Tom Savini to Direct Remake of Lenzi's Nightmare City

Nightmare City posterThis is a pretty cool headline!! Tom Savini, the King of Splatter and Gore who essentially gave the good folks at FANGORIA magazine a career, is attached to direct a remake of the 1980 classic zombie flick by Umberto Lenzi, NIGHTMARE CITY. The film is also known as CITY OF THE WALKING DEAD, which shouldn’t be confused with Lucio Fulci’s 1980 classic CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, and this is a perfect film for a remake!! The production is all geared up to begin a very aggressive crowdfunding campaign and they are offering some pretty cool incentives. Read on.

Get ready for the spectacular remake of the 1980’s horror cult classic and theULTIMATE HORROR CROWD-PRODUCTION – this is a horror production from fans for fans and with fans! You can be a big part of it – like a producer you will have a say in how cool and great this remake will get and you will get the big chance to visit the film sets, be a part of the crew, inspire the producers, get cool rewards and win great prizes, be in the movie and MEET, WORK AND ACT TOGETHER WITH YOUR FAVORITE ACTORS and LEGENDS OF HORROR!

The King Of Splatter & Gore TOM SAVINI will be Director and Special Effects & Make Up Supervisor. Together with the best creative talents from his FX school in Pittsburgh he will guarantee mind-blowing makeup and special effects and lots of gore and will give horror fans what they desperately demand and miss in current horror movies – impressing practical special effects and gallons of blood instead of cheap CGI effects.

Nightmare City Lenzi

The Italian Master of Horror – UMBERTO LENZI will be patron of this remake of his cult classic and an Associate Producer.

Oscar nominated DEAN CUNDEY, one of the world’s best cinematographers, who worked on many films of John Carpenter, is in talks to be Director of Photography.

Get ready for breathtaking suspense, blood drenched horror, impressive special effects and a great cast and crew which will make this remake an outstanding horror production and the most terrifying zombie movie ever!

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The original NIGHTMARE CITY was directed by Lenzi and was written by Antonio Cesare CortiLuis María Delgado, and Piero Regnoli. In it an airplane exposed to radiation lands and armed zombies emerge going on a rampage slicing, dicing, and biting their way across the Italian countryside. This is one of, if not the, first “fast zombie” horror flicks and these zombies also used weapons. It’s an interesting film but admittedly it’s not one of my favorite Italian zombie flicks from the 1980s. I’d love to see what Savini and crew can do with it. Check out the plot synopsis of the original:

After the outbreak of an unknown virus in the Caribbean the Miami Port Authority receives an SOS from an international aid ship returning from Haiti. TV reporter Dean Miller and his cameraman Charlie are sent to the port where rescue teams are awaiting the arriving ship. At first the ship appears to be deserted, but suddenly the rescue teams are attacked by dozens of deformed people. Infected by a new hybrid of two of the most deadly viruses of our time – Ebola and leprosy; their faces and bodies are covered with welts and sores and they are hungry for blood.

Nightmare City1

Dean and his colleague witness a brutal massacre and return to the TV station to inform the public about the horrifying events, but the government and military prohibit the broadcasting of the news in order to avoid a panic. With the public in the dark, the virus and the number of infected people start to spread over the city, while Dean, his wife Anna and a small group are trying to escape from the ‘City Of The Walking Dead’…

With the ebola virus hitting the shores of North America, NIGHTMARE CITY may be more relevant than ever!! So far the cast includes Savini himself, Jimmy (JOHN DIES AT THE END) Wong, Robert (HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES) Mukes, Noah (TROLL, SUSHI GIRL) Hathaway, and horror icon, Judith (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD) O’Dea.

As it says on their crowdfunding page, NIGHTMARE CITY isn’t a simple crowdfunding project, it’s an “Interactive Crowd-Production“:

Nightmare City2

We don’t want you to be passive consumers and simple backers, but active co-producers. This is a movie from dedicated horror fans for fans and with fans. You will be a big part of the movie and have a say in how cool and great this movie will get. This movie project gives you the unique chance to:

  • HELP TO PRODUCE AN AWESOME HORROR MOVIE

  • VISIT THE FILM SETS or the premiere and MEET CAST AND CREW

  • BE IN THE MOVIE – as an extra, support actor or a zombie or get killed by a zombie

  • Meet your favorite actors and ACT TOGETHER WITH THE STARS in the movie

  • BE A PART OF OUR CREW and support us with your skills, ideas, artworks etc.

  • GET COOL REWARDS for your support and be one of the first to see the movie

  • BE ONE OF THE FIRST TO SEE THE MOVIE

  • GET EXLUSIVE ACCESS TO THE SECRET PRODUCTION WEBSITE – Supporters can follow every step of the making of the movie on a special website – from pre-production until the premiere. You can talk and discuss with crew, cast and other supporters, post ideas for creative zombie kills (the best idea will be shown in the movie!), help to choose artworks, get the latest news and footage from the filming set, WIN GREAT PRIZES and many, many more.

Check out their indiegogo page. You know I post very few indiegogo campaigns on Anything Horror, but this one sounds pretty badass and also important.

Stay Bloody!!!

Nightmare City cast3

Nightmare City cast1

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Nightmare City cast5

From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series (2014)

FDTD16The best part about having a puppy (or a child I suppose, though I bet most children don’t smell like popcorn) is that you get to introduce her to things that you love – pizza, pretzels, Doctor Who, John Carpenter – and to warn her about things she should avoid – vampire movies, mainly.

Not all vampire movies, of course. There are exceptions: Max Shreck, Lugosi of course, Hammer movies. Not so many recent ones, unfortunately: 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. To be honest, I’d grown wary and weary of vampires. They’d moved away from the mesmerising, menacing threats I’d grown up with, metamorphosing into teen figures, soft-porn props and, well.. the sparkly ones. You know the ones. I swear to God, Sesame Street’s Count was more predatory than some of the bloodsuckers I’ve seen.

