Zombie Movie Review: Bong of the Dead

Bong of the dead poster

Stoner comedies; one genre that – up until now – had mostly managed to steer clear of the Undead. (Well sure, Idle Hands was a close one but that’s not really a zombie movie per-se. However that may well be reviewed here at some point in the future if deemed zombie-worthy). Bong of the Dead most certainly is a zombie stoner movie, and as such your enjoyment of this film may depend on your tolerance for such high-art comedy.

Two dudes (stoners, obviously) have by pure luck managed to survive a full-blown zombie apocalypse and are spending their lives as some of the last of the living smoking what remains of their precious weed stash. In an attempt to prolong their hoard they experiment with some scientific cultivation methodologies: a.k.a. liquidizing zombie-brains and using it to water their pot. Somehow this proves spectacularly effective and produces some mind-blowing hash, but the plucky dudes unsurprisingly smoke their way through the lot of it and realise they need to find some more zombie brains in order to regrow their batch and continue their life of luxury.

We follow these stoners as they set off into the ‘Danger Zone’ trying to track down some zombie brains, and get to meet just some of the people – living and dead – that they bump into on their travels. It turns out that outside of their hotboxed abode life goes on, it’s just a life that’s not exactly the same as it used to be. But still, plenty of fun japes to be had, plus numerous near-death experiences thrown in for good measure. And also a zombie-powered shower for added cleanliness.

Bong of the Dead is a surprisingly good fun zombie comedy. reminiscent of Last of the Living it finds a welcome niche in the zombie canon. The gore is impressive, there are some great comedy set-pieces and – despite the dubious acting in places – the performances are generally enjoyable. Even the lack of norkage in the shower scene can be forgiven – but that’s probably just because some topless zombie ladies rock up later on.

Gore Score C+
Norks Score C-
Originality score C+
Overall Score C

DVD is available now from Left Films

Zombie Movie Review: Re-animator

Vector Image for Reanimator zombie movie
There are some films that achieve a legendary status by school kids – often just for one specific scene – and usually when none of the kids have actually seen it. Re-animator is one such film. Hence my disappointment on actually watching it to find out that I had been lied to by my school chums, and the illustrious scene itself isn’t actually Herbert West using a decapitated head on himself. Why I would actually want to have seen that version though is a mystery to even myself, as in this proper one there are actual norks on show, and it doesn’t involve the ‘man thrusting his groin into a rubber head’ image I have had in my head all these years.

So I’m jumping ahead of myself a bit here, let’s get back to the actual movie and not my demented childhood dreams, shall we? I was reminded to watch this film when the guys over at The Gentleman’s Grindhouse podcast said they’d be reviewing it (they do a much better job of discussing the film than I could!) but being the tardy guy I am I never got around to watching it in-time for their show. I figured it was time I included it in this blog anyway as it’s a stone-cold classic, easily up there with Return of the Living Dead and Braindead. Oh yes, if you’ve never seen it before then it’s very much in that vein of things. Gory comedy gold.

I sat down to watch it with the GF who isn’t exactly the biggest fan of the genre, and she wasn’t particularly amused by the scene with the re-animated kitty which she thought was cruel beyond belief. However I love it, possibly just for the squeally cat noises and the fake puss around the neck effects! Still she stuck with it and was rewarded with some of the greatest gore scenes in zombie cinema. Impalement on a bonesaw, decapitation, scalping and strangulation by intestine are all present here, and all in a goretastic fasion! Although it is my 3rd or so viewing I had forgotten just how spectacularly gory this film is.

There is a plot in amongst all the gore and norks too. Herbert West has developed a serum which can bring the recently dead back to life. Or so he hypothesizes. Naturally it doesn’t work as planned, as is the case in ALL films which involve mad scientists, experiments and cadavers. (On second thoughts, perhaps we should discipline Re-animator for being partly – if not wholly – responsible for spawning such an onslaught of god-awful shockers in the mad-scientist-experimental-serum-zombie genre, damn there are some duffers in that pile!). Herbert and his lecturer Dr Hill are basically at odds with each other about the theoretic techniques of bringing the dead back to life, and it is these two bickering and fighting around which the whole film is structured. Herbert has the research and Dr Hill wants in on the action, and it doesn’t end particularly well for either party.

