The ABCs of Death 2 (2014)

More consistently great than part one, with higher high points (Robert Morgan!). I’m tempted to make a playlist of ABCs highlights and edit myself a super-anthology but I’ll wait until part three comes out next year.

Imagined scenario of cool, efficient sniper in the air vents taking out his target, then reality of tight insect-infested ducts full of nails. Great ending. Director EL Katz also made Cheap Thrills.

Directed by and starring Julian “Howard Moon” Barratt. Asshole nature-doc spokesman (Barratt) is abusive to his crew, gets eaten by badgers.

Capital Punishment
Local gang of vigilantes take a dude suspected of killing a girl out to the woods and clumsily behead him. Meanwhile the girl turns out to have run away, is fine. Director Julian Gilbey made A Lonely Place To Die, which is probably better than Wingard’s A Horrible Way To Die.

I probably would’ve skipped ABCs of Death 2 had I not heard that Robert Morgan was involved. This was… inexplicable… and amazing, and ultimately makes the entire anthology worthwhile. Involves insects and beheadings and knife-arms.

Funny and well put-together, with single long takes simulating time passing. Couple of idiots stranded on a beach are unexpectedly joined by a pretty girl. Jealousy ensues, then they return to bliss by killing the girl. Alejandro Brugués made the Cuban Juan of the Dead.

Israel/Palestine, woman whose parachute is stuck in a tree convinces a rifle-toting kid to cut her down, he accidentally shoots himself in the head. Nicely shot, anyway. Directors Keshales and Papushado made Israeli horrors Rabies and Big Bad Wolves (a Tarantino fave).

Grandad is tired of his disrespectful grandson living with him. Jim Hosking is working on something called The Greasy Strangler next. Grandad Nicholas Amer has been around, worked with Peter Greenaway, Jacques Demy and Terence Davies.

Head Games
During a makeout session, a couple’s facial features go to war with each other in classic Plympton style. One of two Bill Plympton anthology segments from this year – we missed The Prophet.

Old woman will not die, siblings want her inheritance and try everything to kill her. Stylishly shot (as are most of these, so it’s maybe not worth writing that anymore). Erik Matti (Philippines) got awards for crime flick On The Job last year.

I think it’s supposed to be payback on a couple of dudes who torture and murder homosexuals, but when the kidnapped gay guy displays his demonic powers I’m not sure what’s going on anymore. Dennison Ramalho wrote latter-day Coffin Joe sequel Embodiment of Evil and actor Francisco Barreiro is showing up everywhere this month.

Initial scene where girl witnesses supernatural globe over the building across the street followed by people in every apartment turning violent was like Rear Window meets The Screwfly Solution, then it continues in the direction of total doom. Directors Buozyte and Samper are apparently Lithuanian, also made a surreal sci-fi thing called Vanishing Waves.

Guy to be sacrificed is being set free and is arguing with this decision, and I lose the plot after that, but there are groovy, cheap Metalocalypse-looking gore effects. Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen is Nigerian, has made a million movies so far since 2003.

Drugged-out flesh-eating fat man goes on rampage before he’s killed by cop, all in slow-motion and set to a jangly pop song. Robert Boocheck made a short that apparently played in an anthology called Seven Hells.

Cleverly timed and editing, goes for tension instead of twist ending since we figure out early on that the distracted cabbie is gonna hit the guy dressed as Frankenstein. Larry Fessenden made Habit and Wendigo and The Last Winter, all of which have been on my to-watch list forever and just came out on blu-ray.

Ohlocracy (mob rule)
After the cure for zombiesm is found, human zombie-killers are sentenced to death by a kangaroo court. Hajime Ohata made the non-Kafka movie called Metamorphosis.

P-P-P-P Scary!
Poppy, Kirby and Bart look like escaped convicts, have big noses, meet a face-morphing guy who does a jig, blows out their candles and murders them inexplicably. Todd Rohal made The Catechism Cataclysm, and I might’ve guessed this was him.

While a guy correctly answers questions on an intelligence test, we see flash-forwards to the “career opportunities” the interviewer has in mind for him (brain transplant with gorilla). I watched Rodney Ascher’s The Nightmare just last week.

