Wrath: Review for The Walking Dead 816 by R.C. Murphy
Watch out! This review contains episode spoilers.
Try as they might, all the flashbacks and slo-mo close-ups in the world can’t bring my heart in line with how it should feel after watching this long-anticipated finale. The outcome, while favorable for the survivors we’ve traveled alongside for eight seasons, is dust on one’s palate; it just doesn’t satisfy. In an episode where they end a several-year story line, one would expect a little more substance. Even the flashy parts are lackluster recreations of past season’s greatest hits. How many shoot-outs have we seen with these groups? How many bullhorn monologues? How many times has an underdog person or group come out of the woodwork to save Rick at the last minute? We’ve seen so many variations of someone else saving Rick that when he’s supposed to protect everyone from his war, it’s still everyone else who does the hard work to neutralize the bulk of the threat, but he still claims the victory and dictates the terms.
Rick makes one cut, then calls himself sheriff in a land freed from its tyrant.
It takes a slap-dash army to topple the biggest threat in town, that’s for sure. Hilltop’s remaining fighters follow the trail Negan left for them, even while believing they’d outsmarted the ol’ fox. The usual suspects are in the militia, save the recovering ex-Saviors who are told to stay behind with the kind of empathy extended to dog poo on one’s flip-flop. Why the cold shoulder? Well, it starts with Morgan flipping out while they’re doing walker-centric chores outside the fence, and ends with Maggie still seeing Alden and his compatriots as fingers on Negan’s tyrannical fist. Is it a great idea to leave so many able-bodied and motivated men out of the fight? Nope. It doesn’t matter, though, because someone else arrives to lend helping hands. Though why anyone thought traveling so far from home to pick a fight with two pistols, Molotov cocktails, and hand-to-hand weapons is a good idea is beyond me. Oceanside has nothing to prove or sacrifice for anyone. They’re not even the saviors Aaron claimed they could be here because someone else swoops that spotlight right off of them, if we’re judging on the level of actual help rendered.
I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but . . . Eugene comes out looking like a diamond by the end of a season in which he actively helps Negan slaughter the people who kept him alive despite every selfish thing he did before defecting. Just when we thought Eugene and Gabriel were throw-away characters after they finished the bullets, the writers rouse them from mid-story mire to inspire yet another of their Oh So Smart Plot Twists. I mean, as far as twists go, it surprises the heck out of me to even consider Eugene lashing out against his new meal ticket, let alone to go back to a community in which there’s not one person who can look him in the eye without remembering a loved one they lost due in part to his actions. And let’s get this out now, I in no way trust Eugene. He succumbs to pressure too easily. It’s a liability. Sabotaging one fight in the name of the perceived good isn’t rehab enough for the broken relationships left in Eugene’s wake. What future does he have in a community where no one trusts him beyond the raw knowledge he has in his head? When he’s not given a hero’s welcome, will Eugene still offer his help to rebuild the communities ravaged by the war?
So what happens to the Saviors with a wounded Negan in custody care of sheriff Grimes for the indefinite future? Nothing. Nothing! Tra, la, la. Rick, finally listening to his son’s final wishes now that even Morgan says he’s lost too much to continue on, makes this speech about how they’re all free now, but those who cling to the war-mongering way of life are warned to kiss the idea goodbye. Which is, ya know, hilarious considering every time Rick encounters a new community, he meets them with barely concealed hostility. True to his word though, Rick sends helpers to Sanctuary to repair damages, and in return they send food for everyone else. Even the remaining Scavenger gets an invitation to join resources with this new collation, though Jadis is scrapping her artistic moniker for her given name, Anne.
All’s well in the neighborho . . . or not. There’s a group within Rick’s party who harbor deep resentment over Negan’s survival. They even tie Michonne to this mess as a conspirator since she obviously is okay with this lifetime imprisonment plan. Maggie is a reasonable person, except when it comes to this one thing. Negan’s demise, to her, is worth upending the fragile peace forged on the final battlefield. The upcoming mutiny isn’t their largest concern, though. Walker numbers are on the rise. A massive herd lurks too close for comfort. Can they use their combined resources and the building plans gifted to Maggie to fortify all the communities against the threat that never really dies?
The episode wraps by leading into Morgan’s transition to Fear the Walking Dead, which I tried to watch. Only, the video feed to constantly died and I took it as a sign to move on, just like Morgan is moving on after giving us so many wonderfully weird and powerful moments in TWD season eight.
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.
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.
Zombie Reviews . . . Dead Inside (2006) By A. Zombie
Rated: NR (Contains violence, gore, adult language)
Starring: Tyler Austin, Cynthia Gerber, Madison Ranne, Noah Wisniewski, and Tommy Walters
One never knows what to expect when grabbing something Troma distributed. Given the blurb, it seemed like it’d be okay. Different, at the very least. It’s different, all right. I’m still not one-hundred percent sure what I just watched, but it surely isn’t what the synopsis promised.