Before things got really bad, however, we had 1996’s FROM DUSK TILL DAWN. One of the earlier screenplays from Quentin Tarantino (who also co-starred), this fast-paced little movie, directed by Robert Rodriguez (MACHETE, PLANET TERROR) and starred George Clooney just before he became massively big. Clooney played cool criminal Seth Gecko, with Tarantino his younger, crazier brother Richie. On the run from the Texas Rangers, they’re hoping to make it across the border to a safehouse in El Rey, Mexico, and in doing so take a family (including ex-priest Harvey Keitel and nymphette daughter Juliette Lewis) and their RV hostage, cross the border and get to the stripper club The Titty Twister – open only From Dusk Till Dawn (get it?), because the staff are all vampires (even the house band!).

FDTD18
Come for the boobs, stay for the bloodletting…

Bloody hijinks ensue, and few survive, but not before we pan back in the final shot to see that the club is actually the tip of an Aztec temple, the true home of the vampires, with the surrounding area littered with bikes and trucks from all their previous victims from over the decades…

The movie, also featuring the likes of Cheech Marin, Tom Savini, Selam Hayek and Danny Trejo (of course) wasn’t that successful initially (I remember enjoying it when it first came out, but re-watching it I can see, or at least hear, how clunky Tarantino’s dialogue can be), but gained a cult following that helped spawn a sequel and prequel (neither of which I’ve seen), and a video game (which I’ve never played). I did have the soundtrack, though, in fact was one of the first CDs I bought, with some decent numbers from Stevie Ray Vaughn and ZZ Top.

"Everybody be cool- oh, you know the line already, huh?"
“Everybody be cool- oh, you know the line already, huh?”

In the years since that first movie, the principals involved with it have moved onto bigger and better things (except for that Tarantino kid, who seems to have dropped off the map), most notably Rodriguez, who recently formed his own TV network, El Rey, targeting Latino audiences with English-speaking programs that feature Hispanic producers, celebrities and public figures. And the first original programming has been a 10-episode TV series based on FROM DUSK TILL DAWN.

Now initially when I heard about this, I assumed that ‘based on’ meant that it would be set in the environment of the movie but not touch on the original characters. Instead, this is actually a retelling of the movie, but offering more detailed backstories of the main characters, introducing new ones, and embellishing on the Meso-American mythology to make the vampires here more than just fanged haemovores. It’s a gamble, because judging from the first episode, every show must expand on ten or twelve minutes of film time. Can it be done?

The eyes didn't have it...
The eyes didn’t have it…

FROM DUSK TILL DAWN: THE TV SERIES opens with a woman’s voiceover giving the usual spiel about how her race has existed from the dawn of time, staying hidden, yadda yadda Highlander crap yadda yadda we will rise again someday – or at least, from dusk till dawn. We then get a flashback to Aztec times, when a girl (the gorgeous-looking Eiza Gonzalez), whom we later learn is Satanico Pandemonium, the Head Vampire as played by Salma Hayek in the film, is caught by tribesmen and thrown into a pit filled with snakes, who proceed to bite her and, in one decent FX shot, one giant snake goes down her throat (tastefully we cut away before we learn if this is repeated with other orifices).

Don Johnson, certainly the highlight of the show for me.
Don Johnson, certainly the highlight of the show for me.

We then cut to present day, with two Texas Rangers, the older Earl McGraw (former Miami Vice guy Don Johnson, taking over Michael Parks’ role) and his protege Freddie Gonzalez (Jesse Garcia) as they examine crime scene photos of bodies with their eyes gouged out while talking about the proper use of holy water – which turns out to be a conversation not about vampires, but the imminent baptism of Freddie’s daughter, with Earl being her godfather. Stopping off at a liquor store, Earl takes a moment to pop into the restroom and remind his reflection he has only 237 days until retirement. Aww, man, don’t you know how dangerous that is? He returns to the counter guy Pete (Lane Garrison) just in time to get shot from behind by Richie, while Richie raises his gun towards Pete…

He's still pissed off at Mel Gibson for APOCALYPTO!
He’s still pissed off at Mel Gibson for APOCALYPTO!

Now there’s a flashback (get used to them, it gets confusing if you blink or look away for a second) to Earl, and later Freddie and his family, as they have breakfast and talk about enjoying the time you have with your loved ones, and God damn, Don Johnson is really good in this role! Some Tarantinophiles might gripe that this role should have stayed with Michael Parks, who would go on to reprise it in KILL BILL VOL 1, PLANET TERROR and DEATH PROOF in Tarantino and Rodriguez’s shared cinematic universe, but Johnson sells it very well. We also get exposition about the Gecko Brothers, who had just robbed a bank, shot some Rangers and took a female bank worker hostage.

Ouch!
Ouch!

Now we cut to the Brothers themselves, the older, more controlled Seth (DJ Cotrona, GI JOE: RETALIATION) and the younger, more volatile Richie (Zane Holtz, HOLES). They’re still bank robbers, they’re still on the run, Seth is loyal but still wary of Richie’s paranoid delusions. While stopping off at the aforementioned liquor store, Richie unsuccessfully flirts with one of two younger local girls in the store, and the girl’s response that he has a screw loose doesn’t sit well with him, making him draw his gun on them and blow their cover – no, Richie, you’re not crazy, you’re as sane as Phil Spector.

The Rangers pull up, and we are back to the initial scene where Earl gets shot, thankfully not fatally however. He’s trapped inside, his partner’s outside and unable to get to his phone to call for backup, and Seth is inside calling for help from Don Carlos (Wilmer Valderrama, THAT 70’S SHOW), the criminal mastermind they were supposed to rendezvous with. But Carlos offers worse customer service than AT&T, and the Gecko Brothers are gonna have to make their own way South of the Border…

Talk to the hand...
Talk to the hand…

Anyone tuning in after the initial Aztec scene might be understandably misled into thinking that FROM DUSK TILL DAWN is gonna be another gritty crime thriller ala TRUE DETECTIVE, because there’s almost nothing supernatural about the events of the first episode (in fact, we don’t even get to see the family with the RV yet (the father of whom will be played by Robert Patrick, taking Harvey Keitel’s role from the movie). We do get some bloody scenes worthy of an HBO series, but so far it’s all gunshot wounds. I guess Rodriguez doesn’t want to shoot his vampiric bolts too early.

