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.
Are You Ready for Some Zombies?: Review for iZombie 401 by A. Zombie
Don’t lose your heads, there’s episode spoilers in this review.
There’s no toe-dipping when it comes to introducing the audience to New Seattle. The episode opens with a look into the city’s brain processing plant. Up close. In full, glorious detail. Some of the show’s best cinematography went into making those brain tubes look as appetizing as possible. I mean, for us zombies, that is. The humans working in the processing plant aren’t as impressed by the product they produce. Matter of fact, the Dead Person of the Week spends this opening scene lamenting about the new world order within the city. Guess having the only meaningful employment come in the form of basically creating Soylent Green gets to people. The divide between living and reanimated humans is wide, only helped by Filmore-Graves’ policies, including one stating only the living can work in processing plants like the one employing Clint Hicks before his at-work demise inside one of the large brain grinders.
Here we are, touring a new, zombie-led city, and Liv’s first full day to show us the ropes is spent parroting bigoted statements and football stats. It’s like the writers enjoy listening to the lead character speak ill of herself or other lead characters in reworded racist dog-whistle phrases. This is the character who set the standards for zombie-police relations, but sure, let’s have her spend what should be her victory lap taking digs at her people. Add in the Z door tagging, the children abandoned for their new identities, and half a dozen other problems, it’s like they want to take a predominantly white-cast class of people and present them as Every Embattled Minority Ever. Then a subset of that group is set up as dictators, again with a predominantly white cast, and their plan is to use the handful of actual poor minorities in their midst as hastily-trained cannon fodder in their new goon squad.
Hello, yes, I’d like to report someone for exposure? Their privilege is showing. Big time.
The poorly handled social commentary aside, the plot for this episode is just not that thrilling on the surface. The murder turns into an allegory for abused gay teenagers. On the subplot front, we’ve got a city on lockdown, with death penalties in place for certain behaviors, such as scratching a human to turn them due to brain shortages—likely a fabricated shortage since Filmore-Graves hands out brain tubes to their staff like it’s candy. It only gets interesting when Ravi hits the screen, giving fans a look at how non-zombie he is after that cliffhanger last season—there’s a small catch in the form of “monthlies” where he randomly Zs out and chows down on brains. Then they killed the excitement of a hybrid by having Ravi eat a naturalist’s brain, leaving him to traipse around nude. Like Ravi needs to be a laughingstock at every turn to justify his continued existence, or something. Peyton and the living in higher-ranking positions are being treated as checked boxes, as demonstrated during a tense dinner with the new mayor. Blaine is Chase Graves’ lapdog in return for a lot of looking-away when it comes to running his businesses, which surprises absolutely no one. Nor will it surprise them when Blaine eventually tires of the yes-man routine and vies for control of the city via brains, violence, or hostile takeover. Possibly a combination of the three.
First, Blaine’s got to get his whackjob father in-hand again.
Angus gets a little help from Dino, his former enforcer who turns to working for Blaine in the meantime. Once free from his watery nursery, Angus demonstrates just how bonkers he is, repeating segments of Blaine’s tirades against the ruling class in New Seattle like scripture. Dino pays the price for aiding a murderer, leaving an out-of-his-mind Angus to wander the city as he pleases. A theater, converted to a church for zombies, catches his attention. Now begins the reign of Angus the Saint. I guess. This is an unfortunate story line on top of several plots involving white men being the absolute worst people in a city which is given the chance to start over, but it’s more of the same tired bull.
But, hey, Liv got to yell about football for the whole episode, so it’s totally worth wasting an hour of my Monday night.
The Lost and the Plunderers: Review for The Walking Dead 810 by R.C. Murphy
Before you mosey down this road, just know there’s episode spoilers ahead.