German game of Russian Roulette ends with the sixth-chamber guy shooting his beloved instead of himself, as some unknown evil approaches. Marvin Kren made Rammbock and Blood Glacier.

Like a remake of Suspense but with more baby murdering. Hammer-wielding intruder destroys family of cheating husband(s) during a phone call.
Juan Martinez Moreno made horror-comedy Game of Werewolves.

Torture Porn
Girl in porn audition turns out to be Cthulhu, I guess. Jen and Sylvia Soska are identical twins who made American Mary and Dead Hooker in a Trunk.

Self-driving incineration machines deal with non-beautiful people. Vincenzo Natali made Cube and Splice.

Dude is on phone with girlfriend when dude’s friend reveals they’ve been doing drugs and prostitutes while on vacation. The friend is disrespectful, and one prostitute stabs him many times with a screwdriver. Jerome Sable made last year’s Meat Loaf-starring Stage Fright.

Kids go inside their off-brand Masters of the Universe playset, discover it’s horrible in there. Steven Kostanski made Manborg, which looks similarly wonderful.

Kid won’t stop playing her damned toy xylophone while babysitter Beatrice Dalle (of Inside, the first actor I’ve recognized since Julian Barratt in letter B) is trying to listen to opera records. Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo made Inside, of course. Credits say Beatrice is the grandmother not the babysitter, which makes sense since babysitters should leave antique record players alone.

Miyuki hates her mom and stepdad, imagines them dying in tremendous ways. Soichi Umezawa is a longtime makeup artist who worked on Bright Future and Dr. Akagi.

Dad abandons pregnant mom with a 13-year supply of a root that delays labor. Horribleness ensues. Chris Nash has made a bunch of shorts.

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974, Jorge Grau)

Or Don’t Speak Ill of the Dead, or The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue – all good titles, but I’m going with the name on the Anchor Bay box that used to stare at me from the shelves, unenticing with its generic cover art. Turns out it’s quite a good zombie movie, tense and well-photographed. It’s just like Night of the Living Dead but with a couple extra locations (incl. Manchester Morgue), but the hidden social message in this one is that cops are just the worst. They’re bad at their jobs, abusive, intolerant, and finally cold-blooded murderers.

Zombie Prime:

They stay at The Owl Hotel. Pet owl:

Shaky start as George (Ray Lovelock of Queens of Evil and Oh, Grandmother’s Dead) meets Edna (Cristina Galbo of The House That Screamed and The School That Couldn’t Scream) when she runs over his motorcycle, then they squabble over where she’s going to drive them. Good enough dubbing, better than any Italian movie. But these two aren’t very exciting. Fortunately, they agree to visit her sister Katie (Jeannine Mestre of Jesus Franco’s Dracula) and Katie’s husband Martin (Jose Lifante, a desk clerk in Dagon), who hate each other and live near the field where some jerk scientists are pumping radiation into the ground to keep pests away from crops, which also turns babies and the recently-deceased into violent killers.

Martin’s hobby is taking photographs of his naked, afraid, drugged-out wife and hanging them around the house:

Our heroes, trapped in the morgue with the only decent cop, PC Craig:

Martin is crushed to death by a wandering zombie, and enter Sgt. Aldo Massasso (of The Suspicious Death of a Minor), who immediately blames the wife because she’s a heroin addict and has her locked up in hospital. The movie’s zombie mythology gets weird, as we’re told zombies can’t be photographed, and “they transmit life to each other through the blood of the living.” Martin eventually resurrects and kills his wife, but the movie is mostly focused on biker George’s attempts to escape zombies and tell the damned scientists to turn off their machine, and the Sarge’s attempts to arrest George and Edna, who he’s now telling everyone are satanists. In the end George is screaming towards a zombie-infested hospital in a stolen police car pursued by bigot cops to rescue the woman who wrecked his motorcycle and ruined his weekend, and I’m wondering why he bothers. Then Katie is infected and set aflame, and George is shot by the cops (have I mentioned Night of the Living Dead lately?).

