Lunar Cycle #5 - ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction (2009)/ Death Valley: The Revenge of Bloody Bill (2004)/ 8213: Gacy House (2010)/ Lockout (2012)

This section of the blog is due to me being lazy, I mean swamped with watching so many films that I want to discuss on this blog. But I don't really have the time, so I decided to quickly [well as much as I can really] to review films I don't really want to focus too much time on. You'll be seeing these more often than not. Time for the reviews!

Kevin Hamedani

Janette Armand - Frida Abbas
Doug Fahl - Tom Hunt
Cooper Hopkins - Lance Murphy
Russell Hodgkinson - Joe Miller
Cornelia Moore - Cheryl Banks
James Mesher - Mayor Hal E. Burton
Bill Johns - Reverend Haggis
Ali Hamedani - Ali Abbs

Genre - Horror/Comedy/Zombies

Running Time - 89 Minutes

In the town of Fort Gamble, Frida (Janette Armand) is the daughter of an Iranian immigrant who has returned home while taking some time off from studying at Princeton. Frida and her father (Ali Hamedani) clash due to their generational gap and Frida's relationship with Derek (Ryan Barret), a dishwasher and aspiring musician. This stops being an issue once a zombie chews out Derek's throat.

Meanwhile, Tom (
Doug Fahl) has returned home with his boyfriend Lance (Cooper Hopkins) to tell his mom that he's gay. When he comes out, Tom's mom becomes a zombie after being bitten.

Both parties try to find some shelter during this sudden zombie apocalypse. Unfortunately, both have to deal with prejudices from the other survivors. Frida is kidnapped by her white trash neighbors, who are convinced that this zombie deal is due to terrorism. And Tom and Lance are trapped inside of a church, where homosexuality is considered a sin. What's worse - being alive or dead?

When it comes to zombie films, George A. Romero is usually the first name that comes to mind. Not only does Romero give the audience the gruesome horror they'd expect, but also powerful social commentary that lingers long after the movie is over. ZMD: ZOMBIES OF MASS DESTRUCTION tries to follow the template by providing both the horror and the commentary. And while it goes for it without holding back. ZMD tries a bit too much, sacrificing certain aspects in the process.

ZMD is focused on presenting a zombie commentary during a post-9/11 world. The commentary was fueled after director Kevin Hamedani was treated as a terrorist by other Americans due to his ethnicity. Also, he realized the growing tension between religious folks and the stance on gay marriage, wanting to use that debate as well. Putting an Arab and two homosexuals within an over-the-top idyllic world that soon becomes a zombie playground seems to hammer home what the film is trying to say. Unfortunately, the hammering becomes a bit too much, as the commentary is a bit too thick by the film's end. So much is focused on the satire, that the characters comes across as nothing but archetypes that audiences will forget about the next day.

The characters of Frida, Tom, and Lance are fleshed out because they're the targets of the satire for being Arab, or homosexuals respectively. But the other characters are just there to be their antagonists to hammer the commentary - Arabs are terrorists and homosexuals are sinners. Sure, these characters may have a bit of depth and even their own story arcs, but they don't really matter much at the end due to the zombies wiping them out in the final act. It's during this final portion where ZMD becomes a fun watch, due to the visual carnage. But before that, we have to sit with dialogue that's a mixed bag of funny while not pushing the story as forward as it needs to. Commentary is important, especially during this day and age. But too much of it becomes a turn off, especially when the comedy isn't as strong as it needs to be to lighten things up. Luckily some of the humor, like the coming out scene and some sight gags, do work. But more of that could have helped the film greatly.

What does help are the gore effects, which are done really well. Necks get ripped open, people get hit by vehicles, people get decapitated, plus some knife and hammer play. And I can't forget the moment where someone gets beaten down by their own detached arm. Kevin Hamedani handles these visual gags and most of the direction well, as the film is paced very well considering we're really watching two stories in one movie. The lighting could have been better in some scenes, but the visual presentation is pretty top notch. Just the setting of Fort Gamble, which sort of looks like a fantasy version of the suburbs, looks great.

