Posts Tagged ‘zombies’

Generally speaking, it’s not the best of signs when, 30 seconds into the movie, I start going “Jesus take the wheel, isn’t that douchebag dead YET?”, and continue wondering aloud – at 30-second intervals like a back-seat toddler who has to pee – why that douchebag is not, in fact, dead yet.  In this movie the douchebag in question is possibly the most obnoxious and odious teen character I’ve seen in about fifteen movies now, and sadly, there’s not much about Wicked Little Things that compensated me for having to tolerate her presence onscreen.

A new widow (Lori Heuring), left destitute by her husband’s death, is forced to move to a really unfortunate house in the Pennsylvania woods.  She’s accompanied by her two daughters, Douchebag Chick (Scout Taylor-Compton) and the obligatory little kid whose complete lack of a self-preservation instinct will inevitably lead her to make friends with the monsters (Chloë Grace Moretz).  The monsters in question are a group of undead grade-schoolers who, at some point in the unspecified past, were all killed in an explosion in the mine they worked in.  Now they’re wandering around the hills seeking revenge on the kin of the mine’s owner.

Here’s the problem: kids in pancake makeup aren’t actually scary.  I mean, clearly there are enough people with an irrational fear of children to support an entire horror movie cliche built around the lazy-ass idea that a child sharing screen space with splashing blood is automatically terrifying regardless of how it’s filmed, but I feel like they could at least have made a little more effort with the cinematography.  Even though you know exactly who and what they are, the kids actually sort of manage to be scary when they’re not onscreen; when they are, you’re just like “Oh look, child actors in pancake makeup.”

There are places where Wicked Little Things is pretty effective, owing largely to the ability of the adult actors to convince us – in spite of all available evidence – that something frightening is going on.  I commend it as well for its admirable lack of reliance on cheap jump scares (there were only a handful, well below par for this type of movie).  The gore was about in proportion, what there was of it; it’s hard to count zombie kids eating raw pork as gore when it mostly just looks like they went too heavy on the barbecue sauce.

So what’s the verdict?  Two stars.  I’d have liked to give it more than that, but every time I started thinking it might be a three-star movie, my screen would suddenly be full of pancake-makeup-wearing moppets earworming me with that annoying “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go” song.  I don’t know, maybe if you think kids are scary then you’ll find the movie scarier than I did.  All in all, it wasn’t a bad movie; just not a terribly good one.

Also, Douchebag Chick.  I might actually have been willing to tack on that third star if she’d died horribly, just as a reward, but unfortunately she lived through the movie.


Last night, a film society in Philadelphia held an outdoor double feature amongst the graves of Laurel Hill Cemetery, one of the most hands-down impressive historic cemeteries outside of Père Lachaise.  First up was a home movie from the 1930s that randomly had footage of an exhumation at the cemetery.  (Sadly, this sounds more exciting than it was.  Maybe you had to watch it where you could really see what was going on, and without annoying color commentary from random people.)  The second movie?  Plan 9 From Outer Space.

Oh, Plan 9.  Is it even possible to rate?  On what basis is it even reviewable?  Zero stars for the epic failure in all elements belonging to a movie; five stars for the cult classic status and sheer whack-ass charm.  This is not merely a bad movie.  This is a movie that is so bad that it’s engaging in a way that escapes every schlock filmmaker currently in Hollywood.  Uwe Boll would slit his wrists over a cheap Pier One chalice and offer up six pints of blood to the devil if his movies could keep a mob of people uncomfortably seated on tombstones enthralled right up until the fade to black like this.

For those of you who know the movie exists but don’t actually know what it’s about, the plot (so to speak) is this.  An alien race decides that Earth has gotten too technologically advanced in their weaponry and is now at grave risk of destroying The! Entire! Universe!.  The Tallest of this alien race sends Alien Dude and Alien Chick, resplendent in their silver lamé pajamas, to… well, do something.  I can’t decide whether they want to destroy the Earth or convince every government official to be Facebook friends with them.  I think they tried peaceful contact first but the governments annoyed them so now they’re buzzing Los Angeles with UFOs.

They also have Plan 9.  No, we are not told what happened to plans 1 through 8.  Plan 9, as far as I can tell, consists of raising the dead and eventually having them march on the White House in a sort of Million Zombie March For Peace.  Fortunately, some woman has just died (Vampira, whose unfortunate turn here mostly makes you wonder who decided to bury her in that dress).  Her husband (Bela Lugosi) is grief-stricken for about thirty seconds until he walks in front of a car.

His funeral, by the way, is a comic tour de force rendered all the more sublime by its clear influence on such later film moments as the clown car full of atheists in Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter and, I don’t know, probably something in The Godfather.  I would tell you about it but I don’t want to spoil it.  Ordinarily I don’t care much about spoilers, but Plan 9 is so full of awesome little gems like this that you really have to come to unawares for their full effect.

Anyway.  The aliens try to control Vampira, Bela Lugosi, and some huge pro-wrestler dude.  They are, um, not good at it.  Eventually they are tracked back to their lair by a posse consisting of Police Lieutenant, Pilot Dude, Idiot Cop, Random Army Guy, and Pilot Dude’s Wife, who is constantly referred to as “the girl” despite the fact that she’s got to be in her 30s.  In the expository scene to end all expository scenes, Alien Dude reveals that humanity is on the verge of building a super weapon that will somehow blow up the sun.  Because of particles.  Then that will destroy everything the sun’s light reaches, which is The! Entire! Universe!.  There was a metaphor about a tennis ball.  I don’t know, Alien Dude’s physics were kind of suspect.  Then he has sort of a nervous breakdown and the UFO randomly catches on fire.