What we do get is an interesting variation to the familiar story. In the movie, Richie is simply an unstable paranoid who had hallucinations of Juliette Lewis asking him to eat her out (to be fair, many of us have shared similar delusions). In the TV show, Richie has hallucinations – or visions – but they’re of Santanico, seemingly enticing and fuelling his paranoia (and the TV’s Don Carlos seems to not only know Richie, but has an unseen boss who encourages Seth to listen to his brother). There is definitely something more going on. Whether or not this relative lack of supernatural shenanigans might put people off seeing past the first episode is another matter.

FDTD7As for the actors, Don Johnson sets the bar terribly high, one that DJ Cotrona and Zane Holtz will have to struggle to fulfil, especially as neither seem to have much in the way of screen presence. The script offers a few nods to the movie dialogue (while sensibly dropping some of Quentin’s more embarrassing un-PC dialogue), and the show seeks to get established into the Tarantino Universe (so we finally get to see a Big Kahuna Burger restaurant).

I have a few more episodes to see before I give it a final verdict, but seeing as how it has already been renewed for a second season, it might improve. It’s available on Netflix, and the trailer is below:

Deggsy’s Summary:
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Deggsy. And Edna.

CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF FRIDAY THE 13TH (2013)

crystal lake memories posterDo me a favour, okay True Believers? Don’t tell my lady that my most favourite present this Christmas wasn’t the men’s cologne she got me, it was CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF FRIDAY THE 13TH.

(She’s probably guessed it already, though; I’ve only used the cologne once, but I’ve stayed up for the last few nights after she’s gone to bed, to watch these DVDs like it was porn, as she never properly appreciated the slasher oeuvre).

When I write a review, I usually ramble on for a bit about something related to the subject I’m discussing; it’s a habit I picked up from Carl Kolchak, and it helps when you want to stretch out a review longer than just saying, “This was shit”. But I don’t have to do that with this. 

Jason Lives... in this impressive documentary!
Jason Lives… in this impressive documentary!

CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES, from the makers of NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY, and based on Peter Bracke’s book of the same name (Scott gave us a sneak peak of this back in 2012 here) is one of the best DVD documentaries I’ve seen in a long time. In fact, calling it a ‘documentary’ might be doing it an injustice, because it’s also a retrospective, and a tribute, and spans over several discs, the total running time an impressive 6 hours and 40 minutes (or, if you prefer, 6.66 minutes!). It is everything you ever wanted to know about the movies but were afraid to ask – or, if you’re like me, everything you probably already knew, but a lot more, and all in one package.

Killed for his stupid hat. Understandable....
Killed for his stupid hat. Understandable….

Remember when DVDs first came out, and the best part about them was not just having the movie, but all those Special Features? The trailers, the Behind the Scenes footage, the talking head interviews? Sometimes those were better than the movies themselves (I have the DVD set of Tim Burton’s PLANET OF THE APES, but I only ever watch the Special Features to see them designing the make-up, and teaching the actors how to walk and move like apes).

Now, the makers of CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES haven’t just collected old Special Features and such from the various movies – simply because there was hardly any to begin with. THE FRIDAY THE 13TH movies have always been the unappreciated child to the studios making them, whether it was Paramount, New Line or Warner Brothers – the movies were cheap and nasty, but they made money, but that doesn’t mean they were going to be treated like their more respectable output like THE LOVE GURU and CROCODILE DUNDEE IN LOS ANGELES.

Narrator Corey Feldman. No, don't run away, he's okay in it!
Narrator Corey Feldman. No, don’t run away, he’s okay in it!

But what the makers of CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES have done is make a set of thirteen documentaries, separated in chapters on the DVDs, where you can jump around to go learn more about your favourite FT13TH movie (Mine? Not telling, you’ll just make fun of me). And in each chapter we get oodles of interviews with everyone in front of and behind the cameras who are still alive, film clips, behind the scenes footage, deleted scenes, commercials and the like. But despite this flexibility, there is a cohesion throughout (It’s narrated by Corey Feldman, who appeared in FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER – the fourth one of twelve, by the way – and the documentary opens with him and a bunch of kids around a camp fire, while Corey tells the story of Jason Vorhees).

Jason hates the Star Wars prequels. Just saying!
Jason hates the Star Wars prequels. Just saying!

While I’ve spent my time jumping around to learn more about my favourite movies in the franchise, I’ve been fascinated with how the movies and their focus has evolved over the decades. In this age where Marvel carefully plans and coordinates all their superhero movies and TV shows years in advance, and George Lucas has been meticulous in deliberately degrading his STAR WARS saga and needlessly rebooting it like a goldfish with attention deficit disorder, the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies have been more organic, going in directions no one expected, least of all the filmmakers. Watching these is like looking back at old photographs of yourself, and all the clothes and hairstyles you wore and the people you hung out with; some admirable, others you wish you could forget.

(Another big plus I’ve found with these documentaries is the lack of agenda; unlike Behind the Scenes docs made at the time of a film’s production, where those involved are out to sell their movie, so everyone will be ass-kissing everyone else, the people interviewed here, while clearly loving the movies and the work they did on them, aren’t going to tell you that they stand up there with the works of Fellini or Kurosawa.)

With over 150 people interviewed, including Alice Cooper, Kane Hodder and Tom Savini, you will learn things you never expected. Among them:

FINAL CHAPTER, my ass!
FINAL CHAPTER, my ass!

*The first FRIDAY THE 13TH was made for under $500,000 in 1980.

*Star Adrienne King ended up with a real-life stalker following the release of the movie. She was also meant to star in the second one, but her agent asked for too much money, so they ended up killing her character in the opening scene!