Is now the appropriate time to say that Rick Grimes is literally the worst character to ever be propped up as the hero of a show? His actions alone make Rick a villain, not even a decent one at that because he wastes so many opportunities to better his people and delves into the tiresome lone-wolf terrorist mentality. Dude has a family relying on him, but they’re some of the last he considers. For Pete’s sake, he just buried his kid, then turns around to do some astounding gymnastics. The mental kind, that is. How else could he listen to Carl’s final plea, then have the gall to ask a likewise grieving Michonne what the dying boy meant by begging for peace between the communities? Carl had this entire dream for their people, for all people, which he confessed during a painful, slow death. That still isn’t enough to convince Rick to move on. No, no. He wastes precious time finding guns, which don’t exist anymore, and then boasts about his plans to Negan in the same breath as he uses to absolve the Saviors of Carl’s death.
Negan’s right, folks. Rick Grimes is the sole reason his son perished. But not simply because Rick wasn’t there that one day, but because Rick hasn’t been there for his son since the prison. Not since Carl killed Lori after Judith’s difficult birth. One could make an argument for Rick never really being there for Carl at all—since the day he arrived at the quarry, Rick’s schemed and fought for power within their group, and any other community they come across. Sure, there’s bursts of paternal activity, but Rick has the focus of a child. Without someone or something to force him to focus within his family, he’ll seek other forms of excitement. Rick’s loyalty is to Rick, yet he demands everyone around him be willing to die for his personal morals without question. Carl dies chasing someone else’s moral code, Siddiq’s, and it’s a rock in Rick’s throat that he can’t use this as an excuse to nuke the Saviors and piss on their graves.
Sounds like a real hero, huh?
The Saviors are in a slightly better position now that they’ve reclaimed Sanctuary from the dead. Time has come to get their house back in order, and Negan wastes no time dispersing his lieutenants to the communities—except Hilltop, which will require a significant show of force to bring to heel. With so much in the air, one man feels it’s his time to shine. Simon demands they make examples of everyone who went against them, starting with the Scavengers. For a hot second, I thought Negan would pop a new hole in Simon’s head and go on with his afternoon. No such luck. Simon doesn’t get his massacre order, just a command to stick to their typical M.O. to reaffirm relations between the communities. Since all the men on this show are so predictable, it’s no surprise when Simon takes offense to Jadis’ stoicism, ordering his men to wipe out the Scavengers. The best part? Simon thinks he can hide it. Boy, that’s not going to be a pretty scene when Negan hears the truth.
Alone for the first time in a long time, Jadis finally lets the gag slip. She’s not some enigmatic, alien-like leader. Art is in her blood, and that love for art made her look at the apocalypse as the best way to art harder, turning the entire landfill into a museum populated by the kind of people she thought should populate her new world. Sure it meant completely changing her dialect pattern, but artists are weird, y’all. I fully believe someone out there might go, “Zombies, huh? Time to become a weird, monosyllabic cult leader who fancies cats.” Whatever works to keep oneself one step ahead of the undead, right?
We can’t talk about the Scavenger’s demise without addressing the meat grinder scene. Okay, I know it’s an industrial grinder, but a whole load of ground people comes out at the end, so my statement stands. Not that I want it to, because I’m fully, totally off ground meat for at least a year. Not only is the gore too much to handle with a snack in-hand, but the acting from Pollyanna McIntosh during Jadis’ final goodbyes is astounding, heartbreaking. And frustrating. If she can put out that kind of performance, why aren’t they using this character better?
On the week of International Women’s Day, we have yet another example of Rick’s machinations leading to undue turmoil within the women-led Oceanside community. Last episode, Enid shot Natania. This episode, they deal with the fallout from that murder. A murder Enid insists she was forced to commit. But, uh, no one told her to go harass these women again. For what? They don’t have the weaponry needed to fight Negan’s army. Enid and Aaron barge into this community with nothing to bargain with, blood on their hands, and the bold demand that these women become cannon fodder in an ego war between Rick and whoever’s in his way this week. To add insult to injury, after Cyndie spares their lives, Aaron plans to subvert Oceanside’s commanders by manipulating fringe members, convincing them to join the fight. Leave these women alone, already. They’ve done nothing to anyone, but over and over again they are forced to sacrifice their well-being to meet men’s demands. This isn’t entertainment anymore. It’s watching some dude’s ego waft around on screen with a soundtrack and occasional explosion.
