I wasn’t sure about this one, been too long since I’ve seen it. It’s the one where the zombies start learning, the gruesome makeup effects are better than ever, but we’re in the hands of paranoid racist military goons and overall it’s a bummer movie – that circus elevator music from Dawn wouldn’t fly here.

Nice fakeout for Dawn fans, opening with four all-new people in a chopper. Our main girl is Sarah, whose main man Miguel is starting to lose his mind in the underground zombie containment facility. Lead military guy is also gone over the edge, starts killing scientists. Meanwhile the heart of the movie is Dr. “Frankenstein” Logan and his pet zombie Bub – they’re both very good if we could only tune out everyone else.

Dying Miguel lets the Z horde into the facility, Sarah and a couple others escape yet again by chopper, and the only “survivor” on the ground is Bub. Logan/Frankenstein was also in The Crazies, Miguel in Monkey Shines, Sarah’s drunk friend Bill in the Coen True Grit, chopper pilot John in Amateur and The Horror Show, and lead asshole Rhodes in Wishmaster.

Of Romero’s Dead movies I’ve only seen Land in theaters, so after watching Night in the best edition I’ve ever seen, I figure why not follow up with the others. This opens with real chaos in a TV studio, then the weatherman takes his girl Fran and two cops Ken Foree and Roger in the weather chopper and get the hell out of there. Despite the zombie apocalypse Romero wants to be utopian: when another cop at the station is being racist and violent, other cops kill him before he can shoot more civilians.

After setting up in the mall storeroom they go on risky missions to enforce their position. Blocking the main entrances with trucks, Roger has an unpleasant close-up encounter with a Z and goes kill-happy then gets bitten twice. The TV couple toughens up and learns to shoot, and while he’s teaching Fran to fly the chopper Tom Savini spots them and gathers his biker raider crew to take the mall. Flyboy is enraged that they’re stealing what he stole and starts shooting. Ken takes out Savini and they’re winning against the bikers, but the Zs have overrun the mall again and they swarm Flyboy in an elevator.

News team in red:

Cops in blue:

Besides all the action we get some good comic moments – I liked Flyboy checking the price of a jacket then putting it back on the rack – and the music is often pointedly ridiculous. Lonely despair is also addressed – the chopper lessons were an attempt to break free from their shut-in depression, and Ken considers suicide before joining Fran in the chopper at the last second. All lead actors were solid. I’ve recently seen Ken in Lords of Salem… Flyboy went on to Basket Case 2, Roger did Knightriders and the Dawn remake, and Fran did Creepshow and Madman.

Bad move to watch an awesome HK movie near the start of Shocktober, because now I’m off-mission listing HK movies I need to see, considering a TsuiHarkTober rebrand. Leslie Cheung, incompetent in his job as a tax collector, is told he can sleep for free in the spooky old temple infested by stop-motion skeletal zombies. Meanwhile White Snake herself, Joey Wong, is a hot ghost girl doomed by a giant tree called Old Evil to lure men into becoming new stop-motion skeletal zombies.

Joey with her evil stepmom:

“The bearded guy killed your sister. Let’s report him.” Wu Ma is in every kung fu movie but gets a rare big role here as the bearded guy. After Leslie meets the hot girl (Hsiao-tsing, aka Siu Sin, which sounds just like “Susan”) he gets the bearded guy invested in rescuing her soul and defeating the spirit so she can be reincarnated. They spend a long time fighting a gigantic tongue in the woods… cool movie.

New restoration looks terrific. Half the cast gets killed by their own zombified family members (coward Cooper and wife are eaten by their kid, the guy who says they’re coming to get you Barbra comes and gets Barbra), and the young people die due to fiery incompetence while escaping in the truck. We all remember what happens to Duane. I still haven’t played the commentaries but I watched some video extras, and Duane would like everyone to know that he’s totally fine – in fact extremely completely fine – not talking about the movie.

OK, sure, I guess. But every time I’m almost having a fun time with the dour zombie-action movie, it stops for some “fan service” callback to the Sam Raimi movies.

Evil Mom is Alyssa Sutherland of shipbound nazi vampire movie Blood Vessel, her dead necronomicon-meddling son Morgan Davies was in a Willem Dafoe movie, and her sister who survives while rescuing only the youngest kid is Lily Sullivan of a Picnic at Hanging Rock remake.

IMDB says Cronin’s The Hole in the Ground “premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2019 to critical acclaim,” but that’s not how I remember it.

Will Sloan:

“What if they did Evil Dead in an apartment instead of a cabin in the woods?” is not an interesting enough spin on the material.

Dr. Robert Powell (Ken Russell’s Mahler) arrives at the titular asylum to work for Dr. Starr, but is met by his assistant Patrick Magee instead. Magee says Starr is now a patient, locked safely upstairs with a trusty electrical system controlled by this button (I’ve heard that one before), and challenges Mahler to correctly identify the doctor. Mahler heroically pads the film on the way upstairs, and the orderly (who I correctly/immediately guessed as the doctor) lets him into each room, one at a time… yes, it’s a corny anthology horror, the same year Magee and Cushing and Dr. Orderly appeared in Tales from the Crypt. 1972 would seem to be too late for this kinda thing, but British people such as Edgar Wright think all this is great.

Bonnie (Barbara Parkins of The Mephisto Waltz and A Taste of Evil) isn’t even the murderer in her story – her boyfriend Richard Todd (the least famous person in House of the Long Shadows) chops up his harpy wife (Sylvia Syms, appropriately of Victim) and puts her in the basement freezer, but her butcher-paper-wrapped body parts reanimate, strangling him and attacking the unwitting Bonnie with the hatchet until the police arrive to blame the whole mess on her.

Tailor Bruno (Barry Morse of The Changeling) was brought the Man in the White Suit material by mysterious customer Peter Cushing, who planned on using dark magick to resurrect his dead son with the suit, but the tailor’s wife puts the suit on a mannequin which comes to life instead.

Barbara (young Charlotte Rampling, whoa) seems the most culpable so far. She starts by blaming Lucy (Britt Ekland of Wicker Man) for murdering her brother (James Villiers of Mountains of the Moon) and the nurse (Megs Jenkins of The Innocents), but Lucy might be an invented personality of Barbara’s.

Dr. Byron (Herbert Lom of The Sect) is at least a doctor of something – I don’t know how we’re supposed to imagine that the previous three were actually psychologists based on their stories. But Lom’s specialty is transmitting his consciousness into sub-Puppet Master wind-up dolls. The new visitor must’ve inspired a rampage, since he and Dr. Orderly go on the attack.

Toxic Roxy is young and blonde, frees buried criminal Kate Bush, who murders all Roxy’s friends then escapes, leaving the whole community angry at Roxy and her hairdresser mom. This all takes place on another planet, populated entirely by women who shun electronics and chemistry, after the earth became uninhabitable… well, only shunning these things to a point, since they have guns and androids (both named after fashion brands). While waiting for Kate, Roxy and her mom (Elina Löwensohn of course) bond with Kate’s fancy rich neighbor Sternberg, with her male android Olgar 2 and weirdo bounty-hunter bots Keifer and Climax.

Extremely horny sci-fi, Roxy masturbating at every opportunity, with dreamy visuals. We got zombie horses, geode-faced creatures, energy weapons, a pubic third eye, hats and fur coats everywhere, and everything is slimy or dripping and cross-faded onto everything else. I felt bad about not liking The Northman last night, then today I double-featured this with Mad God at the Plaza, and now I am feeling much better.

“They told us there was a threat to America, but the weapons of mass destruction weren’t there.” I survived an endless difficult work day, and learned that Donald Rumsfeld had died, so this felt like the right movie to watch (though The Limits of Control was considered).

Thea Gill is a “constitutional scholar” (right-wing talking head) and Jon Tenney is a campaign reelection consultant whose boss is a conniving Robert Picardo (in his tenth Dante movie). When dead soldiers begin returning from the grave, seeking only to vote against the current administration, these three try to spin the news to their advantage, angering the soldier zombies. Our spin-artists’ buried family secrets rise along with the zombies, leading to panic and death for all. It’s all wickedly well written and blunt as hell, a quality I was attuned to having just discovered an intriguing letterboxd list called “Garish, Unpleasant &/or Heavy-Handed Movies: A Worthy 21st Century Approach.”

A really cleverly constructed movie, would be fun to watch again. Either I never read much about this, or I’d forgotten, but I assumed the first half of the movie was the entire movie, so the end credits appearing halfway through came as a surprise, and the second half was pure joy.

Starts out with a film crew making a zombie movie, which is already going badly when they’re invaded by actual zombies and have to fight to survive – all in a single take. The young leads are struggling as the director unloads on them for being inauthentic. They chill with the makeup artist (who happens to be studying self-defense) when the crew outside begins to get attacked. The director is so excited – finally, something real – and runs around in manic glee with a handheld camera. A rooftop showdown ends with the female lead killing her costar and the director with an axe. The single-take idea is cute, and it’s all timed well, but the movie has poor color and lighting…

But the second half has normal editing, and reveals that this isn’t even a horror movie… the director is really a director, taking on an assignment for a one-take zombie horror, the lead actress and makeup artist from the first half are actually his family. On shoot day for the movie, the table read goes badly, lead actress refuses to do anything gory, two actors are in a car accident and can’t come to set, and the cameraman gets uselessly drunk. So, family and crew fill in as actors, and everyone improvises new lines and situations while it’s all being filmed live. All the cameras and identity shifts (an actor plays an actor playing a zombie who becomes a zombie) must have been hard to keep straight.

This was barely even supposed to be a movie – a low-budget workshop film shot in 8 days that turned out amazing. Hardly anyone has seen Ueda’s other features, though Matt Lynch saw his follow-up Special Actors and called it disappointing. The Director followed up with a kids movie, and his daughter did a voice in that Xenoblade game I’m always playing.