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I love bad horror movies when they're unintentionally funny and good horror movies when they make me think (and the good ones do). I also enjoy other kinds of movies, of course. I was recently turned on to the films of Luis Bu�uel, for example, and am engaged in watching everything of his I can get my hands on.
An IMdB user since 2000, I've found this service useful in selecting my flicks and contribute my honest opinions on whatever I see by voting and commenting. A lot. All opinions expressed by me are entirely my own. I have no connections with anyone who works in the movie industry and generally don't care much about the opinions of professional film critics. I know what I like... and you will, too!
Night of the Flesh Eaters (2008)
Flat and poorly lit, though if the line "Find me a stick" being repeated over and over again is your thing, you might like it. A hit on a cheating wife and a business partner goes terribly wrong when a gangster turns out to be the prophesied "man of mixed blood" who will gain all the powers of a bunch of Native American flesh-eating demons and a half-snake/half-human evil medicine man. The ending is a let down and there's not one really memorable scene. Easily forgotten low-budget horror.
Not really much more to say about this one. Sometimes, you don't really need ten lines of text to sum up a rather unremarkable flick.
The Grindhouse Lovechild of John Waters and Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Tarantino and John Waters are pleased to announce the birth of their bastard child. It's a bouncing, healthy transvestite exploitation/revenge movie! Wait, did I say healthy? Strike that. It is, however, a whole lot of fun to watch. It's Kill Bill meets Pink Flamingos and, yes, there are ticked-off trannies with knives here, and they're the best ones you're likely to ever see. So see them, already.
This flick is camp, knows it, flaunts it and works it. Never once did I get the feeling it was trying to take itself seriously, although there are some grind-house-style grueling moments involving large knives and foreign objects inserted uncomfortably into body cavities (the latter never explicitly shown). The eponymous trannies are of the convincingly feminine type and include a dark-skinned stand-in for Divine who plays the psychotically vengeful mama-tranny almost too well. I can't imagine why John Waters hasn't heard of him yet. Witty and catty lines spill effortlessly and convincingly, with grind-house intensity mixing perfectly with comedy throughout. The culmination is a very dark but twistedly satisfying ending that you will NOT forget anytime soon.
This is far from a perfect film. Its low budget shows through in many places, and the "reel missing" gag goes on a bit too long. The main villain isn't a very good actor; he comes across hammy and his timing is just off in a number of scenes. The effort to shoehorn in pop culture references as comedy sometimes fall flat, too. It's not enough to make this anything less than a worthwhile, fun and uniquely off-the-wall experience, though, and the presence of a subtly scary drag queen nurse with the name Helluva Bottom-Carter makes up for all of the shortcomings in a single five-minute scene.
If you like John Waters, you'll definitely like Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives. If you like Both Waters and Quentin Tarantino, you'll like this gem even more. This one is destined for cult status.
Unborn Sins (2007)
Dismal in Every Way
A no-budget, straight-to-video piece of garbage without a single redeeming quality. The acting is outrageously bad throughout, the sound is inaudible much of the time, and the whole thing looks like a series of single takes recorded on a $200 hand-held video camera someone picked up on sale at WalMart. The villain is a short guy in a black jumpsuit wearing white pancake make-up with black greasepaint around his eyes and mouth.
When in one of the earliest scenes a woman is going to have an abortion performed in a building and you can see the words "Family Dental Clinic" on the signs on the lawn and next to the door, you KNOW you're in for something so bad that "subpar" would be a gross understatement of the massive dose of badness and banality yet to come, and on that front "The Unborn" never disappoints. The director didn't think enough of a potential audience to assume they could read; he certainly isn't about to present anything challenging, or even interesting, afterward.
This isn't just bad, this is "Oh my god, you have got to be freaking kidding me!" horrible. Anybody who rates this trash more than one star must have been involved with it, and in any case neither their taste in horror films nor their sanity should be trusted.
