Category Archives: Dark Comedy

And another ones gone… And another ones gone… Another one bites the dust!

I don’t know what’s more difficult, devoting a full 31 days of the year to Schlock or working on the post game summary.

Boom! Done! Finished! Hasta La Vista Baby! Elvis has left the building! This year’s Schlocktoberfest was brought to you by the letter C which stands for Creature Feature and holy hell I think I set a personal record as there were 8 films that consisted of giant monsters, Giant Octopuses, Sharks of the Mega and 2 headed variety, carnivorous tentacles, 7 foot wasps, and hostile aliens.  If you’re sensing a bit of deja vu with several of these entries its because I went back into the archives and condensed older reviews from the first version of The Direct 2 Video Dungeon. This is also why you might have spotted a lot of this year’s list focusing on productions from 2012 with several coming from The Asylum.

The variety was off the charts – regular zombies, vampiric zombies, homicidal paper boys, psychotic grandparents, a couple generic slashers here and there and an reanimated corpse that dresses up as Uncle Sam. Go ahead and pick your poison.  Oh plus a book and soundtrack review that ended up taking the place of the horror based video games I covered last year (my gaming habits have been pretty sporadic lately and didn’t have enough time to look for any games that fit into the Schlocktoberfest mold).

Before I get to my top 10 Schlocktoberfest 2K16 picks I would like to once again thank all of you who came along for this wild ride. Schedules can be difficult to work around and there were days where life got in the way but I was still able to throw together an update of some kind. I know that in the last two years I’ve stated that I had plans to update this blog more often and thanks to procrastination getting the better of me that never happened. Well I do plan to be back very soon as I have a couple ideas I want to expand on so you’ll most likely be seeing me around sometime in Mid-November. As of right now I intend to enjoy the rest of my Halloween and start November off by catching up on the latest episodes of Elementary, West World, Gotham and the season 3 finale of The Strain. Until the next time – keep a stiff upper lip.

Schlocktoberfest 2K16 Must Watch List: 

1 – Stranger Things – Technically not a movie unless you view this Netflix hit as it was intended through binge watching and even then each episode is presented in chapters so really this is what I’d refer to as an episodic live action book. A series starring children with adult tones. Horror, science fiction, drama, romance wrapped up tightly in an coming of age bow. You’ve had an entire month to watch this so if you flat out ignored my recommendation never come to this blog again…. EVER!

2 – The Witch – Beyond effective delivery, stunning performances, spine tingling results. If you grew up with a basic of witch folklore prepare to have all of your senses jolted.

3 – The Poughkeepsie Tapes – Blending the popular docudrama style of Discovery Channel’s New Detectives with the found footage genre there were moments where I felt a twinge of legitimate fear that wouldn’t subside until two or three days later. Can only hope John Erick Dowdle wasn’t blowing smoke about getting a distribution deal with MGM finalized as this needs a proper DVD/Blu-ray release.

4 – Godzilla vs. Destoroyah – 2016 featured another big return for Japan’s native son and when Funimation signed a deal with Toho to distribute Shin Godzilla for a limited U.S. theatrical engagement I don’t think The King’s handlers knew what was going to happen. One week and $1.5 million later and Shin Godzilla decided to stay take in the sights and sounds of the good old U.S.A. for a little while longer. I still missed out so Funimation when you announce pre-orders for Blu-ray I’ll be ready. Godzilla vs Destoroyah on the other hand is a real treat for G-fans as at the time it was intended to be a hiatus for Toho and what a send off the effects are completely jaw dropping, the story features a few new concepts all the while paying tribute to Godzilla’s humble origins. If you don’t have this in your collection you’re not a true Godzilla fan.

5 – Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies – Don’t really have to say much here. Abraham Lincoln kills zombies and does so in such a kick ass way you’ll be completely shell-shocked  when you realize this was an Asylum production. Thank you Bill Oberst Jr. without your screen presence this production would have been brain dead long before the zombies reached it.