The lying, fabricated, fibtastic blurb from Troma’s site reads:
When a group of survivors take refuge in a friend’s home to protect themselves from the Zombie Apocalypse, they must learn to confront and destroy not only the evil lurking on the outside, but also the menace that stalks them from within!
First false statement: Friend’s home. The only people who know each other were involved in a murder, and technically only one of the three knows the truth. Secondly, they learn nothing over the course of their imprisonment in Katrina and Danny’s home. Lastly, the maniac in question settled their score a year before the apocalypse and it’s only brought up at the very end to justify yet another gratuitous death.
Alright, so the copy writer gave the plot an extreme glow-up. What’s the movie actually about? [Spoilers below]
A year prior to the world going to the dead, Jill’s guy calls it quits in the middle of a crowded diner—with patrons randomly quoting other genre films as the scene unfolds. It’s not such a good idea because Jill’s not quite right in the head, seeing monsters everywhere she looks. This woman also just happens to have a serial killer’s shrine to her now-ex. Jill takes her revenge, with the guy’s kid in the house. Fast-forward a year. Danny’s mother Katrina has moved on after the murder. Gerry fills an essential gap in their lives. But just like her former husband, this one dies under mysterious circumstances after something eats their babysitter. The mourning family isn’t alone for long. Albert, a stranger, rushes in the front door having just witnessed his father being attacked by the dead on the road. Elsewhere, Jill’s going through undead hell with her lover. She makes it out of their home in one piece, sans lover and pet, only to find a zombie in her car. Jill run and runs and runs, eventually landing at Katrina’s—at first the editing makes it look like they’re neighbors, though. Outside, an officer naps in his car, awakened only when crap hits the zombie fan. He flips his lid and makes a run for shelter—Katrina’s house, of course. From there out, the group tries to make the best of it. Officer Dearborn’s courage flatlines, triggering their safe haven’s eventual downfall. Jill is bitten on a supply run. On her death bed she admits the truth to Danny about his father’s murder. He shoots her and here come the zombies. Albert and Katrina do their best to survive on the run, but she doesn’t make it. The boy and Albert continue on, meeting another pair of survivors making the best of the apocalypse along the way. Just when things look bleakest, Danny and Albert are saved.
On paper, it’s good. In practice, it’s a mess. The editing obscures the plot unnecessarily during the introduction phase. Dialog is cringe-worthy eighty percent of the time thanks to Officer Bigot’s constant gay jokes just to poke Albert. Jill’s story is so convoluted that we need a series of flashbacks just to have any hope of figuring out who this woman is. The makeup is another Greasepaint and Dirt Special, with little to no time spent on each zombie. It’s like they painted a tarp and made each actor roll for five seconds, then shoved them on set without another glance. Even the sound mix is presented as something spliced together in an old garage with dollar store headphones.
Save yourselves. Don’t be the guy on Troma’s site simultaneously praising and hating this film. There’s no need for brand loyalty when they put out stuff like this and then think people should pay them to see it. If it were edited better, I may be more forgiving. As-is, this is the worst film I’ve reviewed to date. It doesn’t even get a rating. It gets my eternal regret.
Rated: NR (Contains adult language, violence, gore)
Starring: Steve Hudgins, P.J. Woodside, Grey Hurt, Randy Hardesty, and Cindy Maples
When I grabbed the movie, someone mislabeled this 2010 film as a 2016 release, so I’ve had to marinate on what I saw for a little longer before delivering a final verdict. Six years, believe it or not, makes a difference when debating these ultra-low budget films. A current iPhone in place of whatever they used here would’ve greatly increased the film’s quality . . . and maybe spared more cash for makeup. We’ll get to that in a moment. First, the story.
A fiery object falls from the sky, landing in the front yard of home in a small Midwestern town. The curious family calls Uncle Brad, with his university connections, to investigate. He burns himself on the frigid bucket holding the mystery lump, but has no other issues driving it away . . . for a few miles. Brad makes it to the hospital, but no further. From there, chaos invades their quiet town. A sickness spreads through bodily fluids—and given half the town’s proclivity for cheating, it takes no time at all for things to get out of hand.
It’s not a very original story. So how’d they punch it up? By presenting the entire plot backwards. Each citizen in town who turns zombie gets their own death vignette, starting with poor Joe. Joe’s girl is cheating on him and her sister has the hots for him, but he’s just so loyal to his gal. He’s also a pretty good neighbor, bringing Johnny his truck after finding it on the roadside with mystery stains—he, no joke, asks an obviously ill Johnny if the red stuff on the truck is blood, so be prepared for some interesting dialog choices throughout the film. As the story winds back to the outbreak’s origin, we’re taken on some misadventures with the locals. Brace yourselves for quite a bit of lowbrow humor sprinkled throughout. Any time a man gears up for a joke, assume it’s insulting on fifteen different levels. Just so it’s not completely predictable, the plot does wrap back around to the present for an epilogue of sorts. Format wise, it’s not bad. But the writing itself is . . . not award-winning. It’s an easy script for a small-ish group to shoot in a reasonable amount of time. Could it be better? Definitely. Could it be worse? I’ve survived far worse indie films than this and decided they weren’t even worth writing about, so it has that going for it.