Things don’t end well for PC Craig:

Nor for Edna:

Jorge Grau previously made Violent Blood Bath and The Legend of Blood Castle. Cinematographer Francisco Sempere also shot Blind Man’s Bluff and Death Will Have Your Eyes. Cowritten by Sandro Continenza (Crimes of the Black Cat, Hercules and the Captive Women) and Marcello Coscia (Virgin Killer, Tex and the Lord of the Deep).

Evil Dead double-feature

Nice intro to the upcoming Alamo Drafthouse, a free outdoor double-feature at the nearby Sokol Ampitheater. I’ve seen these a bunch of times, but not lately.

The Evil Dead (1981)

Still more horror than comedy, but some over-the-top punishment and gore got chuckles from the crowd. Screened in its original 4:3 (I hadn’t realized there’s aspect-ratio controversy, but apparently Raimi advocates a cropped widescreen version). Don’t think I’d noticed before how great the music and sound is on this movie.

Cheryl is attacked by trees then possessed by demons and locked in the cellar. Shelly’s possessed next, dismembered by Scott. Linda gets possessed and finally she and Scott and Cheryl are all tormenting Ash, who takes no meaningful action until about the last 15 minutes when he beheads one of them and tosses the Necronomicon in the fire, causing the rest to decompose.

Evil Dead II (1987)

I love how ten minutes into the movie there’s only one living character and he’s possessed by demons. Fortunately two archaeologists and two local rednecks soon show up in order to get possessed and torment Ash some more… and of course Henrietta is discovered in the cellar. I wish this hadn’t been screened with singalong subtitles over the scenes that somebody found quotable, but it wasn’t too distracting. Bobbie Jo starred in the recent We Are What We Are remake and Ash’s girlfriend Linda married Steve Guttenberg.

The first Evil Dead came out the same year as The Howling, Scanners and Possession, though sequel-mania had already hit the genre, with Friday the 13th 2 and Omen 3 and Halloween 2. Raimi made the disappointing Crimewave before joining the sequel craze with Evil Dead II in 1987, which was my Year Zero of horror, with Hellraiser, The Gate, House II, Elm Street 3 and The Lost Boys.

Cowriter Scott Spiegel later made Intruder (“gore galore” says the IMDB review). Appropriately, Evil Dead II cinematographer Peter Deming shot Cabin in the Woods (and Mulholland Dr. and Lost Highway!). Looks like Raimi hasn’t made anything since Drag Me to Hell, and those rumors of an Evil Dead remake and TV series never came to pass.

Burying The Ex (2014, Joe Dante)

Anton Yelchin (Ian in Only Lovers Left Alive) likes ice cream girl Olivia (Alexandra Daddario of Texas Chainsaw 3D), is tired of his vegan environmentalist girlfriend Evelyn (Ashley Greene of Butter) but before he can break up with Evelyn she’s killed by a truck (unconvincing death scene weirdly scored by a Phosphorescent song) and later comes back as a bitchy zombie.

Full of easy horror references, out-of-date gender politics and default-sounding movie-dialogue. Anton’s half-brother, the Ed to his Shaun, is Oliver Cooper (Project X) who I think gets nearly killed by Evelyn but comes back at the end, or wait, does he come back as a zombie? I’m trying not to give this too much thought and pretend it’s not by the same Joe Dante who made Gremlins and Matinee. Also: it’s another movie where someone is keeping a secret for no reason other than plot contrivance, and Anton is a massive horror movie fan but doesn’t know how to dispatch a zombie.

The Last Ten Minutes vol. 14: First-Person Camera Edition

Men In Black 2 (2002, Barry Sonnenfeld)

Hey, I never saw this, always wanted to, but heard it was bad. Just the thing The Last Ten Minutes was invented for. The two mismatched partners are joined by Rosario Dawson with nuclear jewelry and pursued by Evil Lara Flynn Boyle till she’s eaten by a subway monster. Jones tells Dawson she’s the fifth element, Smith is attacked by shockingly subpar effects. Did you know there was a part 3? Neither did I.