6 – 10 Cloverfield Lane – Goodbye handheld camcorder hello Hitchockian suspense. The not so much a sequel as it a completely different concept that no one saw coming. What a pleasant surprise give John Goodman a fallout shelter set off an apocalyptic event and watch the tension build to a fever pitch.

7 – The Final Girls – Would have been much higher up on the list if not for a PG-13 rating. I’ll say it one more time for good measure – A PG-13 slasher flick?!?!?!? Never in all my 35 years of life would I have thought such a thing could exist. Oh well it dusts off some old ideas applies some polish and presents them in like new condition.

8 – Deep Rising – Oh Stephen Sommers how I miss thee, this is back when you presented some actual fun ideas. There’s not one person in the entire cast where I feel their talent was wasted. There are one liners galore, thrills, chills, gross out moments and plenty of laughs. Don’t get any second ideas here just because Deep Rising is in the number 8 position doesn’t mean it’s not as good as the films above in fact its the second highest rated creature feature next to Godzilla so if you’re looking for something completely campy but is so much fun don’t pass this one by.

9 – Don’t Breathe – Want to really throw audiences for a loop? Make a movie where 90% of the time the characters don’t even talk to one another. Don’t Breathe locks in the tension in a way where you don’t care if there’s dialogue you’re too concerned with monitoring your own pulse and wondering if your heart is going to into cardiac arrest by the time the credits roll.

10 – The Millennium Bug – Demented hillbillies, a normal everyday family getting off the grid to avoid any Y2K catastrophe and oh yeah a grotesque behemoth who’s rudely awakened from his  peaceful hibernation. If you miss the days of Stan Winston and Rick Baker this indie creature feature isn’t afraid to raise its practically created middle finger towards every CGI heavy production polluting the entertainment industry.

Schlocktoberfest 2K16 Day 30: The Final Girls (2015)

The 1980s called and they don't want want their poster back. In fact they're very jealous. This goes above and beyond incredible artwork.
The 1980s called and they don’t want want their poster back. In fact they’re very jealous. This goes above and beyond incredible artwork.

Synopsis: A young woman grieving the loss of her mother, a famous scream queen from the 1980s, finds herself pulled into the world of her mom’s most famous movie. Reunited, the women must fight off the film’s maniacal killer.

A couple days ago in the opening paragraph of my review on 2012’s Girls Gone Dead I asked if horror movie cliches had become cliches in themselves. The standard cut and paste job is why the genre fizzled out in the mid to late ’90s and the only time when the iron was put back into the fire was when film makers took a step back and looked at the most popular concepts from a completely different angle. One of the highlights of Schlocktoberfest 2014 was Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon which focused a majority of that film solely from the perspective of the slasher villain himself. A year later featured Tucker and Dale vs. Evil where a game of role reversal was played with a pair of Hillbillies being the normal ones and a group of college kids were the homicidal maniacs.  Looking to top both of those The Final Girls throws a group of movie goers into a ’80s themed summer camp slasher flick that is a loving tribute (right down to the Harry Manfredini-esque theme song) to Friday the 13th. Ever since Scream established the rules one has to follow in order to survive who wouldn’t mind having the opportunity to jump into their favorite horror movie  and see if you could out smart the machete wielding hock mask wearing killer when all of the main cast were done in by the over three decades worth of cliches that we spotted coming from a mile away.  One of the movie goers even uses this knowledge to try and guide the rest through without any harm but the movie itself isn’t having any of that and uproots all those normal horror tropes to the point where there isn’t a playing field to try and get a level advantage from.