What the film doesn’t have is any makeup. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. The makeup present is just super subtle. With a few exceptions, the zombies rely on fake blood and movements to sell the gag. Within those zombies, only a handful really stand out as astounding creature actors. Playing dead is harder than it looks; kudos to anyone shuffling the good shuffle under all that makeup. There’s no real standard look or movement style. It’s like they let the actors do their own thing most likely just to save time, which leads to some amusing bits. Unfortunately, the camera angle sometimes obscures what’s going on and only half an undead performance makes it on-screen. I suspect this is due to space issues shooting inside real locations and not sets with cut-outs to position cameras “inside” walls for better angles. Paired with whatever they filmed with, it makes some scenes the very definition of “uhm . . . that’s creatively shot.”
Overall, I get what they wanted to do, but the script and budget just didn’t do the concept justice. Hell is Full gets one and a half mangled mandibles out of five.
Zombie Reviews . . . Clash of the Dead By A. Zombie
Rated: NR (Contains adult language, violence, gore)
Starring: Ray Panthaki, Robert Bladen, Wendy Glenn, Ben Shafik, and Eva Solveig
Found footage films are not my bag. Just getting that out here as a reminder. The camera movements jerk too much and my rotting brain can’t keep up with the action. Good news, the action in this movie is so slow, the POV movements don’t obscure anything of note. That’s also the bad news.
What are they trying to do in this film? Here’s a quick summary:
There’s money to be made from war documentaries even a century after peace talks ended. It’s not a lot of money, but it’s there. The trick is to make old stories shine anew, and maybe stage a few “surprises” for the hosts to stumble upon to up the ratings—it’s only fraud if one is caught doing something like, oh, making a UFO fly over a well-known wonder of the world. Aiming to cash in, Marcus takes a film crew to the Somme with the goal of digging into some of the more obscure myths. Their expert, Brian isn’t so sure that’s the right path, but he and the others get wrapped up in the moment when they stumble across a chained and submerged soldier’s body bearing a totem said to revive the dead. When darkness falls, the crew unwinds with a little soccer to recreate the fabled No Man’s Zone soccer game during an early WWI Christmas Truce. Another team joins them on the field, but these guys are only after a warm meal. The undead soldiers attack the film crew. Four make it into a tunnel system for safety. Only two make it back out with a possible plan to put the dead back in the ground—they have to bury the body they disturbed. Unfortunately, the dead are all about thwarting that plan.
As straight forward as this seems, it’s a mess. Due to half the cast being behind the camera, it takes most of the film to figure out who’s who, and only then it’s thanks to process of elimination as they keel over. What could be quick action beats to drive tension up is wasted on characters squabbling over past events in a failed attempt to ground the characters in what’s to be an unreasonable situation. Why waste time to ground these characters in the first place? They’re stereotypes, of course, so the dialog has to make them stand out some way or we’ve got nothing invested in these people as their doom shuffles out of Delville Wood. Spoiler: It doesn’t work. This is like watching an army of NPC die in a game.
But it’s a game with decent graphics. The camera work is actually quite beautiful during the earlier parts. All those establishing shots in the woods make for some of the best cinematography I’ve personally witnessed in a found footage horror film. That all ends once the undead enter the picture. Slowly the cameras, our narrators essentially, fail. It takes the notion of unreliable narrator to another level, forcing us to wonder if the first contact moments are real. On the downside, the animation used to establish the camera failures are cheesy, obscure the fights almost completely, and there’s one sequence which may actually be so choppy with the lighting it can harm viewers with epilepsy. We miss the jump scares nine times out of ten due to the cameras jerking around. When they stay still, though, it completely kills the magic.
Why does the magic die? The zombies. They’re awful. Shoddy makeup makes them impossible to take seriously as a threat. Costuming for the old dead is okay, and likely where the focus went during pre-production for costumes/makeup. When one of the film crew is finally shown as a zombie, it’s downright laughable. Guy looks like he smashed his face in a makeup pallet called “DIY Zombie” and the primary color in it is “Old Bruise Yellow.” What could be a great kick-to-the-gut moment dissolves into chortling and hanging onto the couch for support.
Sometimes we see filmmakers trying to do the thing, only they fall short. With a little more money and time, they may have produced something worth a second viewing. As it stands, I’m giving Clash of the Dead two and a half soggy skeletons out of five.