*The third one, FRIDAY THE 13TH ushered in the second wave of 3D movies in the 80s; this was also the one where Jason’s iconic hockey mask first appears, Jason having worn a bag on his head previously.

*Ted White, the man who played Jason in the fourth film, THE FINAL CHAPTER, hated child co-star Corey Feldman, and the scenes where White terrorised Feldman probably had a bit more relish to it than expected!

Sloth from THE GOONIES comes looking for Corey Feldman...
Sloth from THE GOONIES comes looking for Corey Feldman…

*FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING was meant to pass on the mantle of killer from Jason to Feldman’s character, but Feldman was too busy filming THE GOONIES to do more than a cameo. This was also the time when the MPAA began to sit up and take notice, forcing the studio to begin trimming the more graphic death scenes.

*FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES’ writer/director Tom McLaughlin, ordered to bring back Jason as the primary killer, infused this entry with his love of old Universal and Hammer horror films, literally sparking Jason back to life with a bolt of lightning! This was also the one with Alice Cooper’s song He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask), which would also feature on his album Constrictor.

*FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD (1988) was originally meant to feature Jason battling Freddy Krueger but Paramount and New Line could agree at the time. It also gave us the first appearance of Jason as played by genre favourite Kane Hodder, while the movie itself was disdainfully described as ‘Jason Meets Carrie’.

Tom Savini, showing how it's done...
Tom Savini, showing how it’s done…

*FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN was originally meant to have featured Jason a lot more in the Big Apple (or Vancouver, where it was actually filmed), but budget restrictions meant more and more footage actually had to be shot on a cruise liner (and yes, everyone involved also asks why a cruise ship was on what was supposed to be a tiny summer camp lake, and how did it get out to the ocean and then New York City?) There was also a bizarre sequence filmed for the end, where the child version of Jason would be seen crawling out of the adult Jason’s mouth, but fortunately, saner heads prevailed and it was cut.

*The ninth instalment, JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY was one done by New Line, and was called this because Paramount still owned the title rights, and wouldn’t let New Line use FRIDAY THE 13TH. This was also the one where Jason was made out to be some body-hopping monster, a la SHOCKER, with throwaway references to Freddy Krueger again, as well as the Necronomicon.

In between his own movies, Jason was a stand-in for Voldemort
In between his own movies, Jason was a stand-in for Voldemort

*The tenth movie, JASON X, suffered from a) being shit b) being set in space c) being shit d) New Line telling director James Isaac to make the movie more like SCREAM, hence the infamous hologram scene with the self-referential humour, and e) being shit

*The eleventh movie, JASON VS FREDDY (Okay, this was my favourite of the series), was long in development, and among the ideas considered as to how the two icons would be connected included one where Freddy molested young Jason, then drowned him to keep him silent. Hmm…

And this is only a taste of what you’ll find out. In addition to all of this, and a final chapter which rounds off the series to date, there is also an audio commentary track with author Peter Bracke, writer/director Daniel Farrands, and editor Luke Rafalowski, giving you even more information than you expected.

Bela sez, "No boobies for you kids until you do your homework!"
Bela sez, “No boobies for you kids until you do your homework!”

I suppose if there is any drawback to this, it would be the relatively minimal amount of coverage given to the other aspects of the franchise that fans might know about, such as the comic books, novels, and in particular the television series of the same name, which ran from 1987 to 1990, and concerned a small team of people seeking to retrieve a series of cursed antiques sold to people around the world. It was pretty graphic for its time, and was a precursor to TV series with similar themes like WAREHOUSE 13, though it didn’t have any direct connection to Jason (except for a brief glimpse in the title sequence which suggested that his hockey mask might have been one of the cursed objects – good luck trying to get that off him!).

Jason Took Manhattan. The Bronx and Staten Island, too...
Jason Took Manhattan. The Bronx and Staten Island, too…

In conclusion, I highly recommend CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES to anyone who might be interested in learning something, or something more, about these films. In fact, you’d probably get more of a kick watching these than some of the movies themselves!


Deggsy’s Summary:
Director: Daniel Farrands
Plot: 5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 8 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains (unless you count Jason as a zombie, in which case…)
Reviewed by Deggsy. The D is silent. In case Jason’s around…

Cool as Hell (2013)

COOL-AS-HELL-POSTER3_jpg21-647x1024James Balsamo is back and brings with him his no-holds-barred style of guerrilla-filmmaking that reminds me a lot of the old school Troma flicks from Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz (you know, before they had budgets). COOL AS HELL marks Balsamo’s third feature length film and he’s showing no signs of slowing down (he’s already announced his next film, MYSTERY MEAT, set to drop later this year). The themes in COOL AS HELL are the same as his previous entries: Death metal, gore, laughs, and a frantic pace. Balsamo’s films may not be perfect but I always find myself having a really fun time with them.

COOL AS HELL follows Rich (Balsamo) and Benny (Dan E. Danger), two very experienced underachievers who live for comic books, attempting to pick up girls way outta their league in bars, and partying hard. One day Rich meets the woman of his dreams, Ashley (Lauren Adamkiewicz) but she’s already dating a total douche-nozzle named Sal (Frank Mullen). Sal is abusive and neglectful towards her, he’s a thug by trade, and he’s just a repulsive person to be around in general. One day Rich runs into a low level demon named Az (Billy Walsh) he was summoned to earth to scare someone, but Rich interrupts and the demon becomes enthralled to him. At first Rich doesn’t know what to do with Az, but soon it becomes apparent that Az is a party demon. So Az, Rich, and Benny start hanging around with Az showing them the finer points of partying like a complete maniac.