Whenever the buzz for certain projects hit the internet I always remain the reserved skeptic. It’s not that I don’t believe a lot of the positive word of mouth I’ve always kept my guard up until I’m about halfway through the feature. The Final Girls attention to detail is my favorite quality about it where the normal world is very crisp and sharp much like any high definition camera one would pick up at Best Buy. Once everyone is thrown into the 1980s though the look changes drastically to be more in tune with that of VHS tape where the contrast dial is turned all the way up and every now and then you could almost sense that there’s a speck of dirt that appears on the film grain. From top to bottom the casting is near perfect with Malin Akerman Alia Shawkat and Alexander Ludwig being instantly recognized by my subconscious. It took about a half hour to realize that Thomas Middleditch is also featured but quite honestly the only thing I know him from is a Conan ‘O Brien sketch. Where Final Girls stumbles a couple steps is an observation that many  have brought up pertaining to red corn syrup or lack thereof. I don’t quite get that decision as Middleditch’s slasher horror aficionado even ponders if the movie’s characters blood is made up entirely of red corn syrup. I mean come on in my 35 years of life I’ve never heard of a thing as a PG-13 slasher film. The writers and directors can drop a couple F-bombs and various sex and drug references yet they’re too afraid to throw vats of fake blood on everyone? Makes me wonder if The Final Girls had an initial R rating and the studio up and stepped in to try and reach a wider demographic. Other than that if one wants to create an obscure horror trilogy of unrelated modern classics Behind The Mask, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and The Final Girls is an imposing trifecta of hilarious terror that everyone shouldn’t be afraid  to tackle between now and October 31st. Don’t worry there’s still plenty of time… Right? Right!!!…

Final Grade: A-

Schlocktoberfest 2K16 Day 27: Deep Rising (1998)

It was a choice between the Deep Rising DVD artwork or the theatrical poster. The '90s was a decade full of bad promotional artwork.
It was a choice between the Deep Rising DVD artwork or the theatrical poster. The ’90s was the absolute worst decade for promotional artwork

Synopsis: A group of heavily armed hijackers board a luxury ocean liner in the South Pacific Ocean to loot it, only to do battle with a series of large-sized, tentacled, man-eating sea creatures who have taken over the ship first.

What defines a seminal creature feature? Two of the biggest qualities that will stand out for a lot of people are overall impact and longevity.  Each and everyone of us remember the days of sitting on the couch at our grandparents’ house drawn to the television screen to the point where if something freakishly weird happened such as the sky opening up and it raining down 100  dollar bills even that wouldn’t be enough to draw us away.  Part of the longevity factor is how well the special effects hold up over time from the impressionable moments of youthful innocence up till full fledged adulthood where we can sit and look back at childhood nostalgia and go was this something that was released at a point in time where certain fads and phenomenons were impacting pop culture to a point where they couldn’t be ignored.  Or was it simply high quality  film making at its very finest, nothing less and nothing more? Go ahead and pull up Jaws or Jurassic Park or Tremors even then go back further and explore the original King Kong or The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms or Japan’s response to both those classics in 1954 with Gojira. All the effects work in every one of those films that I just mentioned are what critics and average movie goers alike refer to as setting the standard.  Of the six listed only one took the mold and shattered the industry standard beyond repair where Hollywood began their journey into the unknown thanks to the advent of digital effects. Jurassic Park made us stare up at the silver screen in awe and wonder however once the mid-90s hit every major film studio was cashing in on the easier way to produce eye catching visuals to the point where what once was considered a special attraction in 1993 was relegated to the freak show a mere five years later.