Last Rites of the Dead (2006)
Zombies and More: ZA Rises to the Top of the Independent Zombie Flick Bumper Crop
I thoroughly enjoyed this low-budget flick. It's a zombie movie with a human twist, centered on Angela. She's been murdered but can't die like a lot of other people who find themselves now as the undead. She, like them, wants to have a life but she has to figure out where she fits into the world. She goes from joining an unrealistic, touchy-feely self-help group for zombies that sits around and talks and gets nowhere to being kidnapped by a radical zombie group.
Meanwhile, vigilantes bent on wiping out all zombies intrude, with her murderous ex-boyfriend along for the ride. It all culminates in a blood bath, of course... but while the gore goes over the top, it's not without a good deal of emotional impact. Angela will finally learn how to stop being a victim and stand up for herself. The writing is good and the acting is as well through most of this.
I came close to loving ZA, but the acting of Christa McNamee as The Commandant detracted a little too much from the rest of the film for that. Joshua Nelson is quite good; this seems a better vehicle for him than "The Blood Shed," for instance. Gina Ramsden turns in what I thought a strong performance as Angela.
I like the way that the zombies themselves were handled in this, too. They're neither lumbering reanimated corpses nor supercharged high-speed killers. They can think and feel and even act like normal people. They're nearly impossible to truly kill, too, which the film shows has its good points and a LOT of bad ones.
While there are some humorous moments, calling this a satire isn't a fair label. Most of the humor is quite dark and the movie seems more concerned with making a point about abusive relationships, people's prejudices and vanity. For a low-budget flick, there's a lot here for the viewer if he's not entirely distracted by the gore, but still enough of that to keep a gore-hound happy, too.
Visually OK, Otherwise Weak
While the animation is quite good in spots, the film itself lacks warmth or chemistry. Much of the voice acting, particularly that of Dakota Fanning, is flat and sounds forced. While the 3D was interesting enough, several scenes felt like they'd been inserted for no other reason than to stick something in the audience's face. Example: the banana slug scene, which added nothing to either the story or character development. Parents should take note: many children under 9 or 10 in the theater in which I saw the film were scared to tears by the villain; I heard quite a few "Mommy, I'm scared! I want to go!" and similar complaints resulting in young children leaving the cinema. All in all, Coraline is visually nice, though not particularly noteworthy (old videos for the band Tool did better with the same sorts of material, for instance). The story is an interesting one, but this adaptation will likely leave most viewers over the age of 15 cold and those under 8 too scared to enjoy it. This is certainly nothing on par with "The Nightmare Before Christmas," and even "The Corpse Bride" was a stronger animated film.
An Excellent Tranquilizer
Slowly limping along, this movie is best used as a tranquilizer. The African god Chuku, fervently worshiped by a scene-chewing Jack Palance, apparently talks his victims to death. Some people get killed while Palance smokes cigars. The plot doesn't just have holes, it tears at the very fabric of space and time until "Craze" finally comes to an entirely predictable end. If you can keep from nodding off while watching this, you're a more determined viewer than I.
I saw this on "Shilling Shockers" with host Penny Dreadful. If you find yourself with insomnia then watch this movie and you will sleep. If it doesn't work for you... consult your physician.
The Blood Shed (2007)
If John Waters had written and directed "House of 1000 Corpses" after being struck about the head repeatedly with a heavy object, the result would probably be something like "The Blood Shed." It's mildly entertaining for the first half hour, but then it slides into a sort of featureless glop of constant screaming and people doing things to each others genitalia with electric carving knives, cutlery and pliers. Susan Adriensen (Sno Cakes) is incredibly annoying and Terry West (Elvis Bullion) is almost as bad in whatever it is he's doing in front of the camera.
Maybe the best thing about "The Blood Shed" is that it won't take most viewers very long to forget about it.
Cinematic Refrigerator Art
The best thing on this DVD is the introduction by the late great Forrie Ackerman. The movie itself is rather creative considering that it was made by a bunch of teenagers in their backyard. Still, that doesn't make it a good film. It's a bit like kindergarten macaroni art made by Leonardo Da Vinci; historically interesting, perhaps, but nothing one would consider equal to the Mona Lisa. Its still a movie made by kids, and it shows. This is cinematic refrigerator art. Its wonderful that some of the kids who made this got Ackerman's encouragement and went on to great things, but those kids are in their 50's and 60's now and no longer need our encouragement, and I can't recommend this. The script is trite, the stop-motion animation is dated and amateur, and the whole thing is hard to watch.