Unfortunately something followed Az through the portal and now there’s a soul-eating demon and loads of zombies to deal with. So Rich and Benny must decide real fast whether to abandon their party ways or to grow up and become feared Demon Slayers. We all know which road they take.

indie filmmaker James Balsamo
indie filmmaker James Balsamo

COOL AS HELL is just like Balsamo’s other films: It’s a super low/no budgeter with lots of amateur actors. By the very nature of COOL AS HELL, I should have hated it. Yet Balsamo again injects a high level of energy into all his scenes and really creates an entertaining, gory genre flick that never takes itself too serious but always delivers on the fun. My criticisms of this film are the same as in his previous movies. Some scenes could’ve been trimmed down to create a tighter final product and I find the (over)use of the blaring death metal music in all the gore scenes a little distracting. The music takes the focus off of the gore, and the problem with this is that Balsamo is a pretty damn talented f/x artist!! Balsamo, once again, wears a lot of hats in COOL AS HELL. He’s the lead actor, writer, director, producer. editor, and production designer. He’s a true indie horror filmmaker. We also get some fun genre cameos. Indie horror filmmaker Donald Farmer, Laurence R. Harvey from HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2, and horror f/x guru Tom Savini to name a few.

COOL AS HELL proves once again that James Balsamo is here to stay and that the indie horror scene is alive and thriving. COOL AS HELL is a fun, no-brainer genre flick that’s works best watching it with some buddies and some booze. Check this one out.

My Summary:

Director: James Balsamo (& writer)

Plot: 3 out of 5 stars

Gore: 6 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem: 2 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Scott Shoyer

Red Band Trailer Drops for Balsamo’s Cool As Hell

cool-as-hell-poster3_jpgIndie horror filmmaker James Balsamo is one hard working sonuvabitch!!  He’s been hard at work in post-production on COOL AS HELL, his upcoming film, and there’s no sign of him letting up any time soon (see my previous article on Balsamo here).  COOL AS HELL is written, directed, and stars Balsamo and also stars Tom Savini, HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 psycho Laurence R. Harvey, Frank Mullen, David Naughton, Frank Mullen, Donald Farmer, and Andrew W.K.  Check out the plot crunch:

Rich and Benny are having trouble with the ladies, until they befriend a demon named Az. It’s a non-stop party until a soul hungry beast leaps through an open portal from the underworld and starts terrorizing the town. It’s up to Az and the boys to send the creature back to the depths where it came from, and look good, while doing it in “Cool As Hell”.

If you’ve seen any of Balsamo’s previous films you know you’re in for a lot of gore, a lot of black comedy, a lot of death metal, and a lot of fun.  Check out the red band trailer and tell me what you think:

COOL AS HELL is set to drop on February 19, 2013.

Stay Bloody!!!

Official Trailer & Artwork Drop for James Balsamo's Cool as Hell

James Balsamo, the crazy bastard behind 2011’s HACK JOB (my review) and 2012’s I SPILL YOUR GUTS (my review), is back with his new film, COOL AS HELL!!  Balsamo contacted me earlier today with the official trailer and artwork for COOL AS HELL and this one looks FUN AS HELL (sorry … the pun was there so I took it).  The film is written and directed by Balsamo and stars Tom Savini, Andrew W.K., James Balsamo, and tons of cameos from some of death metals best performers!!  Check out the plot summary:

Rich and Benny are having trouble with the ladies, until they befriend a demon named Az. It’s a non-stop party until a soul hungry beast leaps through an open portal from the underworld and starts terrorizing the town. It’s up to Az and the boys to send the creature back to the depths where it came from, and look good, while doing it in “Cool As Hell”.

Now dig on the trailer and remember that Balsamo is an indie horror filmmaker making films with very modest finances, but putting all his heart and soul onto the screen … and he has a warped sense of humor and he’s bat-shit crazy!!  I’m a big fan of Balsamo’s.

Make sure to check out the official COOL AS HELL Facebook page and throw your support their way.

Stay Bloody!!!

Balsamo is Back and is Cool as Hell!!

James Balsamo is a busy man.  Balsamo has made two feature-length films in the last two years and it looks as though he has no intentions of slowing down!!  His first film, HACK JOB, was a horror anthology (my review) and covered just about every horror sub-genre you could think of (I think it also created some new genres along the way!!).  I SPILL YOUR GUTS (my review) was a more traditional narrative and really captured the heyday of the exploitation/grindhouse flick.  Now Balsamo is back with COOL AS HELL, a horror-comedy set for a December 1, 2012 release.  Check out the press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 23, 2012

DIRECTOR OF HACK JOB AND I SPILL YOUR GUTS PRESENTS NEW FILM “COOL AS HELL”

NEW YORK, NY – Acid Bath Productions, the makers of “Hack Job” and “I Spill Your Guts”, has announced the official release date of December 01, 2012 for a brand new Horror Comedy, “Cool as Hell”. Directed by James Balsamo, this intense demon-centric masterpiece is bound to get you excited.

Rich and Benny are having trouble with the ladies, until they befriend a demon named Az. It’s a non-stop party until a soul hungry beast leaps through an open portal from the underworld and starts terrorizing the town. It’s up to Az and the boys to send the creature back to the depths where it came from, and look good, while doing it in “Cool As Hell”.

“Cool As Hell” features horror legend Tom Savini, Carmine Capobianco, 3 Inches Of Blood, Municipal Waste, and lead singer of Suffocation, Frank Mullen. The film stars James Balsamo, Billy Walsh, and Lauren Adamkiewicz. “Cool as Hell” is slated for a December release.

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Be sure to check out the official COOL AS HELL Facebook Page.

Day of the Dead Review & Retrospective (1985)

You’re only as good as your last movie, or so Hollywood says (fortunately for Michael Bay, his movies remain consistently loud and stupid, thus sparing him confusion). Of course, this never seems to apply to those who keep green-lighting loud and stupid films. But I’m not here to talk about them. I’m here to talk about our friend George Romero.