In what will be the final creature feature to be included as part of Schlocktoberfest 2K16 Deep Rising hasn’t aged like a fine wine to be frank most wouldn’t compare it to bottle of Mumms. And let me set the record straight this is solely from a digital effects perspective as there are still a wide range of elements that drove the production above and beyond what any other science fiction/horror/action/comedy film of that era did. Take a competent director the likes of Stephen Sommers (before cinematic suicide attempts the likes of Van Helsing and GI Joe: Rise of Cobra) and let him loose with a fun script, genuine chuckle inducing one liners and some underrated casting the likes of the always bad ass Treat Williams, the stunningly gorgeous Famke Jannsen, the ever reliable and deeply missed Trevor Goddard and you get something that in many regards shouldn’t work. As the film continues to push forward at break neck speed one can’t help but get wrapped up in the fun popcorn flick style that Deep Rising has its tentacles tightly wrapped around. One thing I can’t figure out is how Sommers was able to write and direct this film and then immediately switching gears to work on The Mummy which was filmed and released almost a full year later. In many regards Deep Rising and The Mummy share the same DNA despite taking place in completely two different time periods and using the polar opposites in terms of movie monsters. Treat Williams’ Finnegan could be the distant relative of Brendan Frasier’s O’Connell as both have an affinity for firearms and equally explosive one liners. Frequent Sommers collaborator Kevin J. O’Connor slips into the role of a sniveling side kick although he’s not as weaselly as Beni was in The Mummy. Alright I sort of got off course somewhat so let’s wrap this up Deep Rising goes beyond a guilty pleasure or cult classic it was released during the beginning of 1998 which was a horrible decision because even to this very day this has summer blockbuster written all over it. Stephen Sommers reached his zenith in the span of two years and in the blink of an eye hasn’t been able to  get back on that same level of creativity again. I know you’re still out there Stephen. Want some friendly advice? Reinvent yourself, strip away the corporate side of the industry and get back to basics. A Deep Rising sequel most likely isn’t in the cards but a similar idea can go a long ways.

Final Grade: A

Schlocktoberfest 2K16 Day 18: Storage 24 (2012)

Definitely not the best time for a game of peek a boo I see you.
Definitely not the best time for a game of peek a boo I see you.

Synopsis: In London, a military plane crashes leaving its highly classified contents strewn across the city. Completely unaware that the city is in lockdown, a group of people become trapped inside a storage facility with a highly unwelcome guest.

One of the primary reasons that I enjoy exploring the direct to video realm is that feeling of unpredictably. Independent film makers are not afraid to march to the beat of their own drum and will go for a lot of outside the box ideas that usually don’t fly too well in Hollywood. An idea in its simplest form can take audiences into unknown areas yet it usually depends on how well executed said idea can be once it becomes a reality. Today we’re going to be looking at an ambitious horror/sci-fi crossbreed that borrows from a wide assortment of inspirations including the reality television show Storage Wars, movies the likes of Alien, Super 8, Cloverfield, and various slasher elements which were taken from Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Whenever a director can build a tension filled thriller using an unknown evil and having a group of people trapped in an enclosed space its pretty much a given that you’re going to get something that will keep your heart beating a mile a minute. No one ever wants to be put into a situation where they have their back against the wall (both literally and figuratively) especially when intense situations can bring out a wide array of stressful emotions including anger, fear, denial, and paranoia yet its how we’re able to compose ourselves in those instances that will either help us escape harm or will lead to our eventual downfall.

This is undoubtedly a blood soaked gooey slime riddled alien infestation that die hard b-movie fans will have no problems warming up to. The first half hour is definitely the weakest part of the film with the build up to the alien reveal was rather excruciating but once that precise moment comes its wonderfully executed. Granted the scene plays out exactly like the reveal of the Xenomorph and there will be some that say it’s too much of a ripoff nevertheless when you notice the amount of detail that went into the overall design of this creature you’ll appreciate the old school tip of the hat to that genuine style of movie magic from two to three decades ago. If anything the alien in Storage 24 is what makes the movie a must watch. I loved the personality this thing had as it’s definitely not a distant cousin of E.T., he’s not here to make friends or phone home. When he comes into contact with humans he’s curious as to what makes us tick to the point where he ends up pulling the heart out of a victim as well as a couple other parts of the circulatory system. The main look is somewhat reminiscent of the Predator with the alien’s mouth being covered in mandibles and yet unlike the Predator he actually has a use for them by getting up close and very personal with any poor soul who tries to take this menace on in a fight. Overall Storage 24 fits into what I’d call the severely flawed masterpiece category as the negatives tend to focus on trying too hard to make viewers care for the main cast or having the ending itself rely on a Twilight Zone or Men In Black shock/twist that ultimately just felt pretty emotionless like it was tacked on for the sake of being nothing more than Close Encounters of the Cliched Kind.