The Unborn (2009)
Fails on Every Level
I was looking forward to seeing Gary Oldman in a horror flick, so I'm sorry to say that "The Unborn" is a massive failure. Oldman's presence doesn't even help. In fact, he's one of the reasons that this film is so irredeemably awful.
The acting in "The Unborn" is atrocious throughout, allowing the film to be stolen by the real stars of the show large insects called Jerusalem crickets. They're the best thing in this flick. Otherwise, the performances by Odette Yustman, Meagan Good, Cam Gigandet, Jane Alexander and, yes, Gary Oldman are some of the most one dimensional and unconvincing ever captured on film. Lead actress Yustman and sidekick Good deserve special recognition in this regard; I predict a Razzie in their future.
Still, the cast doesn't deserve all of the credit for making this movie into one of the worst bombs to hit cinemas in years. Writer/Director David Goyer deserves his due for churning out a formulaic and plot hole riddled screenplay of epic proportions. When the lead character is referred to a bewildered rabbi who knows nothing about exorcisms yet who manages to translate an obscure occult tome into English overnight, we in the audience can only ask, "What? Huh?" Who knew it was so easy to simply walk out of a library with a rare manuscript without setting off an alarm nor, indeed, having to handle it with gloves or even sign for the thing? We're told at one point that protagonist Casey Belden's father is going out of town on business for one night, but he never comes back to discover that his daughter has trashed his house. He just disappears, never to be seen again. Characters know about conversations for which they weren't present. The writing is clumsy, and that combined with the bad acting is enough to sink any movie.
But wait, it gets worse still! The computer-generated monsters may look good in the trailers, but in the context of the movie they are, in the main, laughable (and the audience did laugh in the screening I was at). The whole upside-down head thing is unintentionally funny, and the jerky slow-motion doesn't help things, either. The movie's attempts at scares fall flat, including the climactic exorcism scene. Including not one but two scenes in which we get tight shots of Odette Yustman's backside doesn't help much; they're entirely gratuitous, although I suppose it gives the marketing department something interesting to put on the posters.
The coup de grace is delivered by Gary Oldman himself, though. He pulls of an American accent nicely through most of the film, but in his last scene his British accent inexplicably returns. Did no one catch this in editing? It's a big, stinky bomb, folks. I'd be surprised if it runs for a week in theaters.
Zombie Strippers! (2008)
Undead Existential Angst: the Most Brilliant Zombie Movie of the Last Decade
Brilliant! This is one of the best zombie flicks ever, and the sad part is that a lot of people are never going to get the jokes. Zombie Jenna Jameson reading Nietzsche and saying, "This makes so much more sense now." Brilliant! A soldier pointing a gun in the face of a Nebraska Christian chick in the midst of existential crisis and demanding, "Say something human, and it had better be nice and ontological." Brilliant! This is a rare and wonderful combination of zombies, existentialist philosophy, political and social commentary and, well, boobs. This is the "Airplane" of zombie movies. This is "The Evil Dead" meets "My Dinner with André." This is anything but a typical zombie movie. Sure, there's gore and flesh-eating undead, but there's SO MUCH MORE here, and perhaps the ultimate commentary of this movie upon American culture in the early 21st century is that so few people are equipped to get it.
This is beautiful, horrible, wonderful stuff that gives us its essence in its own script: before a great thing can be accepted, its horrible mask must be inscribed upon the mind. Thank you, Jay Lee, for bringing us a masterpiece that may not be appreciated by most but certainly found its target demographic in this appreciative fan.
Day of the Dead (2008)
Nothing Like Romero and Cartoonish, but Still Fun
Other reviewers are absolutely correct when they say this flick has nothing to do with any of the George Romero movies, and it's not exactly honest to use the name of one of those films. The only things in common are the names of some of the characters (including the best-known zombie from Romero's original) and the military theme, albeit vaguely so.