I can say ‘our friend’, because the legendary director has always presented himself as a charming, avuncular person to his fans. I can’t find any instance of his acting like an asshole to members of the public, no matter how many times they ask him the same questions, including, “When’s the next zombie film coming out?” [I can partially confirm Deggsy’s comment here.  When I met Romero at the 2010 Texas Frightmare Weekend he was the friendliest, most humble, and genuinely nice guy who loves his fans — AHS]

George Romero & some friends

Poor George. He’s had a love/hate relationship with the revenants. They’ve brought him fame, but his non-zombie films have for the most part gone been neglected, either deservedly (TWO EVIL EYES, THE DARK HALF, KNIGHTRIDERS) or not (THE CRAZIES, MARTIN, MONKEY SHINES). The one big exception was 1982’s CREEPSHOW, a critical and commercial success (and one of the best horror anthologies ever made). But despite this, his work on the seminal NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and the frankly magnificent DAWN OF THE DEAD was what everyone still associated him with, and people still wanted more zombies. I can sympathise with Romero, grateful for the acclaim the Dead brought him, but still wanting to be known and appreciated for more.

Florida in DAY OF THE DEAD looks better than it does today!!

Still, when funds of $7 million were promised if he could bring in a third Dead movie, how could he say no?

We open on a woman slumped on the floor of a stark, windowless room, who lifts her head up to see a calendar on the far wall. Slowly she rises, approaches it (all the while showing that there is no door out of the room), reaches out to the rustic picture on the calendar as if hypnotised-

And then reels back as hands burst through the concrete wall to grab her…

She awakens in a helicopter. She is Sarah (Lori Cardille, TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE), a scientist, travelling with her emotionally-ragged soldier boyfriend Miguel (Anthony Dileo Jr, LORENZO’S OIL), pilot John (Terry Alexander, CONSPIRACY THEORY) and radioman Billy McDermott (Jarlath Conroy, TRUE GRIT) to a Florida city, landing and using a bullhorn to call for anyone listening. Billy’s voice carries through the deserted, litter-strewn streets, as a wind-swept newspaper unfurls to display the headline THE DEAD WALK!

“I’ve got a headache THIS big …”

The call does not reach anything … living. Instead, the dead respond, rising and shambling towards them, their collective moans heard even over the blades of their helicopter. They depart, returning to their base of operations, an underground complex surrounded by a chain link fence straining against the weight of the dead outside. It was a facility set up at the start of the zombie outbreak, where scientists try to find a cure and the military tries to assist and protect them. But civilisation has fallen around them, and the situation has deteriorated, to say the least. Isolated for months now, supplies dwindling, the soldiers’ numbers are depleting as more are killed trying to round up zombies for experimentation, and the scientists are getting nowhere.

That’s a real croc & its trainers are the zombies walking down the stairs.

Such is the tension between the groups that the soldiers’ acting leader, the highly-irritated Captain Rhodes (Joe Pilato, who had small roles in DAWN OF THE DEAD and KNIGHTRIDERS) [he also had a small part in PULP FICTIONAHS] can turn a simple meeting into a potential gunfight, even against one of his own men, the obnoxious racist Private Steele (Gary Howard Klar, CADILLAC MAN). The tension crosses racial and sexist lines, with John as the only black man in the group and Sarah the only woman.

His nickname, Dr. Frankenstein, is well deserved!!

The scientists, led by Dr. Logan, aka Dr. Frankenstein (Richard Liberty, FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR), do little to alleviate the tension, with Logan seemingly moving away from finding a cure and focusing on domesticating the dead. Among his better pupils is “Bub” (Sherman Howard, LAW AND ORDER), a zombie who, in an astonishing scene, displays knowledge of books, razors, and telephones – and speaks! Not that this progress interests Rhodes, who’s only interested in making the dead stay dead.

Living apart from both groups, both physically and philosophically, is John and Billy, who keep a mobile home in another part of the complex. Going to them for a break, Sarah questions their attitude, and in a telling speech, John makes her rethink her own position, trying to find answers when their world has already fallen, when they should leave it all behind, find an island and have some babies – and teach them not to return to this place.

That’s never gonna come out of those whites!!

Matters worsen when Miguel is bit during a zombie roundup, and two other soldiers are indirectly killed because of him. Sarah quickly cuts his arm off above the bite, trying to halt the infection, but Rhodes is still ready to kill him anyway, until John and Billy agree to keep Miguel with them, though the outlook isn’t promising. But when Rhodes discovers that Dr. Logan has been feeding parts of his men to Bub and the other zombies as reward, all hell breaks loose…

“They’re coming to get you Lori …”

DAY OF THE DEAD would go on to be the least critically- and commercially-successful of the original DEAD trilogy – but it would be a mistake to dismiss this movie on this alone. Romero was promised $7 million to make DAY (in comparison, DAWN cost only $500,000 and NIGHT a mere $114,000), and with this Romero planned a true epic, “a GONE WITH THE WIND of zombie movies”. In his initial storyline, the scientists would be living aboveground in a fortress surrounded by an electrical fence, and the military living more safely underground, and there would have been a small army of zombies trained to defeat the “ferals”. It was also planned that an explosion would wipe out most of the undead in the area, and that one of the characters who died earlier would not reanimate, thus offering hope for the survivors that death could still be the end for them.

This looks like most older people with new technology!!

However, the backers wanted an R-rated movie to guarantee a wider theatre release with consequent box office, a condition Romero would not agree to, so his budget was slashed in half, and he was forced to retool his original script, retaining most of the original characters but keeping nearly all of the story underground. The opening and closing scenes were shot in Fort Myers and Sanibel Island, Florida, but the underground facility was real, a former limestone mine near Pittsburgh converted into a storage facility. This lends a real sense of claustrophobia to the setting (you can even see and hear bats in the background, and I’m assuming Romero didn’t intentionally add them!), and a feeling that the survivors are already in Hell. Most of the zombie extras were Pittsburgh residents who volunteered to help, and those who participated received a dollar, a cap that read ‘I Played a Zombie in Day of the Dead’, and a copy of the THE DEAD WALK! newspaper. Damn, I’m jealous!

Our héros. Not quite the rugged looking group of folks, is it?