Final Grade: D

Schlocktoberfest 2K16 Day 17: Rise of the Zombies (2012)

I'm not worried about a zombie apocalypse happening. Danny Trejo would have taken care of in one week.
To tell the truth I’m not really worried about a zombie apocalypse happening. Danny Trejo would have it taken care of in a week.

Synopsis: During a zombie apocalypse a group of survivors hide on Alcatraz Island to escape from rising zombie hordes. When their refuge is overrun, and upon hearing that a scientist may have discovered a cure, they leave the island to seek him out.

Rise of the Zombies is a collaborative effort between the architects of b-movie schlock The Asylum and their old sparring partner The Sy Fy Channel that premiered back around Halloween 2012. Whenever these two team up you’re automatically guaranteed for an interesting Saturday night full of lambasting with close friends as all of you drink away any conscious memories of a potential torturous experience (who knows maybe being torn apart by ravenous hords of Zombies wouldn’t be too bad compared to this). This isn’t the first zombie outing for The Asylum as they’ve done others in the genre including the generically titled Zombie Apocalypse. In fact both productions were directed by the same person Nick Lyon so it’s interesting to say the least that both Sy Fy and The Asylum turned to this guy to try and cash in on the immense popularity of The Walking Dead with some low budget zombified grilled cheese. On my first viewing I sat in shock with how many faces I immediately recognized and granted these are not names of major award winning actors but given my own personal movie collection there were a good four or five people I could sit there and go – ‘Oh that’s so and so from this movie and this person I recognized from here’ so I think this makes for a pretty good sign that a small independent film company that purposely puts out bad movies has officially made it. Even Mr. Reading Rainbow himself LeVar Burton has a prominent role although he doesn’t have time to promote reading he’s trying his damnedest to find a cure to the disease that has caused this devastation.

It seems like the one thing that you’re always going to get with any of The Asylum’s horror films is brutally insane levels of gore and if there is any way to sum up Rise of the Zombies it definitely makes a majority of the bigger Hollywood productions look like an after school special. There is a key scene in particular where one of the main cast members has to do an emergency c-section in order to save a baby from becoming one of the undead and lets just say it will end up making stomachs churn (proving that The Asylum will go to extreme lengths others don’t have the b@lls to). The design of the zombies is what makes this recommend viewing with the makeup being on par with anything one would see in blockbusters the likes of Dawn of the Dead (the remake) and Zombieland. Being undead must suck hardcore as decaying flesh and having some weird infectious disease wouldn’t be the way I’d want to spend the rest of my eternity and I’d actually hope for a normal person to put me out of my misery. Some cool ideas that made Rise of the Zombies somewhat entertaining are having survivors living together at one of the world’s most iconic prisons. While the concept of having a group of people try and make it to a deserted island has been done countless times I can’t recall any zombie films that managed to incorporate Alcatraz. The only downside to this is once the undead make their way to the island a majority of the people hightail out of there quicker than a cheetah on steroids. I understand the urgency to escape in order to live to fight another day but for some reason I’d like a last stand type scenario as watching people coming up with inventive ways to kill zombies with the environment surrounding them would definitely make for one hell of a horror roller coaster ride.  Viewers are thrown right into the thick of it and unlike a lot of the mainstream zombie films on the market these days where you slowly succumb to a zombie bite here if you’re bit it takes less than a minute before you’re craving a human man-wich. There are a good amount of thrills, kills, and lots of corn syrup being thrown around to keep viewers satisfied however once the movie switches to the mainland and the heroes decide to go their separate ways is when Rise of the Zombies starts coming apart at the seam which is a bit disheartening considering that for the better part of the film there is solid execution the last half just simply runs out of creativity.

