Tag 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.

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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 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 13: Horror Show by Greg Kihn (1996)

The best '50s B-Movie you'll ever read.
The best ’50s B-Movie you’ll ever read.

One of my favorite pastimes throughout a majority of 2016 has been reading.  This is a stark contrast to nearly two decades ago when the only time I’d crack a book was when it was absolutely essential in my pursuit of my high school diploma. While the years since have  been a continuous blur I’ve found that in between the hustle and bustle of life I still have a lot of free time to dedicate to passions which both drive me forward and help keep me grounded. The key reason I’ve been reading is the decision to invest in the very affordable Amazon Kindle Fire 7 tablet. Being a gadget lover the fact that I can have the Fire with me on the go whether I’m away from home on a road trip or casually sitting at the laundry mat having something that fits in the palm of my hand that I use to check my e-mail or browse the internet is one of my favorite ways to pass the time these days. When I started exploring the endless amount of ebooks that Amazon had in their digital marketplace is when I decided to take the plunge. Having a wide array of genres to explore both established and up and coming authors to look into and perhaps the greatest advantage of all not worrying about paper cuts when turning a page (if you can get a paper cut from swiping to the next page you’re a more die hard reader than I’ll ever be).

If my addiction to the Amazon Kindle Fire 7 was the primary reason for my total immersion back into the world of books the second thing that kept me reading was a little website by the name of Bookbub.com. Thanks to an introduction from a family member I signed up for free daily updates sent directly to my inbox. Part of the sign up process allows a user to pick favorite genres so that way you’re always kept in the loop when there’s a sale happening. The daily e-mail will also throw a couple free ebooks your way and while most of these freebies are by independent authors the ones I’ve picked up and read thus far have done a perfect job of keeping my attention. It was through Bookbub where I came across a deal on the debut novel from The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em) hit maker Greg Kihn. I’ve known of Kihn through a couple of old VH1 music specials and hearing The Breakup Song on Los Santos Rock Radio when playing Grand Theft Auto V from time to time. It was because of those reasons that I decided to spend $1.99 on Horror Show and unquestionably it was worth every penny. As the story began to unfold it didn’t take long to realize how big of a B-Movie fanatic Kihn was/is. Anyone who grew up watching Plan Nine From Outer Space, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, Attack of the Giant Leeches or any other drive in cheese from the 1950s will admire how Greg manages to tell a entirely original story in the same campy style without any of it feeling too tongue in cheek. The book starts off with a magazine writer tracking down a reclusive B-Movie director who hasn’t been heard from since finishing work on what many called his seminal masterpiece a zombie horror/thriller appropriately titled Cadaver. The entire production was filmed at the L.A. County morgue and rumors circulated for years that the film crew used actual dead bodies in several scenes. If I talk about Horror Show any further I risk spoiling the rest of the book so if you’re looking for the perfect read this Halloween season here is my instant recommendation. Greg has written three subsequent sequels to Horror Show but in the years since has focused more on the rock ‘n roll side of things. I can only hope that he decides to eventually return to horror considering its the 20th anniversary of Horror Show and I’ve just now discovered his creative genius. In the five months since I’ve yet to delete it off my Kindle and yes I know I could go and re-download it again for free since I purchased it, I think that shows the staying power of a good book you read it, it captivates you like no other and you want to hold on to it forever.

Final Grade: A

***Quick side note Greg Kihn did release an album called Horror Show back in 1996 but as far as I know has nothing to do with the book apart from the title. Speaking of which check out the title song from that album below. It has one of the most haunting melodies I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing…

Schlocktoberfest 2K16 Day 12: Uncle Sam (1996)

Uncle Sam its not polite to point. Or burn a hole into my soul with your creepy undead eyes.
Uncle Sam its not polite to point. Or burn a hole into my soul with your creepy undead eyes.

Synopsis: Desert Storm vet who was killed in combat rises from the grave on July Fourth, to kill the unpatriotic citizens of his hometown, after some teens burn an American flag over his burial site.

Its safe to say that there are many people who can’t wait to put election day behind us especially for those who are trying to make any logical sense out of the current presidential race. I myself am not what you’d call a political even though I do have my personal views and opinions on things I’ve always refused to get caught up in the nonstop insanity that constantly follows the two most popular political parties around like a lost puppy. I know that there are numerous amount of issues we have to deal with on a daily basis and I’ve always tried to help whenever possible through various means including charities and donating man hours to trying to make the world a better place. The one thing I will not allow to consume me is negativity so whenever a political ad comes in the mail, ends up on my answering machine or flashes across my television screen I brush it away as nothing more than an afterthought. Sorry if that sounds harsh but anyone who wants to cast judgment on me I’m giving you the permission to go ahead and do so I’ll still be doing my civic duty by voting on November 8th and immediately afterwards I’m not going to pay attention to any media coverage not because I’m worried about the outcome nope instead I’ll go back to trying to maintain an even balance in what should matter  – everyday life.

Boy oh boy its not everyday you’ll stumble across a politically themed slasher flick so for those of you who enjoy waking up every morning and turning the television or computer on to see what headlines will make your blood boil this is especially for you. Upon my initial discovery of Uncle Sam my thoughts immediately flashed back to Paperboy where here was another director trying his damnedest in using a pry bar to make something fit into a horror mold. I don’t really have a clue in terms of web traffic who exactly visits my blog so anyone who embraces politics 24/7 will definitely take offense that I even got a few chuckles out of Uncle Sam but come on I do a yearly horror marathon called Schlocktoberfest go and take a look at anything else that I have covered in the last three years. If I haven’t somehow offended you by now I guess what I really should asking is why are you still here? I mean hell you really want to be offended Hollywood already beat me with the punch with The Purge: Election Year. Who knows maybe in another year’s time someone will crank out a slasher film featuring an orange skinned blowhard with an atrocious comb over. On second thought we’ve already lived through that horror long enough, it won’t be much longer where we can bore that painful memory out of our brains forever.

