott encounter a few zombies whose backstory we learn in vignettes. There’s also two other survivor groups nearby, but one doesn’t play well with others. Especially when those others happen to shoot two of their members because they’re loudly harassing a zombie woman. Everything changes when Terrance, from the good group, tries to boost Mike and Scott’s car. They talk things out and decide to pool resources, which includes a guaranteed roof over their heads and more living people to talk to. Lo and behold, Natalie’s living with the good group, along with half a dozen others. There’s not much time to bask in their reunion. When the Crazies find Mike and Scott a few days later, they hatch a plan to get revenge for their fallen bros.
The greatest enemy in this film is the editing. It’s choppy. It’s confusing. In order to artificially complicate the plot, the editor decided to tell the end of each vignette first, then go back to fill in some of the gaps. This leads to things like wondering if they’ve misused an insert clip of a hand holding a gun in some scenes, or trying to figure out if Scott’s having flashbacks compared to vivid nightmares. Thanks to this “edgy” editing style, it’s hard to figure out which zombie is which, and even harder to recognize those zombies when they come back to face the heroes. The whole point of presenting the film this way was to be able to tell those zombies’ stories around the hero’s plot in self-contained bursts, but they lose focus once the human drama outweighs the dead drama and the hyper-stylized editing system winds up killing the tension leading into the final fight.
Technically, the film shows its budget big time. The digital effects are as basic as one can get. Zombie makeup consists of artfully splattered fake blood, with little more attention brought to the clothes—which were probably made in bulk by just slashing random holes in thrift garments and dousing them in blood. Also pretty sure the sound was caught on one boom mic or the camera’s mic because for in-car scenes, you can only really hear whoever is closest to camera. Thank goodness for subtitles and the shining few actors animated enough to sell their lines despite shoddy sound recording.
Like many of the films I nabbed recently, this one delivers as best as it’s able to with what was available. If effort could win prizes, they’d have a shot. That’s not really how this goes, though. In the grand scheme, The Z Effect, even with the catchy song at the end, only gets one dismembered hand out of five.