[Rec] 3: Genesis (2012, Paco Plaza)

Previously watched [Rec] 1 and remake-sequel (remaquel?) Quarantine 2. Can’t find [Rec] 2 on netflix because their search is ridiculous, so let’s pick up here. Loving couple is trapped in kitchen by encroaching zombies until loudspeaker bible recitation stops them. Dude has a sword, which actually seems like a smart zombie weapon. Girl is bitten by an elderly fellow (bad hearing, immune to loudspeaker), guy cuts off her arm but he’s stupid and slow, and they both die. From one of the directors of the first one, but not shot first-person, so the title doesn’t make sense anymore. The girl was in Ramin Bahrani’s Man Push Cart.

[Rec] 4: Apocalypse (2014, Jaume Balagueró)

Oh, this is from the other director of the first one, and looks a lot worse. Stars Angela from parts 1 & 2. A guy with bad hair helps Angela kill zombie monkeys with a boat motor. Why does the bad guy have a snake-tongue? A boat explodes!

The Interview (2014, Goldberg & Rogen)

Those two guys are trying to escape N. Korea. Cue the loud action scenes. Katy Perry soundtracks the fiery death of President Randall Park (Danny Chung in Veep), then we get an anticlimactic escape from the country. One of the directors wrote for Da Ali G Show.

Horns (2013, Alexandre Aja)

The one where Harry Potter is a demon, from the director of the great Hills Have Eyes Remake. Dang, no horns, Harry must’ve had them cut off already (a la Hellboy?). His brother (Joe Anderson of Across the Universe) is sad, so Harry goes walkies with Max Minghella, and there are guns, and wow, Harry sprouts wings then turns into a full flaming demon and has homicidal maniac Max brutalized by snakes. I think Harry’s dead girlfriend is alive again but I stopped watching because my roomie locked his keys in his car. Is this Wolf Parade over the ending?

The Sacrament (2013, Ti West)

Sorry Ti, but after two-and-a-quarter disappointments you join Aja in Last Ten Minutes purgatory. Joe Swanberg in death cult compound is running from gunmen, everyone is dying, and it’s shot first-person a la [Rec] 1. Isn’t this the same plot as one of the V/H/S/2 segments from the same year, which West and Swanberg were also heavily involved with? Joe semi-rescues AJ Bowen (of every Adam Wingard movie) with the shakiest shaky-cam I’ve ever witnessed. Ends with unnecessary solemn title cards. Boo.

Maniac (2012, Franck Khalfoun)

Fuuuck, this is also shot first-person – and out-of-focus, no less. Co-written by Alexandre Aja. Khalfoun made P2 and acted in Aja’s Haute Tension – they’re as close as the West-Swanberg-Wingard crew. I think Elijah Wood kidnaps Nora Arnezeder then she stabs him with a mannequin arm and runs him over. Then she dies, so he marries a mannequin. Most of these movies are very bad, but this one looks unusually, especially, very very bad.

The Conspiracy (2012, Christopher MacBride)

Grainy first-person pinhole camera with blurred-out faces. Why do all these movies hate cinema? Dude wakes up in the ritual sacrifice room, then is chased through the dark woods while wearing an animal head. Finally a series of talking heads dismiss whatever conspiracy theory the hunted/murdered cameraman presumably uncovered. MacBride has made no other movies and hopefully it’ll stay that way.

Automata (2014, Gabe Ibáñez)

It’s balding trenchcoat dudes with shotguns vs. slow, clunky robots. The robots are talking wise, getting themselves shot, when a fully bald Antonio Banderas arrives. His plan of action is poor but he still kills two guys and the third is dispatched by a Short Circuit lizard. Weird/nice to see a robot-future movie where some of the robots (not the lizard) are actual props, not people or digital effects.