Acting? It's OK. Nothing special. Special effects? Variable; some are good, some are not so good. Plot? Fuggedaboutit; zombies eat people, people blow up zombies, and that's about the extent of it. Turn off your brain for this one.
While Miner's "remake" has none of the style or finesse of the Romero films, it's still an enjoyable enough zombie action shoot-'em-up and watch the heads fly movie. If you're looking for a Romero-like movie, pass this by. If you've got an hour and a half to kill and enjoy a video nasty now and again, you might like this one.
Should Come with a Warning Label
I found this to be a tedious flick with attempts at humor that never worked. Part mockumentary and part attempt at being Stanley Kubrick, the thing never really gelled. A mix of stock footage, black-and-white segments calculated to look like old film of a cocktail party (ooh, the cleverness!) and drawn-out conversations on radios with backgrounds of static scenes of planets and stars, "Interkosmos" never gets off the launch pad.
As it didn't come with an appropriate warning label, I'll add one now.
May induce drowsiness; do not view while attempting to operate heavy space machinery.
A Sometimes-Effective Halloween Season Scare Flick
"Quarantine" was a good Halloween-season scare flick. I thought it owed a lot to "Night of the Living Dead" and was very much in keeping with the spate of plague flicks of the past few years, too. I didn't see anything particularly original about it, but it had enough effective moments to keep me interested. The twitchy camera work annoyed me a bit and I sometimes felt like it was being used to cover weak visuals, but I have no way of knowing that; it's just a hunch. There were also a few points in the film at which I thought the characters were acting in ways that real people wouldn't act in a crisis, particularly when the tenants were ordered to stay in close quarters even after the cop and firefighters figured out that they were dealing with a communicable disease. That was such a glaring plot device that it took a little something away from the movie for me.
It was an OK flick; nothing special, but better than half of what gets released in the horror genre these days.
30 Days of Night (2007)
Hurray for the Return of Scary Vampires!
After years and years of well-dressed, good-looking, sympathetic vampires, we finally get a major movie that portrays vampires in the spirit of the old legends. Make no mistake about it, the vampires in "30 Days of Night" are ruthless, inhuman, alien, ugly and, best of all, scary. It's about time; while not exactly following the vampire legends of old, the undead in this flick have a lot more in common with "Nosferatu" than they do with Johnny Depp's "Dracula." For that matter, they're a good deal closer to what Bram Stoker envisioned vampires to be than what we've seen for the last few years coming out of major studies... and all I can say is, MORE! The movie generally had plenty of action and few, if any, slow spots that weren't included to effectively build suspense. For once, we got a film that spends more time on developing a nightmarish story than on cheap, unnecessary scares. The acting was good, the pacing was flawless, and the imagery was really the stuff of our worst dreams streets running with blood, unflinching brutality, and what is probably the best decapitation scene to hit the screen in years. If you can watch this film without feeling your guts clench at least two or three times, seek medical attention. At least check to make sure you still have a pulse! Fans of the foppish walking dead will probably hate this, but for real horror fans this is a "do not miss" flick.
Thank you, "30 Days of Night," for giving us back vampires with teeth!
Bit Parts (2006)
While nothing that's going to win any Oscars, "Bit Parts" is an OK flick for a slow afternoon. It's actually sort of cute, in a perverse way. The acting isn't as bad as one often sees in low-budget horror flicks and it doesn't take itself too seriously. I mean, c'mon, anytime you have a mad plastic surgeon standing over a patient delivering the line, "One booby... two boobies..." you can't hate the flick too much.
It's not terribly memorable on most counts, but the daddy/daughter scenes aren't bad. There's even a bit of chemistry between the actors playing those parts. The rest is pretty hit-and-miss and there are a few big plot holes (e.g., the female lead could have called the police on her cell phone without leaving the mad surgeon's house, so the line "I'm not leaving here without Melissa!" in response to the cabbie's suggestion about fetching the police is rather a miss on the writer's part).