Lori Cardille (whose father Billy had a small role in the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD) puts in a strong performance in the lead, as strong and convincing as Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, an intelligent character who never has to become a damsel in distress or resort to her sexuality (in interviews, Cardille said she tried to soften the character, but Romero refused, believing it would weaken her, a good move on his part). Also of note is Richard Liberty as Dr. Logan, a multifaceted, vulnerable scientist, human and too blinkered to recognise the dangers of his actions. Working well opposite him is Sherman Howard as Bub (whose character has become a minor horror icon), and it’s a friendship that both actors express in scenes without words.

The Godfather of Gore, Tom Savini, working on Bub

The rest give quite good performances, but if I had any quibble, it is with those portraying the soldiers, in particular Joe Pilato as Rhodes, though I lay most of the blame on Romero’s script. He stated in interviews that he wanted to show the inability of both sides to get along with each other in the face of the crisis around them, but the military is primarily shown as ignorant, racist, sexist, obnoxious, mentally disturbed and trigger-happy. Pilato in particular chews the scenery on a number of occasions, not helped by some of Romero’s dialogue.

Still, Rhodes *does* get one of the best death scenes ever filmed… more on that in a moment.

“Choke on ’em …”

DAY OF THE DEAD might not receive the respect given to its predecessors, but it remains one of the strongest additions to the genre for the decade. Romero’s decision to deliver an unrated film reaps dividends, and Tom Savini delivers the best effects of his career, light years ahead of Romero’s previous movies, and still stronger than much of what we see in today’s CGI-heavy age. The zombie makeup is unparalleled, far beyond the grey paint and oatmeal seen in a hundred lesser movies. And the gore is of equal strength: dissected bodies, spilled guts, dismemberments, gunshots, bites, all delivered simply but effectively by a true master of his art.

This is especially true when Rhodes meets his end, and though I’d hate to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t yet seen it, there comes with it a story that must be told: the blood and entrails used in Rhodes’ death scene were real, pig parts procured from a nearby slaughterhouse the weekend before they were needed. However, during the weekend custodial staff unplugged the refrigerator storing them, so that by the time shooting commenced the following Monday, they were well and truly spoiled, causing most of the people who had to get up close and personal to them physically ill. When you watch Joe Pilato torn in half by the undead, and he squeezes out the immortal, ad-libbed line, “Choke on them!”, imagine those reeking intestines just under his nose.

George & Bub having a tender moment with one of his young ‘uns.

If you haven’t seen this movie, see it. It remains stronger now than Romero’s later efforts such as LAND, DIARY and SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD. And watch the trailer below for no other reason than it’s so Old School :-)

[I couldn’t agree more with Deggsy in this review!!  DAY OF THE DEAD is one of my favourite horror films (and zombie) films made.  It’s bleak, dark, depressing, and claustrophobic and simply one of Romero’s best films.  If you haven’t seen this one or only saw the remake, shame on you!!  Go out and buy this film — AHS]

Deggsy’s Summary:

Director: George Romero

Plot: 5 out of 5 stars

Gore: 10 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem: 5 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien

Tom Savini & Kane Hodder to Fight Robin Hood: Ghosts of Sherwood

Wow. Just wow. Here’s a movie that takes the classic figure of Robin Hood and turns he and his band of Merry Men into the undead and has them haunting the woods they once protected. The film, ROBIN HOOD: GHOSTS OF SHERWOOD, has all the makings of a SyFy Original … but it’s not!! Yeah; I know. ROBIN HOOD: GHOSTS OF SHERWOOD is directed by Oliver Krekel and written by Krekel and Seán Lee. The film stars Martin Thon, Ramona Kuen, Kai Borchardt and Tom Savini and Kane Hodder (as the Sheriff of Nottingham and Little John, respectively). Check out the plot crunch:

This is the fictitious tale of a cursed Robin Hood who has sold his soul to a witch to stay alive. But death never sleeps, and soon Robin dies in a battle. When Marian and Little John try to bring Robin and his Merry Men back to life by using the witch’s potions, they unfortunately turn the dead to the living dead.

With the use of the potions that Marian took from the witch’s cave, she and Little John are forced to fight for their lives against their former friends and the accuracy of Robin’s bow. The pair is able to fight their way out of Sherwood Forest and find that what’s left of the Zombie Robin Hood and his remaining Zombie Merry Men cannot leave the forest. Marian and Little John decide they will scour the Earth to see if they can find a potion to save their friends but until then will leave them where they are as the “Ghosts of Sherwood”.

Thankfully they tell us right from the outset that this is a ‘fictitious tale.’ I was starting to think this was based on actually historical events!! This sounds, though, like it could be pretty fun. Check out the trailer:

What do you think?

Stay Bloody!!!

The Theatre Bizarre (2011)

I thank Scott for alerting me to this indie anthology (most recently in his post here), which made me get this when it became available. As we all know, anthologies are great, in that you can get a variety of stories, some good, some not so good, but even the worst ones don’t usually outstay their welcome. Anthologies typically show up with three stories (why are there trilogies, anyway? I don’t quite understand the appeal. It seems to run counter to our biological trend towards symmetry. But I digress…), and can either be made by the same director/writer, or by different crews altogether (allowing independent filmmakers who can only afford to make short movies to pool their resources and release a full-length feature under the anthology banner). Anthology movies are also almost always horror-based, too, given its huge potential for variations in plot, mood and theme (let’s face it, if you had to sit through an anthology of rom-coms filled with quirky girls and shirtless men, you’d end up setting fire to your pubes for a more entertaining diversion).