I, Frankenstein (2014, Stuart Beattie)

From the trailer this looked like epic nonsense, but it’s actually more coherent than most of the others I just watched. Bill Nighy! The final battle: Frankenstein Eckhart vs. angels, gargoyles, a merman, lots of fire, men in suits, poor digital effects and Bill Nighy! Meanwhile there’s a bunch of computer progress bars and “access denied” messages. Progress bars are always a great source of tension in movies, eh? A massive Matrix-like chamber full of bodies begins to self-destruct. Eckhart (is he the monster or the doctor?) defeats demon-Nighy, saves some lady from a fiery apocalypse and collapsing castle. Beattie wrote the Pirates of the Carribean movies (and Collateral), his cowriter was an actor in Men In Black 2.

The Mask of Satan/Black Sunday (1960, Mario Bava)

I know there’s a rule that Italian horrors need a minimum of three titles, but I don’t see why this is mainly known as Black Sunday when The Mask of Satan is its original title and far more descriptive. I believe this is my first Mario Bava movie unless we’re counting Danger: Diabolik on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Fun camerawork, great lighting and atmosphere, and mixed effects (swell zombie makeup vs. rubber bat on a string). Opening titles are unintentially funny (The Mask of Satan, produced by Jolly Films).

Wide-eyed Barbara Steele (of 8 1/2) is the resurrection of a murdered witch from the 1600’s, killed by nailing a devil mask onto her face. In present day, a stumblebum professor (Andrea Checchi, hotel detective of The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse) pauses between clumsily destroying ancient relics to purposely remove the mask, and then I get confused because the witch is reborn but also has a doppelganger descendant living in the castle next door. The professor gets himself possessed, so his student (John Richardon of Torso and One Million Years B.C.) becomes our hero. He wrestles the devil in a hallway and wins! I’m used to rooting for resurrected ghosts to take revenge on the families of their murderers, but this movie makes it hard, the zombies all rotting and horrid with no vampiric panache. It also takes its Christ vs. Devils thing very seriously, and the townspeople with pitchforks and torches are the good guys.

Anyway, if I ever move into a castle, first thing I’ll do is measure all the walls House of Leaves-style to check for hidden passageways.

World War Z (2013, Marc Forster)

Better than I’d heard. From one deliciously tense action scene to the next, it’s a million times more fun than Contagion.

I recognized Davis Morse playing an inspirational madman and Peter Capaldi as a world health organization doctor (get it? WHO Doctor?). Pitt’s wife Mireille Enos stars on TV’s The Killing Remake and I think Daniella Kertesz played the short-haired Israeli soldier whose zombie-bitten hand Pitt severs. Between Stranger Than Fiction and this, Forster made Machine Gun Preacher (tough white guy saves African child soldiers), The Kite Runner and a James Bond flick. Supposedly based on the Max Brooks book, but I hear it’s not really. Credited writers include Matt “Lions For Lambs” Carnahan, J. “Changeling” Straczynski, Damon “Prometheus” Lindelof and Drew “Cabin in the Woods” Goddard. That’s a lot of writers for a special-effects movie.

John Dies at the End (2012, Don Coscarelli)

Feels like it’s trying too hard to be a cult hit, and the pacing is often weird, with our somnambulist hero Dave always moving and speaking slower than you’d expect, and its universe and logic seem simultaneously under- and over-developed (maybe since it’s an incomplete adaptation of the source comic), but overall a damned fun flick, unlike anything else out there, and a welcome return to weird-movie-making for Coscarelli ten years after Bubba Ho-Tep.

Attempts at plot summary would be ridiculous, but here are some people and things.

Tall Man as dark-eyed priest:

Basement meat monster summoned by Obscure Object snake girl, destroyed by Dr. Marconi phone call:

Paul Giamatti as viewer-surrogate reporter:

Good weapon:

Glynn Turman as evidence-destroying, hero-threatening rogue cop:

Church of Dave & John: clothing and masks optional

Dave nearly falls into pit of Korrok before monster is destroyed by humanity-saving suicide-bomber dog:

City of the Living Dead (1980, Lucio Fulci)

“If those gates are left open it might be the end of humanity.”