Still, it's one of those movies that one might have seen on the old "Up All Night" show, and who knows, maybe an edited version will show up on the SciFi channel one of these days.
Nothing great, but not terrible, either. Like I said, it's kinda cute.
It looks like people involved with this movie are stuffing the ballot box to boost its ratings. The good news that apparently only 18 people have seen it. I suppose that makes me the 19th. I have no involvement with the flick and don't know anyone who did and I'm a long-time IMDb user (check my vote record and reviews over the past seven years), so I promise I'm giving an honest and unbiased opinion. It's coming to you from a 30-year horror fan who has also appeared in a couple of low-budget flicks himself.
Aside from a couple of interesting video effects, "Frankensteins Bloody Nightmare" is incoherent, boring, and technically flawed beyond all reason. It was apparently shot on silent stock and the audio then dubbed in; most of it sounds like it was recorded with a tin can and a piece of string, anyhow. More than three quarters of the dialog is inaudible.
I watched this from beginning to end and have no idea of what the story was, or even if there was one. It seems like the director is mostly impressing himself with long, panning shots of the corners of table and dead black spaces that do nothing but pad the film out. That would be a problem if one were actually developing a plot and making a film that had some sense of pacing. In this case, though, the rule doesn't apply. It doesn't matter how scenes are shot because they don't add up to a story.
Watching this video is an exercise in futility at every level. Whatever people who worked on it are writing and however they're trying to influence the ratings here on IMDb, this is just bad, tedious stuff.
That's the honest truth. If you're thinking of spending your money or time on this one, think again. It's easy to find something better because you won't find much worse.
And that's the unbiased, unvarnished truth.
Hide and Creep (2004)
Better Than I Expected; Hope to See More
I was pleasantly surprised by this flick. I expected another low-budget bad zombie movie, and what I got was a very good low-budget zombie movie. Once I got past the very cheap zombie makeup, I enjoyed the humor and the frequent nods to the zombie horror genre. Much of the humor in this film will probably play better to people who've lived in the South, but I think it has appeal for many genre fans.
"Hide and Creep" is a nice change from the usual crop of poor straight-to-video horror films that have been coming out of the South over the past few years. Unlike some of the terrible works by rather talentless directors such as Jeff Thomas, et al., Hartsell and Shirley's film isn't heavy-handed and full of religious agenda (see "13 Seconds" if you'd like to see what I'm talking about). Despite what was clearly a non-existent budget, the directors here did keep production values in mind to the extent they could afford them. I'd really like to see what they could do with a real budget and hopefully they've gotten one by now because these folks have a shot at doing something great in horror if they're given the chance.
Considering that this was Hartsell & Shirley's first film, it's an excellent effort from two people who are obviously fellow horror fans. I hope to see more from them!
Balls of Fury (2007)
"Balls" Without Bounce
"Balls of Fury" is founded on a clever idea; take all the clichés from martial arts b-movies and apply them to ping pong. Unfortunately, this flick doesn't deliver on its promising premise. The problem is mainly lead actor Dan Fogler. His timing is off and he has no appeal at all. He's bland and brings no life to the screen at all.
It's too bad that the director couldn't get Jack Black for the lead. The role seemed written for him and it would have been interesting to see him play opposite Christopher Walken. As things turned out, Fogler seems to disappear each time he's on screen with Walken. In fact, the only thing that saves this film at all is Walken who proves once again that he can do comedy. He's a natural; his timing is terrific and he makes nearly everything he says worth a giggle or two in "Balls." Without him, there wouldn't be much to write about this movie at all.
When all is said and done, there isn't much point to plunking down $10 to see this in the theater. It's worth seeing for Walken, but probably better left for when it gets released on video.
Of Course It's Brainless Crap! Is That a Bad Thing?
This movie is utter crap, and it KNOWS it's utter crap and makes no pretense to be anything else. There's a narrator who, at the very beginning of the flick, informs the viewer that this movie is essentially what happens when you give a video camera to a bunch of four year olds. He's not lying. Anybody looking for a good movie should probably be smart enough to pop the DVD out of their player right after the intro.