Final Grade: C-

Schlocktoberfest 2K16 Day 15: The Millennium Bug (2011)

When the Millennium Bug hits the last thing you'll be worried about is technology.
When the Millennium Bug hits the last thing you’ll be worried about is technology.

Synopsis: The Haskin family seeks refuge from Y2K hysteria in the isolated forests of the Sierra Diablos Mountains. Abducted by a vicious hillbilly clan, the family battles for their lives…but neither they nor their captors could imagine the monstrous nightmare about to erupt from the bowels of the earth.

Every so often a person will witness something and immediately afterwards their initial shellshock will limit how they perceived said event until they sit down and really take it all in. More often than not a lot of indie film makers are the ones who come with the most creative/outside the box/utterly insane ideas that either work on every level or ultimately come crashing down in flames. For a little film called The Millennium Bug it ends up throwing everything at viewers (except the kitchen sink unfortunately). Right from the opening moments it’s not a film that follows the by the numbers formula a majority of today’s standard horror flicks go by. The comedic properties are so perversely dark and will either go over the heads of any good natured movie viewer or will end up rekindling horrific memories of classic thrillers the likes of Deliverance or Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Then, if that wasn’t enough, all of a sudden in perhaps the biggest WTF moment a giant monster explodes from the earth ready to wreak havoc and destruction on any poor soul who happens to cross its path. So one can see where I’m coming from here after my first viewing of this glorious piece of sleazy grindhouse trash that figures the only limits to adhere to are no limits at all.

Besides having a multitude of unique concepts being mashed together the other element that gives The Millennium Bug such a distinctive identity is having no use of CGI at all. In the state of the modern film industry this ends up being a breath of fresh air as going to the theater and predicting when a plethora of mind numbing explosions are going to envelop the entire screen while the audience ooohs and ahhhs sadly have become way too tedious and boring. For those of us who grew up in the 1980s we end up leaving after the final credits with a pit in the bottom of stomach. I mean come on now, what happened to the 4th of July only coming once a year? When I sit and watch movies from the last two to three decades I still sit back in a state of awe taking in the art form of how special effects were done and when computers were still a novelty technically being in their infant forms. It’s the legendary special effect wizards the likes of Rick Baker, Rob Bottin, and the late great Stan Winston who were the bar in terms of making a practical effect look and feel real. How many digital artists/programmers can one name that have revolutionized the special effect industry the way Baker, Bottin, and Winston did? Not many, right? With the practical effects in The Millennium Bug they are not quite as good as the three big FX names above however one can’t deny the creativity that went into the final product so if No CGI Films (clever title for the company who made the film) continues to lovingly pay homage to the way effects were done in the past they’ll have no problems honing their craft and who knows maybe eventually somewhere down the road they’ll help redefine the industry.

Final Grade: B+

Schlocktoberfest 2K16 Day 14: Are You Afraid of the Dark? – Volumes 1-10 for $19.99

Hey gang,

I’ll be away from my computer for the rest of afternoon/evening so for today’s update here’s a current sale I was made aware of via Slickdeals.net that will surely appeal to all children of the ’90s.

Vudu.com has 10 volumes of Are You Afraid of the Dark in Standard Definition for only $19.99. Not to sound like a desperate Home Shopping Network pitchman but when you add up the combined number of episodes that are part of this deal (64 to be precise) and compare it to the the series 7 season run (91 episodes in total) that’s more than half of the series for less than 20 bucks!

Here are the steps to follow if you want to take advantage of this beyond amazing deal:

  1. Click on the following link
  2. In the search option, search for “Are You Afraid of the Dark”
  3. Select the “Bundle & Save” option for Are You Afraid of the Dark?: Volumes 1-10
  4. Purchase the Standard Definition to Own for $19.99

Please note that you must have a Vudu account and be logged in to take advantage of this offer. After purchase, this bundle is yours to keep.

Happy viewing!

deadmansfloat