Monday, February 17, 2014

Danny Trejo, WHY, man? Just...WHY?!?!

Have you ever seen the movie Feast? You know, the one connected with Project Greenlight. The movie that slammed a title into the screen when introducing a new character, just so you knew what generic role that person represented. The movie that took your expectations and snapped them like Bane snapped Batman's back. The movie full of nasty, gooey, gross blood/guts/brains/etc. splattered on almost every inch of the set.

You remember that movie? If you do, you have no business watching Zombie Hunter because this movie spends the bulk of its running time copying Feast and lifting scenes/dialogue from better movies in what I can only assume are ironic/hip/knowing nods to every film the writer/director has ever seen. Before you ask, Quentin Tarentino did NOT write/direct this movie, but someone who wants to be like him apparently did.

Sure, there will be those who will say that the person responsible for Zombie Hunter is poking fun at such wannabe filmmakers. Yeah, and Desperately Seeking Susan was laughed out of theaters, so suddenly it became a comedy to cover the fact it was a bomb.

The basic story is the same one we have seen a dozen times. Mostly nameless guy with a dark past is the ultimate killer of zombies (actually, just victims of a designer drug that had nasty side effects but still spread like vines of cute kittens on the Internet). He narrates the movie in a hard-boiled style that even Mickey Spillane would be put off by. Huge portions of the first third of the film look like they were cloned and pasted from Mad Max and The Road Warrior. Then our "hero" gets shot and is taken in by a ragtag group of survivors. Yup, never seen this before.

The group is made up of characters we've all know from other zombie movies: obnoxious fat guy, skank girl, sweet girl, sweet girl's reason for living (her brain-dead brother), all-around jack-of-all-trades guy and the group's leader who has a shadowy past, somewhat like our "hero". Your mileage may very, but within minutes of each character being introduced, I wanted all of them to die, with one exception.

Danny Trejo plays the leader of the group. He is supposedly a priest, but he has two of the most awesome scenes this movie could put together. Just Trejo, an axe and dubstep background music as he hacks his way through zombies in a hellish landscape. I could have watched 90 minutes of that. Don't get used to it, though. I almost think Mr. Trejo had a couple of days where he wasn't working on better films and decided to help out.

Anyway, the group decides to make a run for an Air Force base, but they have to go through a town called...wait for it!...Dahmer. That sly humor that is like blunt force trauma to the face. Give me more. (Please note that this comment is meant to be sarcasm. I don't want to confuse people who think this kind of film is funny and hip.)

I will spare you the rest of the story. You can probably write it yourself. If you can't, give a small child the set-up I gave you and they will probably tell you how it ends. Honestly, the child might come up with a better story.

When not being slapped with the annoying characters (the skank girl is the single most irritating member and that is no simple feat in this movie) and blindingly obvious lack-of-budget locations, the filmmaker decides to offer up CGI work that makes films from The Asylum look like Lord Of The Rings. If the CGI had been used with any level of subtlety, I might have overlooked it. Subtle is not in this film's bible. Fake looking gunshots and inept monsters are constantly obscured by digital blood splashing on the camera lens.

I get tired just thinking about this movie.

Danny Trejo, sir, I have to ask you why? Why did you do this movie? Did someone blackmail you? Did the director save you from a burning building and you felt the need to pay him back? Did you need money for Christmas?

Before I end, I must respect my mother's teachings. She always said, "Find something nice to say about everything." Okay, Mom. 

The film always stayed in focus. Mostly.

Monday, February 10, 2014 3D! And he still sucks!

I have a confession to make. I have never been a major fan of Dario Argento's work. Please, do not get me wrong. I understand and appreciate his contributions to horror cinema. I even enjoy some of his movies, namely Bird With The Crystal Plumage and Trauma. Without a doubt, he is a master of the horrific, bloody set pieces by which most of his film are anchored. His work has spawned a legacy of filmmakers inspired by the innovations he crafted.

Now we have an icon tackling a piece of classic (and iconic) literature. 

Purists out there, please exit now. Stoker is in his grave screaming, "Who befouled my good name?" Well, Bram, ignoring all of the other times your work has been abused, we can shake a crucifix at Mister Argento this time. Of course, he had a few other writers helping him, like some wild pre-sweetened-cereal-overdose, finger-painting mishap in a daycare center with no supervision.

Everything takes place in the general area of Dracula's castle, so no White Cliffs of Dover for you England fans. Apparently in these tough economic times, even Dracula has to scale back his ambitions. Harker is now a librarian who has taken on the job of cataloging the Count's library. Mina is his meek wife who follows him into Dracula's realm. Lucy is now the daughter of the town's mayor, who, along with other officials and upstanding citizens in the town, has snuggled up to the Count in an arrangement not unlike a Mafia scheme. Renfield is utterly confused as he is defending the honor of a poor girl killed by Dracula in one scene and a whimpering pet of Dracula in another.

Characters seem to be completely oblivious to Dracula's grip on the city, yet everyone seems to know he is using the town as his personal blood bank. The Count is slowly milking Lucy dry, but to what purpose? Other than a nod to the novel and another excuse for Argento to show his daughter, Asia, naked in one of his movies, the movie fails to give a reasonable answer. Other characters clearly are aware that creepy stuff is happening all around them, yet they brush it off.

The only person in the whole movie who actually comes out okay is Van Helsing, played with very solid understatement by Rutger Hauer. He plays Helsing as a man obsessed with rooting out evil. If people die while under his watch, so be it, as long as he is able to stop the vampires.

If the story and characters are not off-putting enough, you then have to deal with the constant sexual undertones and eye-rolling orgasmic looks of victims whenever a vampire touches them. If the whole thing had been a hair sleazier, it could have passed itself off as an homage to Jess Franco's cinematic stylings. Minus the zooming camera work.

Another item that seems to smack of minimal budget is the constant CGI work in the film instead of the good old makeup work that made Argento's earlier films so gruesomely fun. In fact, the effects range from so-so to "Are you fucking kidding me? My 5-year-old nephew could do better CGI!". However, thanks to the cheesy CGI, Argento and crew brought us one of the single most jaw-droppingly hilarious WTF? moments ever committed to film. I don't want to ruin it, but I will warn you that it involves a praying mantis the size of a mutant grizzly. Go find it on Youtube and spare yourself 2 hours.

It may seem that I am spreading the hate rather thick on this movie. I mean, it really is a rather sad thing. Yet, it has two things working in its favor. The first is that it does turn its back on the super-sexy vampires who belong on fashion magazines. Not one of these critters sparkle or have much on their minds other than feeding. The second thing is that this film has all the characteristics to become a cult favorite in the "It's so bad, but I can't stop laughing at it" category. Not something you want to see a former great director churn out, but it is better to be laughed at than ignored. Maybe. Yeah, I'll stick with that theory.

By the way, this thing is in 3D, so if you must wallow in this thing AND you have a 3D capable TV and Blu-Ray player, watch it in 3D. It makes the praying mantis scene funnier. So much funnier. I am not responsible for anyone who wets themselves laughing.