The acting is pretty good as well. I thought Janette Armand was particularly good as Frida, with Doug Fahl (Tom) and Russell Hodgkinson (Joe) right behind her. No one was particularly bad and all played their roles as believable as possible.

ZMD: ZOMBIES OF MASS DESTRUCTION is your typical zombie-comedy that doesn't work as well as it should due to its thick political satire that becomes tiring by the movie's end. But at least Kevin Hamedani attempted to go the Romero route and tried to make this film be about SOMETHING relevant. And with good visuals, good gore, and actors who are game, ZMD almost becomes something great. It's just a good zombie film in the end, but I can respect that it at least tries to be something more.

3 Howls Outta 4

Byron Werner

Chelsea Jean - Gwen
Gregory Bastien - Earl
Denise Boutte - Mandy
Scott Carson - Avery
Matt Marraccini - Jerry
Kandis Erickson - Sondra
Steven Glinn - Buck
Jeremy Bouvet - Bloody Bill
Dean N. Arevalo - Darrel

Genre - Horror/Supernatural/Zombies

Running Time - 82 Minutes

A college debate team are on their way to a competition when they hit a man (Gregory Bastien) with their van. Thinking they killed someone, they're surprised when this man has tricked them to hijack their ride with a gun, ordering them to find his drug partner, Darrel (Dean N. Arevalo). They find Darrel's abandoned car outside of a ghost town, but no sign of Darrel or anyone else. The group learns that this town is attached to an urban legend about an evil Confederate named General "Bloody Bill" Anderson (Jeremy Bouvet), who murdered a lot of people during the Civil War. After several Union soldiers beat and killed Bloody Bill, the Confederate has decided to haunt this town - bringing some hungry zombies along for the ride.

DEATH VALLEY: THE REVENGE OF BLOODY BILL is an Asylum production that's a mixed bag for me. Director Byron Werner, and writers John & Matthew Yuan were obviously inspired by other horror films - like the original TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2. And the Western motif is actually pretty cool for a horror feature. But I wasn't sure what this film wanted to be. Is it a ghost film? Is it a zombie film? Is it action? Is it horror? The tone was uneven and took me out of this film. Plus, the story is pretty generic stuff and feels like your standard slasher flick, just with zombies. You won't really care about any of the characters [since you're not really given any time to know them], hoping that Bloody Bill and the zombies eliminate all of them. We also get a scene where characters are debating over the merit of the Bible, which doesn't really lead into anything important. Plus, we have characters wondering why a certain character is getting sick after being bit by a member of the undead. Like really? I can tolerate stupid characters. I can tolerate annoying characters. But when you mix the two, I start to tune out.

I will say that I did enjoy the gore of the film, considering the low budget. We get some flesh eating, some gun play, a head being crushed by some strong hands, and normal zombie kill stuff. It looks kinda cheap, but not cheap enough where it takes you out of the film. Considering the lame story, having some blood and guts being thrown around was a plus.

The direction also isn't that bad. The film is well paced, and the cinematography has an interesting yellow/red tint going for it. The flashback scenes with Bloody Bill are presented as a silent film reel, which I actually dug quite a lot. There are even some decent, fun moments of tension. There were some major editing issues that I spotted though, especially when characters would speak to each other with mismatching shots one after the other. But other than that, I've seen worse and thought Byron Werner did a good job considering.

The acting was a mix of highs and lows from everyone involved. Chelsea Jean's character annoyed me for majority of the film, but I thought her acting was fine. Gregory Bastien's Earl grated me during the first half of the film [he was a bit too forced in his tough guy delivery], but he was good during the second half. Jeremy Bouvet as Bloody Bill looked pretty cool. No one else really stands out, to be honest. But each actor did good and bad with what they were given throughout the film.

"Meh" is the best way to describe DEATH VALLEY: THE REVENGE OF BLOODY BILL. I couldn't really get into the generic story due to the stupid, annoying characters and me wondering what sub-genre this film was trying to fit into. But I did like the gore, the direction wasn't too bad, and the acting was in the middle for me. It's not the worst flick out there, especially since it's really short. But it's not a film you have to go out and see either. No need to really care about this REVENGE. But if you do, it's not the worst way to waste 80 minutes of your time.

1.5 Howls Outta 4

Anthony Fankhauser

Michael Gaglio - Professor Roger Franklin
James Arthur Lewis - Mike Lewis
Brett Newton - Gary Gold
Sylvia Panacione - Tessa Escobar
Rachel Riley - Lena Russell
Matthew Temple - Robby Williams
Diana Terranova - Janina Peslo

Genre - Horror/Supernatural/Ghosts/Serial Killers/Found Footage

Running Time - 91 Minutes

Lost footage is found of a paranormal investigation team who decided to set up their camera inside the abandoned home of executed serial killer, John Wayne Gacy. Using a medium (Diana Terranova), the team attempts to contact Gacy from the afterlife, or any of Gacy's victims who may have died inside the house. Suddenly things happen inside of the house that can't be explained, which makes the team doubt or believe in any evidence that doesn't seem tangible. But the angry spirit of Gacy will be heard, which makes this curious team his latest victims.

I have three words for 8213: GACY HOUSE:


Another film produced by The Asylum, 8213: GACY HOUSE jumps on the current bandwagon of the latest horror trend - the found footage movie. As you may know, I'm not the biggest fan of this sub-genre, although there are some films that do it quite well. CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, CLOVERFIELD, and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT come to mind. This attempt to capitalize on the success of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is a very lame one, making that film look like a masterpiece in the process.

For one, the script is just terrible. The characters are not believable in any real way. Two members of the team decide that during supernatural events inside the house they're staying in, it's a great idea to fool around. Hey, if ghosts of serial killers gets one aroused, should I judge? The medium, who has huge boobs by the way [probably one of the few highlights of this film], decides to offer her neighbor's son's shirt so Gacy can talk to her from the dead. Pretty nasty if you ask me. Speaking of Gacy, his first words to the crew through an EVP recording is "Kiss my ass!" Very classy. And I got to love when paranormal investigators go down into a pedophile's basement, asking the dead pedophile whether he had molested boys inside the area. Yeah, that's an ice breaker. Plus, windows open, doors open and close, and objects move to different places - yet this PARANORMAL INVESTIGATION team doesn't correlate that it's the spirit of John Wayne Gacy doing this, thinking the crew are pulling pranks on each other. REALLY?? Fuck these idiots!

The highlight of the film though, besides the medium's big boobs [which the camera does an extreme close-up on], is towards the end where a young man begins to levitate kicking and screaming. Suddenly, his pants get pulled down and hovers into the basement to get ghost raped. I could not stop laughing at this. For this reason alone, I can't give the film a BOMB. It was the only part of the film that truly entertained me. I guess the image of ghost Gacy wearing his clown make up is pretty humorous too, considering he didn't pass away wearing it. Oh GACY HOUSE...

The direction is nothing special. It's all done in handheld style, with mixes of night vision shots and security camera footage. It's not creepy or tense in any way. The visuals are mainly shots of characters talking and walking around. Thrilling stuff, folks.

The acting is okay, I guess. No one comes across as really bad or anything. But considering the characters and the dumb actions they made, I couldn't really be convinced by any of their performances.

8213: GACY HOUSE is mainly a boring piece of found footage fluff no one needs to seek out. If you've seen one found footage film, you've seem them all. Stupid characters. A ton of dull walking and talking. Generic found footage visuals that don't add much to the story. If it wasn't for some big boobs, clown Gacy, and the dude who gets ghost raped, this film would be a total waste of time. You're better off watching a documentary on John Wayne Gacy, or even a better film about the serial killer, if you're into that sort of thing. But this one needs to be avoided before you lose your ass virginity.

0.5 Howls Outta 4

James Mather
Stephen St. Leger

Guy Pearce - Snow
Maggie Grace - Emilie Warnock
Vincent Regan - Alex
Joseph Gilgun - Hydell
Lennie James - Harry Shaw
Peter Stormare - Scott Langral

Genre - Action/Science Fiction/Thriller

Running Time - 95 Minutes

In the year 2079, a CIA agent named Snow (Guy Pearce) is arrested after an assignment where his partner, Frank, is murdered. While there's evidence that Snow was the one behind the murder, he denies any foul play. The evidence is overwhelming, leading Snow to be sentenced for thirty years in some sort of cryogenic stasis at M.S. One, which is a prison orbiting in space.