The war continues despite Carl’s plea. I fully believe Negan would’ve at least signed a temporary cease-fire in the kid’s honor. JDM twisted that knife all over again with Negan’s sincere condolences to Rick. Then Rick blew it off and I found a whole new flavor of hate for the character. So cool that I’m learning new things about myself when it comes to this show eight years down the road, huh? Too bad it’s only confirming that if the main character died, it’d improve my opinion of the show a thousand-fold.
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.
The big news for 2018’s Spring television lineup is Fear the Walking Dead‘s cross-over with its parent show, The Walking Dead. As we found out a couple months ago, TWD’s Morgan will hop over to the show’s spin-off, which begins its fourth season on AMC on April 15th.
But how are they going to do it? The shows, as the production teams pointed out when FtWD was announced, happen during drastically different points in the apocalypse. It’s safe to assume Morgan won’t hop in a DeLorean to pay a visit to the Clark family. New showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg (both from Once Upon a Time) sat with Entertainment Weekly for a few interviews leading up to the season four premiere. During an interview in January, Chambliss said, “As Morgan Jones steps into the world of FTWD, he’ll be continuing the journey he began on The Walking Dead way back in the pilot.” That’s not where his story picks up on the new show, though, and I think this sentiment is all about showing that they plan to maintain the character’s integrity. What about the time gap, though? It’s a huge elephant in the room. Are they willing to skip ahead that far just to fix the show? Photos from the FtWD set show Morgan with a sharpened staff, which could put his personal time line somewhere near “Here’s Not Here” [The Walking Dead ep. 604] where he learned how to staff fight with Eastman. Which leads me to believe Morgan must be the busiest man in the apocalypse if he’s gone from saving Rick to losing his kid, losing his mind, learning martial arts, traveling from Georgia to Texas, then back toward Washington D.C. where he became a Savior for a heartbeat, only to reunite with Rick, join a war, then move on after losing his mind yet again. Yes, this franchise does enjoy their time-jumps, but their new plan stretches reality a bit thin if we’re to buy into the desolation they’ve established as the norm in the universe. These characters just do not have the resources to do so much in so little time.
We have another elephant in the room:
We’re already on season seven and this one’s on season two and that would be crazy. As far as if those characters will ever encounter each other, I mean, they’re in the same universe so it’s completely possible. Geographically, they’re nowhere near each other so it would be somewhat farfetched if group A were to somehow encounter group B unless over the course of many, many, many, many seasons somehow it made sense.
Robert Kirkman, creator of the TWD comics and show producer, said this at a comic convention in Hawaii back in 2016. Here’s the guy who created the universe admitting how far-fetched the notion is, as illustrated above. The thing is, Past Kirkman is right. It doesn’t make sense to cross over any character—let alone Morgan, seeing as they fleshed out the gaps in his story fairly well. When asked to speak about the crossover in a recent EW interview, Kirkman now says, “When we started Fear the Walking Dead, the original idea actually included some things that would eventually tie in with the other show. We wanted to give it a few seasons to find its sea legs, so to speak, and make sure that it stood on its own and provided its own experience. The goal was that eventually, once we had established that, we would find some kind of creative way to tie things in.” Which, ya know, I didn’t grasp that potential when Kirkman shot the idea down in 2016. Everyone in the production was originally very much against combining the shows because of the time gap and location issue.
Well, Fear the Walking Dead isn’t doing nearly as well as they hoped. It never found its “sea legs,” as Kirkman puts it. The characters remained superficial icons representing stages in human grief and coping. When the production ramped up the action with the hopes of making the family more interesting by pitting them against each other at the ranch, it brought in even more unnecessary racial tension. That tension then spilled onto the San Diego Comic-Con stage in 2017 when talk show host Chris Hardwick and FtWD guest star Dayton Callie projected some seriously xenophobic behavior whilst bashing the foreign accents of leading cast members. How did the production mop up that mess? First, they never commented on it publicly. Then Hardwick was surprisingly absent from the TWD SDCC panel, presumably so producers could focus the conversation on the somber reality of losing a beloved stunt man and not the antics of AMC’s host. Finally, it seems the only way to truly get past the scandal is to move a minority character from the more popular show and use his deteriorating mental condition to completely change the narrative style with the goal to “kick start” FtWD’s flagging energy and viewer numbers.
Lennie James’ character Morgan isn’t the only newcomer for season four. He is, however, the only new minority character on a show with a well-documented and rocky history with racial issues—such as portraying Mexicans as cultish death-worshipers who ignore common sense altogether, or having Walker drop his Cowboys vs Indians style grudge only after a white man dies to “absolve” all past sins, like the old racist was Jesus or something.
Who are the new characters? Jenna Elfman plays Naomi, an aloof but adept survivor who isn’t exactly an open book. Maggie Grace is coming onboard to play Althea, who has an undisclosed background which gives her an advantage over others in the apocalypse. Taking a slight turn from some of his latest roles, Garret Dillahunt plays soft-spoken and humorous John for FtWD’s upcoming fourth season. Kevin Zegers also joins the cast, but the production remains mum on his character.
Everything the production has planned for season four boils down to using Morgan as a tool to repair the broken things which only cracked further with every attempt to fix them. The linear time line left the plot too predictable, so they plan to “experiment” with the time a little. Having stereotypes for leading characters means fans aren’t surprised in the least when Madison does things like focusing on the needs of one child over the other’s, nor do they bat an eye when Alicia finds comfort in a casual relationship instead of confronting her mother right off the bat because they established Alicia as someone who clings to relationships when stressed in season one. None of the characters change. They don’t grow. Circumstances may force certain behavior, but they always wrap back around to the same people they were three seasons ago. Morgan, on the other hand, is compelling because he changes so drastically over eight seasons. The same could never be said about Madison and her family, and it’s not like good character writing rubs off on the others just because one guy is present. This plan to use Morgan as television-writing duct tape makes no sense from a practical standpoint.
The long road to finding a home in the apocalypse is a tale told literally a thousand times, even in the guise of a family drama. Fans have seen it all. Unless FtWD pulls a rabbit out of their hat, all this rearranging of characters across the franchise will only hurt both shows in the end. The cagy answers from Kirkman, Goldberg, and Chambliss don’t assuage my concerns, either. They’re acting like they reinvented the genre, here, and I just don’t think that can happen with FtWD. Not without them starting over from the beginning.
Family: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 301 by A. Zombie
Yo, pal. Before you go on, just know there’s episode spoilers ahead.
Finding a space for himself in the world took many, many years. At last, Ash Williams has just about everything he wants: a business to call his own, a house, loyal friends, and fame. Best of all, Evil’s off his back and sulking in its own realm. All that’s missing is a family to greet him at the end of a long day managing Ashy Slashy’s Hardware Store and Emporium. For now, though, Ash relishes in good wishes from the folks of Elk Grove on the evening of his grand opening.
The most magical part of this show is that anyone who saw Ash’s utterly ridiculous commercials, complete with adult “toys” and vulgar jokes, then thought, “Hey, let’s go party with that guy tonight!” Fame really does get a person far in life, it seems. Good for him?
The good life put Ash and Pablo at ease. Kelly doesn’t look so relaxed. Matter of fact, she’s the first to react to the initial signs that something isn’t right. The Ghost Beaters spent their time off from Saving The World duty chasing vastly different interests. Kelly, it seems, is interested in stopping yet another apocalypse. Not sure that’s how I’d spend my time off from thumping drunks at a bar, but okay. To each their own. At least she’s not hunkered in a fallout shelter training to fight by herself. Dalton is there by her side, waiting for a chance to meet El Jefe. What’s his interest in the retired deadite slayer? As the leader of The Knights of Sumeria, Dalton needs Ash’s help to defeat The Dark Ones.
First, they’ve got to defeat the growing problems caused by a known threat hiding right in their back yard.
Patience is a virtue well rewarded. Ruby’s played the waiting game long enough. On the same night as Ash’s grand opening, she tracks down the Necronomicon in the hands of a young woman and the television antiques appraiser she has giving it a once-over on live TV. Violence ensues. Of course. With her prize in hand, Ruby holes up in a motel and performs a ritual in which she ingests blood mixed with Ash’s image in the Necronomicon. When mommy and daddy love each other very much, a stork drops a hellchild in mommy’s cabbage patch. Ash is going to be so surprised.
Not as surprised as he is to be reminded that he’s got a wife, and said wife hid a whole child from him for all these years. Candace Barr has her reasons for keeping Brandy in the dark about her chainsaw-wielding father. Unfortunately that’s the very reason he has to come back into their lives. Evil targets Brandy while she’s cleaning up some creative graffiti at the high school. Her friend Rachel winds up a deadite, using the music room against Ash and Pablo as they attempt to save Brandy. In the end, it takes Candace’s sacrifice and Ash’s creativity with found weaponry to put Rachel to rest. Kelly and Dalton take care of the possessed mascot who nearly cuts the family drama portion of the show short the same instant Ash attempts to be a father at last.
Thankfully this time around Ash isn’t above taking help to wipe out whatever Ruby’s unleashed. The Ghost Beaters reunite, with the new guy on board as well. Brandy is along for the ride, if Ash can even remember to call her by the right name. Time will tell if Pablo’s returned skin art spells certain doom for the team, or if it’ll give them an advantage.
Brandy’s written to mimic her father, only refined slightly and thinking with something more than teenage hormones. There’s bound to be countless sarcastic fights in the episodes ahead. Can you imagine Ash trying to bond while they’re all crammed in the same car? What happens when he tries to console her about her mother’s murder? Tact, thy name is not Ash Williams. It’s not like they can stop to get a break from each other, either. There’s a bounty on Brandy’s head. If they stay put too long, whoever’s around is at risk.
Speaking of heads, I’ve got to say the harp gag is one of my new favorites. Unfortunately the sequence beforehand is somewhat lackluster and has pretty much the same routine as every other “Ash fights an inanimate object” fight. Not every gag’s a winner, not even the tried-and-true ones from the past. Let’s hope they get past using this sequence as a crutch and give us more unique special effects shots as the season unfolds.
Honor: Review for The Walking Dead 809 by R.C. Murphy
Whoa! Slow down, there. Before you read on, be aware there’s copious episode spoilers in this review.
This is the first time a main character’s death hasn’t affected me in any way, shape or form. Which is strange considering I cry at the mere possibility of certain characters biting the big one. For instance, when Carl was threatened by Negan before the Glenn/Abraham murders, I came unhinged, yelling at the TV. How is it possible for the show to suck all the emotion out of losing yet another original cast member?
Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 9 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Rumors flying around TWD’s decision to preemptively end Carl’s story don’t make anyone out to be the good guy, here. That being said, the production team seems to be going out of their way to ruin what should be a heartbreaking goodbye. The outpouring of love from cast members for Riggs is more touching than the character’s final scene. It takes two full episodes for Carl to pass. The story is told in that tiresome disjoined timeline style they lean on in order to create false tension. Which means we spend every second of the extra time in the extended episode watching scenes which provide no new information because it’s all stuff astute fans figured out during the hiatus. Carl’s time with Judith is sweet. I thought that’d be the tear-trigger for sure. However when we jump back to the present, Carl’s goodbye to his sister is loaded with weird propaganda. The guy who opted to spend his afternoon finger-painting with his sister then goes on to have an adult conversation with her? If the conversation ended when he gave Judith the hat, that would have been the emotional cue the production wanted. Instead we’re forced to watch this loaded speech which only traumatizes the youngest cast member. It’s not touching. It’s uncomfortable and as a parent, I wanted to get Judith out of there way, way before Daryl finally speaks up to offer his protective services.
We can’t talk about Carl’s demise without pointing out one thing which makes me think the production has it out for this character in particular: Red Machete. AMC picks a sub-plot every year and produces a web series which usually leads into one of the two Walking Dead shows. This year’s production brings back The Claimers. Quick refresher: The Claimers came around in season 4, giving us a small taste of how Rick’s crew would react to a Negan-esque character who swept through the apocalypse taking what they wanted no matter who stood in their way. These are also the men who died in probably the most violent hand-to-hand combat scene featuring Rick. Why so violent? They threatened to rape Carl and Michonne. The timing of The Claimers’ return feels wrong. Either someone in the production forgot that these men threatened the outgoing character with sexual assault, or this is an intentional poke at Carl’s character as he’s shuffled out the door in the newest TWD controversy. Honestly? I’m not sure how anyone forgets what trash The Claimers are, let alone forget it long enough to resurrect these men for two webisodes. And all of this to, what, glorify a weapon Rick wields? Don’t we have enough problems with weapon-lust in this nation without using rapists as props to show what an awesome thing it is to be able to maim a living creature?
Red Machete exists solely to build Rick’s mythos as a savior of the apocalypse. It’s this weird piece of character PR, but nowhere near as weird as Carl treating Rick like Jesus during their final scene—a scene which lasts far too long because they splice it with Morgan’s meltdown instead of just letting Riggs and Lincoln take us away with their amazing performances. Yet again we have a moment where the actors are doing remarkable things, but editing and the script fail them utterly. Watching Carl confess his sins to Jesu—I mean Rick, is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. For a long moment, I thought I was imagining things, putting in subtext because I’ve got a hyperactive imagination. But, no. Rick goes on to absolve Carl of his sin. Then Carl tries to rewrite Rick’s past by thanking him for his sacrifices and saying his only job as a father is to love. Gee, who else goes around pardoning others of their misdeeds and spreads love as he does so, no matter the cost to him personally? Not only are Carl’s constant speeches at the end tiresome, but they’re loaded with weird junk dialog and take too long to get to the point. Carl’s plan is suicide so he won’t turn on his friends and family. The longer he delays, the more likely it is he will falter or become too weak to ensure his shot will prevent resurrection. Mindful to the last, it makes no sense for Carl to wait so long, to suffer needlessly, and completely traumatize his loved ones by making them listen as he dies.
As Carl drags out his death, Alexandria’s remaining citizens forget how to survive an attack. Pretty much everyone stuck in the tunnels freaks out at one point or another. Who do they turn to while Rick mourns his son in his newest father fail? Not Michonne. Or Rosita. Not even Daryl is a viable option for these poor panicked people. They look to Dwight to be the new white savior, going so far as to have Michonne lead the charge; she nearly attacks him, desperate to make the Saviors leave. We’ve seen her crumble before, but this wasn’t even a good variation, just an excuse to put another man in charge of the group so the lead character can fall into destructive grief head first.
Khary Payton as Ezekiel – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 9 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Over at the Kingdom, Ezekiel waits for the inevitable end. Gavin’s endless lectures about how good they had it as a team underscores his deepest fear: Negan’s punishment for lieutenants in charge of misbehaving communities beholden to the Saviors. Gavin’s leadership skills kept him one step ahead of his boss’ wrath, but the second Ezekiel steps out of line to join Rick, it’s a domino train leading to the worst outcome possible for a man who just wants to maintain the status quo. Negan doesn’t get a chance to teach his Kingdom-minders a lesson, though. Morgan and Carol, each on a separate mission originally, team up to save Ezekiel. Here’s where we see how they plan to move Morgan off TWD. The plan is apparently just to make him so crazypants, the others insist he leaves. Even Carol, the most pragmatic character on television, is done with Morgan’s uncontrollable need to kill those who’ve harmed his people. On the other hand, this ham-handed method of shifting Morgan from TWD to FtWD gives us an insane death gag on par with the scene I mentioned above with The Claimers and Rick. As always, when the writing fails, I sit back and enjoy the fights. One has to find the silver lining somehow and TWD’s stunt team rarely disappoints.
The episode focuses on Carl’s demise and his quest to wring a promise from his father before the end. What promise? To save their people, give up on the war, and find peace in a stable community. There’s even little fantasies sprinkled throughout to reinforce his desire for the future. All of which is disregarded by Rick in the preview for next week’s episode. So, yeah. I’m really looking forward to watching Rick ignore his dead son’s wishes, just like he ignored him while he was alive. We’ve seen so much character growth over the last eight seasons, I can’t believe it. (Yes, that is sarcasm, readers.)
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.