With that attitude, there's no way for this drek-fest to go wrong, and it never does. It's self-effacing silliness at its freaky-finest and is sure to be enjoyed by all who appreciate cinematic masterpieces such as "Bloodsucking Freaks" and "Barn of the Blood Llama." It's far more comedy, and sophomoric, brainless comedy at that, than horror.
Don't miss director David Hayes lesson on how to fund your own bad movie by selling junk on eBay after the conclusion of the main feature!
Penny Dreadful (2006)
Runs Out of Gas Before it Gets Started
The weakest of the "8 Films to Die For" series, "Penny Dreadful" is every bit as exciting as you might imagine a movie about a woman stuck in a car all night would be. This one starts in neutral, putters along slowly for awhile, and ultimately gets nowhere at all.
A good hint as to the poor quality of this film is that it lists Michael Berryman as a co-star. He actually appears for less than five minutes in a cameo role as a gas station attendant. That's the best this film has to offer.
Let this one ride. If it were a car, this flick would be a Ford Festiva that needed a tune-up.
Carnival of Blood (1970)
This is a terrible movie in every way. The story is awful, the special effects are laughable... wait, what am I saying? Special effects? There apparently wasn't even a budget for lights and microphones on this one! That's a big handicap when most of the movie was shot at night on the noisy Coney Island boardwalk and Astroland. Let's face it, this flick just has nothing going for it.
But... it was shot in Coney Island in 1969/1970. I gave it two extra stars because I was a kid growing up in Coney Island in the 70's, so there was a big nostalgia factor for me. I rode on many of the rides shown in the film. I ate at that Nathan's and walked on that boardwalk.
If you're not nostalgic for 1970's Coney Island, pass this one by; you won't be missing anything at all. If you are, though, see it with the sound turned off and pay more attention to the backdrop than the movie itself.
Night of the Dead: Leben Tod (2006)
Neither Terrible nor Memorable
"Night of the Dead" is an incredibly low-budget knockoff of the much superior "Re-Animator" series. A general rule of thumb I have when selecting a horror flick to watch is that if more than two cast and/or crew members have the same last name, I lower my expectations. In "Night of the Dead," we have a writer/director, two actors and a producer all named Forsberg. Another indicator: a line on the DVD cover stating that this movie is "More shocking than Re-Animator!" My expectations were very low, but I love cheesy B (and lower!) grade horror flicks, so I gave it a chance.
For the most part, Night of the Dead is just another straight to video, forgettable zombie splatter flick. A mad scientist with an unconvincing German accent and even less convincing lab techniques has whipped up a serum that re-animates the dead, but the dead kill the living and won't die again themselves. Somehow, the re-animated dead are contagious. If you get bitten, or if their blood gets into your bloodstream, you turn into a crazy zombie, too. This movie's greatest shortcoming is that there's absolutely nothing innovative or imaginative about it. Every single scene is interchangeable with the scenes from scores of other low-budget zombie horror movies.
Most of the acting ranges from mediocre to downright awful (particularly noteworthy in this regard is David Reynolds as Gunther, the Igor to the film's equivalent of Dr. Frankenstein). There is one actor who I found very watchable, though; Diedre V. Lyons, the lead female zombie, does as good a job with the material she's given as I can imagine anyone doing. Clearly, she can act, and I wouldn't mind seeing more of her in future films, horror or otherwise.
Another high point in this otherwise undistinguished flick is the special effects makeup. For such a low-budget effort, some of that work is actually very good, easily on par with noteworthy films by Romero and his ilk.
There's not much more to say about Night of the Dead, though. Horror fans have seen all this before and it seems that we'll see it all again. For most viewers, the identity of this film will merge over time with those of any number of others in the genre, forming a shapeless mess quite like the buckets of gore splashed liberally about the set of the film itself.
The Graveyard (2006)
Yet Another Friday the 13th Ripoff
Sometimes you have to wonder how many times "Friday the 13th" will get warmed over before people stop making the same story again and again.