Meanwhile, Emilie Warnock (
Maggie Grace), who happens to be the President's daughter, visits the prison to see how well or badly the prisoners are being treated. She interviews a few prisoners, including a psycho named Hydell (Joseph Gilgun), who frees himself by snatching the gun of a Secret Service agent and taking Emilie prisoner. Hydell decides to let all the prisoners free to overthrow the prison, but Hydell's brother Alex (Vincent Regan) decides to take control to Hydell's dismay. Alex wants to negotiate with the President in exchange for Emilie, not knowing that the authorities have released Snow out of his stasis to help with the situation. If he does well, he'll receive a pardon. Accepting the offer reluctantly, Snow boards M.S. One to save Emilie and deal with 427 prisoners who want to keep her for themselves.

What do you get when you take one part ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, one part DIE HARD, and another part FORTRESS? You get 2012's LOCKOUT, a Luc Besson produced action sci-fi film inspired by several films from the 1980s and the 1990s made for a modern generation. LOCKOUT has always been a film that was always on my radar for some reason - probably because indie favorite Guy Pearce was in a mainstream action sci-fi flick. It didn't do well at the box office and seems to be on people's radars anytime one scrolls through Netflix Instant. The only reason I checked it out now was because it finally expired on Netflix, making it probably my last opportunity to check it out. And even though it's a pretty cliche and generic film, it's a FUN and ENTERTAINING cliche and generic film.

The screenplay is pretty standard and predictable, with some people believing it may be influenced from an idea or unfinished script for ESCAPE FROM EARTH - a planned third installment from John Carpenter for the Snake Plissken character. It makes a lot of sense actually. The premise has the criminal hero ordered by authorities to save the President's daughter, a premise from ESCAPE FROM L.A. The hero, Snow, is a Snake Plissken type who only cares about his own bottom line, while having the sarcastic wit of John McClane from the DIE HARD franchise. The setting of this prison resembles the one from FORTRESS. Beyond that, the story takes a predictable road from point A, to point B, and finally to point C. If you've seen many action films, you know where things are gonna go, which characters will turn on the hero, and how things will end. Yet for some reason, it works because knowing the path makes it a fun watch. The characters besides Snow [especially the villainous Hydell, who is a great crazy character] are all interesting and have a lot of great chemistry and banter with each other. The narrative plays out exactly as how one would like it to play out. Sure, LOCKOUT has elements that all has been done before. But it has fun with it, so can't hate on it too much.

The direction by James Mather and Stephen St. Leger is energetic and paced really well. All the action motifs are in play, and both men do a great job. The set design [wish there was more variety, but what can you do?] and the green screen use were done nicely as well. The only major issues I had with the visuals were some of the bad special effects - including a scene where Snow is being chased on a motorcycle that looked AWFUL and clumsy, looking like it belonged on a PlayStation 1 game cutscene. And where was the fighting? The action? The violence? There was no real final confrontation at the end either. If you're going to be influenced by other action films, follow the template to the end. Taking out that final battle is just silly. Stick with the conventions. What isn't broken doesn't need to be fixed.

The acting, at least, was pretty great. Guy Pearce made for a fantastic hero in Snow, with his sarcastic wit carrying him through well. You can tell Pearce was having fun playing against type. He should do it more. Maggie Grace looked great and had explosive chemistry with Pearce. Peter Stormare is always great to have in a film, especially when you need someone to play a bastard. Joseph Gilgun was my favorite as the crazy Hydell, with his Scottish accent making it hard to understand, but fun to try. Vincent Regan worked as Alex, the film's main commanding villain. I thought the actors were enjoying themselves, which made the film fun to enjoy as well.

LOCKOUT isn't going to be known for its originality. And the special effects and lack of action hurt it a bit. But even though it's really generic and cliche, it's still a fun watch that any action fan should take a chance on. It's cheesy, it's clever, it has Guy Pearce playing a modern day Snake Plissken, and some memorable villains. LOCKOUT won't change the game, but does well enough in playing along. Mindless entertainment.

3 Howls Outta 4

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