Final Grade: C-

Schlocktoberfest 2K15 Day 31: Trick ‘R Treat (2007)

Anything can happen on a Halloween night.
Putting the thrills and chills back into the scariest night of the year.

Synopsis: Trick ‘R Treat takes the Creepshow/Tales from the Crypt approach to nefarious new depths with four interwoven tales set on Halloween night.

Everyone has their own vision of what the perfect Halloween encompasses be it the exhilaration of stepping outside to take in that first breath of brisk autumn air or gathering up the family and heading to the nearest pumpkin patch to decide which one will have the honor of becoming that year’s jack-o-lantern. For others its spending several months collecting a variety of components to help in making a costume that will both turn heads and end up taking first prize at a local Halloween party. Kids entering their early teens know there’s not much time left to score as much free candy as they can so they get a hold of their closest pals and meeting up a few hours early to map out what route guarantees everyone earns a big haul. Those of us who don’t like plan big can enjoy the holiday by putting the kettle on and making some hot cocoa curling up with a spine tingling Stephen King or R.L. Stine novel. If none of those are viable options there’s always the choice of checking the local TV listings to see what networks are offering the best variety of scary movie marathons. Still there are those who are looking forward to getting the day over as quickly as possible so they can set their clocks back before heading off to bed knowing that the full hour of sleep we’ll be rewarded with will feel like euphoria. With the passing of yet another Halloween a select few will see it as that time of the year where its the start of that long agonizing journey towards the day after the new year where the holiday season can finally be put to rest for another nine months.

Any time a movie revolves a certain time of the year it can be difficult to establish mood. Christmas movies definitely have it the hardest because even during December not everyone is feeling a constant joy and love towards one another. A Halloween themed film has to be a lot more fun to create because it deals with a fair amount tricks and treats as well as making sure the thrills are a plenty and the scares are evenly spaced. Trick ‘R Treat doesn’t take long in capturing the essence of autumn’s most recognizable night before the twists slowly begin to take hold and you slip into a void where the spirit of Halloween makes sure you embrace every seasonal tradition whether you’re willing to or not. The setting feels like it could be any rural small town focusing on a group of people who are celebrating in their own ways and you follow these individuals through four impressively solid interlocking stories. The success behind any noteworthy horror anthology is making sure the suspension of disbelief isn’t piled on in too hastily and thankfully there isn’t one moment of Trick ‘R Treat that lacks in genuine emotion. Anyone who is looking to add some much needed atmosphere to whatever Halloween traditions you’re wanting to be apart of this evening needs to include a viewing of Trick ‘R Treat, doing so will make October 31st all the more meaningful.

Final Grade: A

Schlocktoberfest 2K15 Day 28: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)

Never let a dumb college kid come between a hillbilly and his chainsaw, a beer, and a pretty looking girl.
Never let a dumb college kid come between a hillbilly his chainsaw a beer and a pretty looking girl.

Synopsis: Tucker & Dale are on vacation at their dilapidated mountain cabin when they are attacked by a group of preppy college kids.

True friendships endure through thick and thin no matter what set of circumstances are thrown into the wild and craziness of everyday life. I remember reading once that people meet their true friends are after high school and quite honestly I can’t find any real validity behind that particular statement. Maybe its because at that particular age you’re just a teenager interested in flirting with girls or cracking jokes trying to make people laugh. This is the final part of childhood innocence four years where you prepare to go out into the real world yet you value every memory of hanging out with the people who got your distinct personality within five minutes of meeting one another. This past September has been 18 years since meeting my two best friends and thanks in part to social media and smartphones we’re always in contact with one another. When you’re a teenager a lot of adults will tell you ‘You have a lot of growing up to do’ and looking back at that point in my life I had already matured into the person that I wanted to be. Thankfully I still have two like minded people in my life to make me laugh whenever bad luck reared its ugly head or offered advice when I needed a different point of view. If I had to do it all over again I wish I could go back in time and get a do over on a few things but in terms of my friends I wouldn’t change one thing.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is one of the finest buddy/situational comedies I’ve ever had the pleasure of laughing my way through. It focuses on two friends who enjoy the simple things in life such as drinking beer, fishing, and fixing up a vacation home they bought out in middle of nowhere. Unfortunately for Tucker and Dale they bump into a group of college students who thanks to the Deliverance stereotype think the pair are nothing more than a couple inbred hillbillies who want to cause bodily harm to anyone who enters their turf. One evening while out fishing Tucker and Dale manage to save one of the college kids who accidentally hit her head on a boulder. Because the rest of the group of 20 somethings perceive that the ‘crazy’ hillbillies have taken her hostage they vow to get her back by any means necessary. The extreme bloodshed that follows is due to the college kid’s ignorance as they refuse to think logically or try to communicate with the two hillbillies who end up possessing a lot more common sense than either of them. It’s the basic role reversal which isn’t done much nowadays and thankfully the two actors playing Tucker and Dale (Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine) along with director Eli Craig decided to rely on a lot of great spur of the moment improvising  to make what could have been a ho-hum comedy into an instant cult classic. Don’t take my word for it though track this down give it a watch then laugh, cry, make new memories with friends. Repeat.

Final Grade: A+