In this textureless clone, the rip-offs are particularly obvious. At one point, one of the characters even utters the line, "It's not like Jason is out in the woods looking for victims." The slasher wears a mask. It's just the same old story with the very slightest of differences at the end (hint: revenge killing).
The acting is unconvincing as is the story. The characters in this one do things that are so completely stupid that it kills any hint of suspense. Particularly lousy in this regard is the character of the sheriff; from his first scene, anyone who has seen more than three slasher movies will know exactly what's going to happen to him.
One question: what was the editor thinking? Scenes in the movie appear to reel back and forth between day and night shots with no sense of time at all.
Bad, bad stuff here. It would even be impossible to write a spoiler for this flick; if you can't see the end of this movie coming, you're either severely brain damaged or under the age of 12.
A Brilliant Screen Adaptation That Will Be Lost Among the Blockbusters
It's very hard to write a review of this film that isn't full of spoilers. Suffice to say that it's unfortunate that this is being marketed as a horror film. While it is definitely an intense film, it really isn't about bugs that eat people so much as it is about the minds of the characters. The story is taut and the character development is handled beautifully throughout, one of the advantages, no doubt of having a small cast of experienced character actors such as this one. The performances of that cast are nearly breathtaking at times, particularly those of Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon who create amazingly convincing studies of emotionally wrecked people descending into a nightmare world of their own paranoia.
There are a few scenes of an excruciating nature that left me squirming in my seat, but overall this is a story that's set in minds. It's not soaked in blood and gore. William Friedkin has done an excellent job of bringing this play to the big screen, and I hope that people who read this review will take the time to see this movie. It's unfortunate that it will almost certainly be lost among the mediocre summer blockbusters and won't get nearly the box office that it deserves were it to earn its money solely on its own merits. I have to question the wisdom of releasing it during Memorial Day weekend and putting it into competition amongst the Spider-mans and Shrecks and Pirates of the Carribbeans. Still, if you're looking for something very different from the latest sure-fire mediocre sequel, take the hour and forty minutes to see "Bug." It's worth the price of the ticket and more.
Mediocre at Best; Melodramatic and Dragging at Worst
"Serum" starts out with credits that are quite reminiscent of the "Re-animator" movies, and it owes a lot to them. The story is very similar; a mad doctor develops a serum that he believes will alleviate pain, sickness and death, but he's apparently not a big believer in clinical trials and so winds up with a brain-eating zombie on his hands in the person of his nephew. The zombie even looks like one of those from "Re-animator," and in fact some of the make-up effects in "Serum" aren't bad. Unfortunately, the script is pretty slow and unbelievable in quite a few places, resulting in a soap opera feel for most of the first 3/4 of the movie. For some reason, the director feels compelled to tell us the time of day every few minutes by flashing it in big white letters across the screen. I can't see why this was important, other than being an attempt to provide viewers with a sense of time passing; sometimes, that wouldn't be present otherwise as the plot plods along.
There are a number of moments that just don't add up here. For instance, one victim is bludgeoned with a sledge hammer, but when we see the victim's head up close, there's no sign of that trauma. In another scene, a character runs down a fully lit hospital corridor (we can see the circles of light on the floor, in fact) with a flashlight in hand, looking for all the world like he's walking in the dark... but a moment later a second character walks down the same fully-lit corridor without one. These are just a couple of examples; moments of what look like directorial or editorial sloppiness crop up quite frequently throughout the movie.
"Serum" is better in some ways than much of what goes straight-to-video as independent horror lately. In terms of technical items sound and photography, for example it's got a more polished look than a lot of what lands on a DVD. On the other hand, there's still a good deal of wooden acting (particularly by one of the lead characters, the mad scientist himself!) and nonsensical moments that have nothing to do with suspension of disbelief and everything to do with writing and continuity. Maybe these are things that the people involved with making this film will eventually get more experience with, though. One of the problems with low-budget independent horror lately is that the filmmakers often set out to remake more popular movies that had bigger budgets, and that almost never works out. It didn't in the case of "Serum," anyhow.