So it’s called City of the Living Dead and arrives the year after Zombi 2, a semi-sequel to Night of the Living Dead, so you’d think it’d be a follow-up to that one. But the internet says it’s instead the first part of a trilogy with The Beyond and House by the Cemetery. But I’ve seen all those movies and this doesn’t seem to have anything to do with them. However, it’s one of the best Italian horrors I’ve seen, up there with Suspiria.

In Dunwich (which “was built on the ruins of the original Salem – the village of witches and heresy… and evil”), a priest (Fabrizio Jovine of Fulci’s The Psychic and Contraband) hangs himself in the cemetery, opening a gate to hell. Meanwhile in “New York,” Mary is in a seance circle screaming “I see the dead” until she drops dead herself. I can see why Catriona MacColl was cast as Mary – she’s quite a committed screamer, and unafraid of taking an axe to the face in the name of filmmaking, as we see later when crabby too-good-for-this-movie Christopher George (Enter the Ninja, The Day Santa Claus Cried) hears her screaming and grudgingly rescues her from a coffin. Oh also when the cops are called to the seance circle, a dubbed detective interrogates everyone about drugs while a guy (who is definitely not an actor) stuffed into a cop suit stands awkwardly in the background, all of which I found unaccountably wonderful.

Mary, doing what she does best:

Back to the movie, if the gates of hell are gonna open and we’re gonna have a city of the living dead, we will need lots of victims, so Fulci gives us a bunch of indistinguishably dubbed zombie-fodder characters, along with extreme close-ups on all their eyes.

Future victims Bob and Emily:

Sandra (Janet Agren of Red Sonja, Eaten Alive) is seeing psychiatrist Jerry (Carlo De Mejo of Un homme est mort) when Emily (Antonella Interlenghi of The Birdcage 3) totally barges in without knocking to announce that she has to see Bob (Giovanni Radice of Cannibal Ferox, Cannibal Apocalypse) that night. Bob is the local maladjusted deviant, just the kind of person a young hottie in an Italian horror movie should be hanging out with. But Bob doesn’t kill her, exactly, just pushes her aside to escape when the hanged priest appears and smears wormy grime into her face. Not the coolest death scene in the world, but they make up for it with the coolest death scene in the world, when Daniela Doria (who spent her whole acting career playing victims in Fulci movies) and Michele Soavi (star of Demons 5 & 6, then director of Demons 3 & 4 – oh Italy, you have no respect for sequel continuity) are making out in a car when the priest appears and stares at them until she silently vomits out all her insides while bleeding from the eyes, then grabs the boy and pulls his brains through his skull with her bare hands.

Meanwhile Emily’s dad finds out she’s dead, goes looking for Bob, then drills a hole in his head. Emily later returns as a zombie to haunt and kill her family, but her little brother escapes and meets up with the psychiatrist and the blonde. Oh also there are three guys in a bar who are always afraid of zombies and gates to hell, but never do anything or leave the bar, until they’re finally all killed in the end… I can’t figure if that was supposed to be humor. And an undertaker at “Moriarity and Sons” (got an extra “i” in there) funeral home is eaten by a corpse.

The hanged priest with a handful of wormy grime:

All of our protagonists (Jerry the beardie psychiatrist, blonde Sandra, resurrected Mary and bitter newsman Pete) meet up in the graveyard looking for the dead priest, then an evil wind machine blows a million worms into the window of their hotel room. From the DVD extras I learned that Fulci’s effects looked so good because they were real: he really swung an axe a half-inch from Mary’s face, truly made Daniela Doria vomit up sheep guts, and he sure enough blasted a million worms into a hotel room right into the screaming faces of his stars. In case you didn’t figure it out on your own, crew members also tell us that Fulci hated actors.

The killing method of choice from now on will be squeezing the brains through the skull with one’s bare hands – first dead Emily does Sandra, then dead Sandra does the reporter (yay, he is finally dead).

The beardy psychiatrist (why does he get to be the hero?) stabs the priest in the balls with a cross, then he and Mary climb out of grave. The kid (with two cops) sees and happily runs towards them. They’re happy at first but then Mary is afraid, yells nooo, freeze frame, black tendrils across picture. What was that? What happened?

Movie was partly shot in Savannah, which is exciting to me.