There is not a single moment of this movie that is not staggeringly incompetent, and you will be entranced anyway.  I was genuinely invested in whether or not Idiot Cop was going to manage to get himself killed.  And what was going to befall the adorable tinfoil UFOs.  And whether Vampira would at any point have anything more to do than wandering around with her arms stuck out in front of her and “Do I need to pick up milk at the store?” written all over her face.  And how many times the footage of Bela Lugosi walking through a graveyard would be reused.

This movie is something everyone should experience at least once.  In a graveyard, if you can swing it, with gorgeous monuments towering against the sky all around and the threat of a storm overhead.  That just adds to the ambience.

So what’s the verdict?  Fuck it, I’m giving Plan 9 five stars.  Yes, you heard me.  It’s a jaw-droppingly atrocious movie but a rollicking good time, and I like to reserve the 0-star rating for movies that make me hate humanity.  See it; you won’t be sorry.

Wake Wood (2011)

Posted: February 18, 2012 in 2 stars, Reviews
Tags: , ,

So you’re watching a movie and it basically goes like this:

1.  Don’t bring your kid back from the dead, dumbass.

2.  No, I’m serious.  That never turns out well.

3.  You see?  What did I tell you?  Why have no parents in the history of horror ever had as much sense as the ones in “The Monkey’s Paw” who wished their zombie kid away again?  Don’t people have to read that in grade school anymore?

4.  No, I said don’t bring people back from the dead, dumbass who is unable to learn from experience.

5.  And now you’re going to – Jesus Christ. I wash my hands of you, you nutcase.

Quick: which movie are you watching?  Pet Sematary or Wake Wood?

Really, I’d tell you the plot of Wake Wood but if you’ve seen Pet Sematary you’re pretty much familiar.  Eva Birthistle and her gratifyingly hot husband Aidan Gillen lose their nine-year-old daughter to a freak dog attack.  Trying to start over, they move to the small village of Wake Wood.  Strange Goings-On lead them to the discovery that the citizens of the village can bring people back from the dead – but only for three days, so you can say goodbye.  Sadly, they cannot guarantee that the aforementioned dead will return quite right.

Wake Wood is one of the first movies to come out of the resurrected Hammer Studios.  It’s not nearly as satisfactory as one would have hoped from that beloved studio.  The sad truth is that Wake Wood is derivative and unoriginal, offering nothing over the book version of Pet Sematary and nothing over the movie but Aidan Gillen’s glorious ass in jeans.   It doesn’t even have Fred Gwynne getting slaughtered by a toddler.

It wasn’t a bad movie.  It was a little slow in places, but the acting was good and the cinematography was moody and atmospheric.  The ending did not, as endings too often do, let the movie down with  a thud.  It’s just that there was nothing about it that didn’t leave me going “Yep, seen that before.”

So what’s the verdict?  Two stars. If I’d never seen Pet Sematary I probably would have liked it better, though I didn’t like the fact that the harm against animals seemed gratuitous even for the animal-hating horror industry.  It would have been much better if the filmmakers had just photoshopped Aidan Gillen and Eva Birthistle over Dale Midkiff and Denise Crosby and re-released Pet Sematary instead.

There’s not much to I Sell the Dead, but it’s an entertaining movie, funny in that very strange British way and moderately awesome.

Dominic Monaghan, who once told me my daughter was cute and therefore can do no wrong in my eyes, plays resurrectionist Arthur Blake, whose partner, Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden), is guillotined at the beginning of the movie.  Arthur, awaiting the headsman’s block himself, is visited in his cell by Father Duffy, who has come to write down Arthur’s dying words of penitence.

(Duffy is played by Ron Perlman, who according to his imdb page is set to play Elvis in 2011’s Bubba Nosferatu.  I disapprove of this.  Bubba Ho-Tep is flawless and requires no sequel, but if it did have one, Elvis should only be played by Bruce Campbell.  No offense to Perlman, who did an effective turn as Reinhardt in Blade 2; it’s just one of those things.)

At any rate, Arthur and Willie are fairly run-of-the-mill as resurrectionists go, stealing cadavers for a creepy physician who threatens to turn them over to the police if they don’t keep him in a fresh supply.  Downtrodden, they dig up graves, raid wakes, and generally scrape by until – in one of the most hilarious scenes in the movie – they dig up a suicide at the crossroads and take the stake out of her heart.  That proves to be a bad idea, though the enterprising Willie quickly finds the silver lining and sets the zombie on the creepy doctor.

It turns out, conveniently enough, that selling the undead is more lucrative than selling the dead – but Arthur and Willie’s new career pits them against the House of Murphy, a group of homicidal whackjobs determined to control the undead trade in England.  Soon the two of them are trapped between the House of Murphy and Arthur’s grasping whackjob of a girlfriend, and the poor guys, all they want is to sell some zombies and buy a round at the pub.

So what’s the verdict? Three stars.  Fair warning, this isn’t the fastest-moving film in the world, but there are more than enough hilarious moments if you meet it at its own pace and the ending is all sorts of awesome.

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