THE THEATRE BIZARRE is the latest anthology I’ve seen, and from what I understand the first to get a theatrical release in a long while, albeit a limited one, bolstered mainly on the talent behind the camera – or cameras. There are six tales here (the most I’ve seen in an anthology since CREEPSHOW, I think), of varying lengths and styles, bound with a framing device story (each director was given the same budget, schedule and narrative directive; other than that, they were given free rein). The framing story involves A young artist (Virginia Newvcomb, MACHETE JOE), who becomes obsessed by the abrupt and unexplained opening of the abandoned theatre across the street, to which she is inexplicably drawn. Alone in the audience, she watches a life-size marionette, played by legend Udo Kier (whom I keep getting mixed up with Klaus Kinski, and I hope neither of those creepy mofos take it personally, coz they’d probably stab me for less reason), who introduces each tale using other marionettes. The framing story is basic, because like an emcee in a variety show, it’s not meant to distract from the acts, but simply keep the mood going, and director Jeremy Kasten (THE THIRST, THE WIZARD OF GORE remake) manages this with a surreal, nightmarish Grand Guignol touch.

Feeding Time in Sweets

The first tale, “Mother of Toads”, from Richard Stanley (HARDWARE, DUST DEVIL), and based on a short story by Clark Aston Smith, concerns a young bickering couple (Shane Woodward and Victoria Maurette) holidaying in France. They’re bickering because the girl doesn’t understand her boyfriend’s obsession with the occult. An old woman (Catriona MacColl, THE BEYOND, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, and looking here like that bald priestess in DUNE) offers him a chance to examine a surviving copy of the Necronomicon, and you know it’s not going to end well… this one’s an okay segment, atmospheric with some decent scenery, though I never found toads all that scary… I was sort of put off by the use of the Necronomicon, which everybody seems to namedrop nowadays. It’s too convenient a plot device in horror, at least for me, and using it so much would be like watching a whole season of NCIS where every episode involved finding a rogue nuke.

Hi Udo; Nice Seeing You Again!

The next segment, “I Love You”, from Buddy Gionazzo (whose only work I’ve seen was the raw, brutal 80s movie COMBAT SHOCK), opens with Axel (André Hennicke, The Free Will, Antibodies) lying bloodied and confused on his bathroom floor. But before you start to feel too sorry for him, the story unfolds to show him as a selfish, possessive, passive-aggressive prick who has dominated his wife Mo (Suzan Anbeh, AGNES AND HIS BROTHERS) for years, to the point where she’s leaving him for another man. And he can’t seem to get it in his head that their relationship is at an end. They fuck, they argue, it gets confusing. And then it becomes clear. And very, very bloody… What starts out looking like some European drama ends on a strong and satisfying note, and it’s well-acted, and you do feel like this is an accurate portrayal of a dysfunctional relationship at its end.

Legend Tom Savini takes us back into more overtly horrific territory with his segment, “Wet Dreams”. Here, an unfaithful, abusive man, Donnie (James Gil) is growing obsessed with losing his junk, having nightmares about his girlfriend Carla (horror veteran and professional nude scene participant Debbie Rochon) frying up his penis for breakfast, and sprouting insect-like shearing blades at the entrance to her vagina; issues, anyone? His psychiatrist Dr Maury (played by Savini himself) offers him the usual tricks to snap him out of the dreams. But the dreams aren’t that easy to send away. Or is it reality? There is some decent gore to be had here (as you’d expect from anything helmed by Il Maestro Savini), though it reminds me a little too much of an episode of TALES FROM THE CRYPT.

Vision Stains - Thats Gonna Hurt

Director Douglas Buck (CUTTING MOMENTS) brings us something altogether different with “The Accident”. It’s a short, stark vignette about a mother (Lena Kleine, TERRITORIES) having to explain to her young daughter (Melodie Simard) about death, both of them having witnessed a gruesome, fatal accident involving a biker and a deer. I’m not sure about this one. As part of a horror anthology where you expect blood spurts and boobs, it fits in about as well as a banana daiquiri at a fratboys’ kegger. As a quiet, sober reflection on life and death, and the inevitable erosion of childhood innocence about the world, it’s a standout piece, beautifully shot and effectively directed and acted. Parents would probably get more out of this than

Wet Dreams - Its Enough to Make Me Go Vegan!!

We’re back in more familiar terrain with “Vision Stains”, directed by Karim Hussain (who did cinematography work on HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN). It’s a gruesome little piece about a writer (Kaniehtiio Horn, IMMORTALS) who has discovered that when you die, your life does pass before your eyes, and that by extracting ocular fluid from a person in their final moments, and injecting it into her own eye, she can experience their lives, and write about them. She’s clearly crazier than an outhouse rat, but the method does work, as we see when she goes out and kills junkies to obtain their biographies. When she decides to kill a pregnant woman to see the memories of her unborn child, however, she makes a discovery about life and death that she really rather wouldn’t have minded staying ignorant about. It’s a good little slice of bleakness, though it’s spoiled by Kaniehtiio Horn’s narration is flat and lifeless.

The final segment, “Sweets”, by David Gregory (PLAGUE TOWN, as well as an impressive body of work involving documentary shorts on the horror scene; check out his IMDb listing), is a colourful, grisly piece about an exclusive restaurant for gluttons, a restaurant that will cater for tastes that go beyond haute cuisine into cannibal cuisine… There’s a wild, garish style to this, like a cooking show by Leatherface, and therefore expects lots and lots of gore, dismemberment and bloodletting…

Wet Dreams - Owie Time!!

The tales are not all bound by any single pervading theme, but most seem to make women the threats, either to men or to each other (the exception being Douglas Buck’s “The Accident”, and even that can fit in, if you think of the mother destroying the child’s innocence about the world, even if it’s for the best of intentions). I don’t know if this was intended or not, given the disparate talents involved (nearly all of the directors also wrote the screenplays), but it was something which crept up on me, and a refreshing use of brainpower I usually reserve for cataloging lesbian scenes in movies.

THE THEATRE BIZARRE is not a bad viewing experience, not at all. It was fun and gruesome, with more hits than misses. The trailer can be viewed here. The film has had limited screenings, so if it shows up in your area, give it a watch.

Deggsy’s Summary:

Directors: Jeremy Kasten, Richard Stanley, Buddy Giovinazzo, Tom Savini, Douglas Buck, Karim Hussain, David Gregory

Plot (collective): 4 out of 5 stars

Gore (collective): 6 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien