The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)

The Girl with All the Gifts (2016) movie poster

director Colm McCarthy
viewed: 09/16/2017

The zombiepocalypse over-saturation probably hasn’t peaked yet, so it’s harder than ever to make something new in this genre. The Girl with All the Gifts does try to push the zombiepocalypse a little and its efforts are not for naught.

The film opens on a young girl in a jail cell who has to be strapped down in a wheelchair and rolled by armed guards into a classroom of other young people. Right off the bat it’s a bit interesting. What is going on? Why are the kids in wheelchairs? Strapped down? Why are they being educated?

Really, most films try to tell you what’s going on from the get-go so the audience doesn’t have to figure anything out. So right there, it’s already kind of interesting.

It doesn’t totally stay with that. We find out pretty quickly that these kids are infected with a zombie fungus on the brain, but that they are different from freshly infected adults in that some sort of symbiosis exists that allows them to maintain a form of normality when they’re not hungry.

Eventually the movie goes pretty The Walking Dead, except these are speedy zombies, infecting at zero-to-sixty in a second and running fast at their food.

The film turns again toward the ending with more of its inventive qualities about these second generation zombie kids and the fungal apocalypse. I’ve always liked Gemma Arterton, who plays the good-hearted teacher. Sennia Nanua is Melanie, the girl with all the gifts, and she’s very good too.

Just sort this list of zombie films by date and you tell me when you think we’ve reached max saturation in the zombiepocalypse market.

Raiders of the Living Dead (1986)

Raiders of the Living Dead (1986) movie poster

directors Samuel M. Sherman, Brett Piper
viewed: 08/28/2017

I’ve been experimenting with something that most normal people who write extensively about movies have done for years: take notes while watching. I’m not sure I was ever much of a note taker, case in point:

  • Laser disc repair
  • Laser death ray fries pet rat
  • Cult film trivia factor 10: Zita Johann of The Mummy (1932) and the amazing The Sin of Nora Moran (1933) and Scott Schwartz, Flick of the classic A Christmas Story (1983). Talk about your 7 degrees of Kevin Bacon (does anyone talk about 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon anymore)?
  • Interesting at the same time nonsensical
  • The ending devolves into straight up expressionism

Now, having read up on Raiders of the Living Dead and its pathway to creation, I’m surprised it made any sense at all.

The House of Seven Corpses (1974)

The House of Seven Corpses (1974) movie poster

director Paul Harrison
viewed: 04/19/2017

The best thing going for the “zombie” flick, The House of Seven Corpses, is the house itself. The Utah Governor’s mansion is quite an interesting-looking place. Sadly, what goes down there isn’t all that notable.

A crew is at the house to make a horror picture. Only when they start to read from the Tibetan Book of the Dead for added realism, it manages to bring back to life the corpses buried nearby. You’ve seen this plot or its facsimiles in other, better movies.

For its lameness, it’s not a cheaply produced sort of film. John Carradine is still moderately spry for the 1970’s.

Toward the end, when the action (so to speak) ensues, the film shows flashes of switching into outright comedy. But that is a head-fake. It’s just a movie without a lot to offer or recommend.

Bloodsuckers from Outer Space (1984)

Bloodsuckers from Outer Space (1984) movie poster

director  Glen Coburn
viewed: 03/06/2017

Perhaps Glen Coburn should have heeded the famous saying: “dying is easy; comedy is hard.”

But he didn’t. And maybe for the best.

Bloodsuckers from Outer Space is low-budget regional horror-comedy that winds up being more charming that it seemingly has a right to be. Though the comedy angle is the film’s weakest point, there is something still appealing is its gleeful attempts.

Well, maybe not all of them.

And that theme song! Now, that is quality.

Doctor Butcher, M.D. (1980)

Doctor Butcher, M.D. (1980) movie poster

director Marino Girolami
viewed: 02/27/2017

Cannibals and zombies and mad doctors, oh my!

This Zombie Holocaust came to me by way of Doctor Bucther, M.D., both good movie names in my book. Apparently nonsequiturs occur more in the original version, but the film’s madcap pace keeps you from really pondering how all this stuff fits together.

What starts out in a New York hospital as weird cannibalism apparently by immigrants from the Molucca islands (which throughout the film I heard as “Mulatto Islands”) then heads to said islands to investigate. Somehow an anthropology expert who grew up in the Molucca islands (Alexandra Delli Colli) never heard of such things and alongside head doctor (Ian McCulloch) find themselves investigating this biz instead of say, the cops.

This is where the cannibals and zombies and mad doctor are. The zombies turn out to not exactly be zombies but lobotomized people who’ve endured major surgical shenanigans by the local mad doctor of the title.

It’s gory and silly and racist and peppy. And hard to not enjoy.

Burial Ground (1981)

Burial Ground (1981) movie poster

director Andrea Bianchi
viewed: 02/01/2017

For me, Burial Ground begins significantly with the poster/VHS video art. This is one of the best, most-compelling pieces of box art out there. It caught my eye time and again. So much so, I am really uncertain whether or not I’d ever actually seen the movie.

The movie itself operates in conventional ways, zombies awakened by accident, gratuitous nudity, prime gore effects, interesting zombie make-up/masks, but also operates with freedom from logic or rationality (zombies pop up out of everywhere: planters, random ground, not just “burial grounds”, that bear trap in the garden, the sudden onset of Oedipan lust.) The zombies that use utensils also seems sort of like, “what the hell!” and you know, it sort of works.

When the notorious man-child character played by Peter Bark suddenly lusts for his mother, it’s hard not to laugh in shock, or necessarily argue. Bark is such a strange-looking guy, possibly beset by some growth disease? But when he bites off that nipple, I had a flashback. Maybe I had seen all this before.

I can see why so many love this film. It still feels vaguely like a dream to me.

Battle Girl: The Living Dead in Tokyo Bay (1991)

Battle Girl: The Living Dead in Tokyo Bay (1991) DVD cover

director Kazuo Komizu
viewed: 11/14/2016

Cutie Suzuki, a Japanese professional wrestler at the time, stars in Battle Girl: The Living Dead in Tokyo Bay, a low-budget zombie flick from the earlier 1990’s.  Kazuo Komizu, whose Entrails of a Virgin (1986) and Entrails of a Beautiful Woman (1986) were pinku weirdness, directs Suzuki here in a movie that offers a lot more narrative complexity than you might expect.

It starts with a meteor headed for Tokyo Bay which triggers the zombie apocalypse and a radical military response, a fog cloud containing the greater Tokyo area, and sets the stage for Suzuki to don one of the most ill-fitting action suits ever made to fight the big punkish butch henchladies (who I assume were also culled from Japanese pro wrestling).

On the plus side, this emanates from the earliest of the 1990’s and so features low-fi special effects and not one pixel tweaked.  There is also a battle squad of young people who sell arms to the highest bidder who take up with Battle Girl, especially once they realize how much ass she kicks.  And when she flips down her eyeglass shield.  I laughed almost every time.

On the not so plus side, it’s not quite as horrendously spectacular as you might wish.  It doesn’t push the envelope with sex nor violence, though it has a modicum of the latter.  It might be accused of being almost boring, even with a running time well below 90 minutes.

I could definitely see how this could float somebody’s boat.  Mine only somewhat.

Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988)

Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988) movie poster

director Ken Wiederhorn
viewed: 10/16/2016

Okay, okay, Return of the Living Dead Part II is a serious let-down from The Return of the Living Dead (1985).  Written and directed by Ken Wiederhorn is not the same as written and directed by Dan O’Bannon.  Even with James Karen and Thom Matthews appearing again in this alternate universe Return of the Living Dead, it’s just a serious level or two below the other.

It’s still comedic, but skewed to the vantage of a kid, rather than a bunch of punks.

Oddly enough, I’m pretty sure that I also saw this one in the theater on its initial release.  We were living behind one of Gainesville, FL’s few movie theaters and a friend had a friend who snuck us in for free.  I think it says something that I remember more about sneaking into the movie than anything about the movie, other than its connection to its predecessor.

All that said, I still enjoyed it apparently more than most.  The 1985 The Return of the Living Dead is a true gem.  The 1988 Part II is campily bad, hammy, silly, but does have some decent visual effects and flashes of fun.

The Ghost Galleon (1974)

The Ghost Galleon (1974) movie poster

director Amando de Ossorio
viewed: 10/04/2016

Largely cited as the weakest of the “Blind Dead” film quartet, Amando de Ossorio’s The Ghost Galleon still has some spooks going for it.

It’s true, the main story that manages to get swimsuit models, film producers, and a science professor out on the Mediterranean in a sultry fog is thin and quite ridiculous.  But de Ossorio’s zombie knights templar, once they creep out of their floating tombs, they’re still extremely eerie.

The boat FX are among the worst committed to celluloid, but the set of the ghost galleon with its deathless, hooded skeletal creeps…those guys get me every time.  I don’t know what it is about them that is so effective.  It’s just some deeply inherently cool stuff of nightmares.

Fido (2006)

Fido (2006) movie poster

director Andrew Currie
viewed: 09/03/2016

Fido is a kinder, gentler zombie comedy.  Less gore (though not gore-free), with a softer spot in its heart than one might expect.

Fido does come from 2006, four years before TV’s The Walking Dead would create a zombie ubiquity in our universe.  Fido also, somewhat significantly, comes from Canada, which may account for aspects of its slightly unusual bent.

Opening on a mock 1950’s-style newsreel that tells the origin of the film’s personal zombie apocalypse, we are brought into this suburban fantasy, the nuclear family, in a world that survived the zombie apocalypse and has ways of neutralizing and enslaving zombies.  Director/co-writer Andrew Currie riffs on this Leave It to Beaver era North American town and the culture of it and below it.

Carrie-Anne Moss is a welcome presence as “the Mom” and Billy Connolly plays “Fido”, the zombie that the family has taken in as a status symbol and eventual family pet.

While it doesn’t begin to achieve greatness, it rarely flags from being affable and likable.