With gore a plenty, lots of nudity too and some great dead-pan acting throughout, Re-animator is not just a classic, it’s a classic that can be watched again and again, losing nothing with each re watch. The music is perfect too, and makes me wish for a bygone day when soundtracks were ‘composed’ and not just a compilation of trendy bands shoehorned into the background here and there. Heck, it’s only been about a week since I watched it and just writing this review up now makes me want to see it again.

Gore Score A
Norks Score B+
Originality Score B
Overall Score A

Zombie Movie Review: Dead Snow

aka ‘Død snø’

This film is showing on Netflix Instant US. Visit Blog of the Living Dead for details

Vector image from the zombie movie Dead Snow

Nazi zombies form one of the greatest horror combinations. However, unlike the greatest films in that mini genre – namely Zombie Lake and Shockwaves – these are strictly above-water dwellers. Actually they live in the snow, which I suppose could be considered underwater, depending on how you look at it.

Unfortunately, a lack of underwater activities is not the only thing missing in this zombie horror. There is very little horror involved as soon as the zombies turn up half way through this snow-filled Norwegian number. Up until that point it was actually doing a decent job of building up the scares, albeit in an ‘homage’ (byh that I mean highly unoriginal and cliché) manner.

Some kids have decided to holiday in an old shack out in the middle of a forest miles from any civilisation. Half of them are couples, but they have brought an oddball movie geek and horny girl with them for good measure. So far, so familiar. At least all the snow gives then all something different to do, such as being towed around in a rubber ring by a snowmobile. All is going well (apart from one of their number not having turned up, but she’ll surely arrive soon, right?) until a strange ‘local’  man turns up on the door asking for a coffee. (Lets just call him Crazy Ralph, eh?) Where he has come from is anyones guess, as there is nowhere local for miles. He regales the kids with some story about Nazis who used to live around here in the war and then he pootles off to go camping out in the snow somewhere. The kids get back to their business of drinking and playing with a mysterious crate of Nazi gold that they have discovered in the cabin… Oh yes, stealing gold from a baddy you’ve only just been warned about by can never cause any issues. Um, have these kids never seen The Leprechaun films?

Anyway, it is at around this point that all the horror and tension that had been – surprisingly quite sucessfully – building up is instantly drained away, as that is when the Zombies turn up.

It is now that the film decides, for some unknown reason, to change from a horror movie into a farcical comedy. Zombies chase people who hide up trees. Someone get their testicles cut off. Idiot survivors accidently set fire to a building they are actually holed up in, sheesh, the stupid moments never cease.

If this still sounds like a horror then take this fact into account: All of this happens out in the open during the daylight. It’s amazing how unscary a horde or zombies can be when you can see them coming for miles in the snow. This is a shame, because the zombies look great, and there are some awesome gore effects going on too.

If I had known that it would have been played for laughs then maybe I would have gone into the film with a different view, but I doubt it. The whole first 45 minutes are played as straight horror, so when it switches into comedy I just wasn’t prepared. I was already in the horror zone. I love my horror. I love my comedy. I even love horror-comedies, but not when they’re flipping between the two at such random intervals. Maybe it will be different next time I watch it, as I will know what to expect. And the fact that I do want to see it again must show that it was worth watching, but it could have been so much better.

Gore Score B
Norks Score F
Originality Score D
Overall Score C-

Zombie Movie Review: Zombie Self-Defense Force

Vector image for the movie Zombie Self-Defense Force
OK, it’s probably about time for some mental Japanese zombie horror. Having recently gone through a phase of watching Japan-o-gore movies, none of which were Zombie films (Meatball Machine, Machine Girl and the awesome Tokyo Gore Police) I felt it about time I dive into some Japanese Zombie gore, and this wierd little number fit the bill perfectly.

I shall start this review with some choice words summing up the film : cheap, gory, psycho zombie-baby, cyborg and a space octopus. Now, that’s gotta get your attention, surely. Space Octopus?

Opening up with some CGI so awful that my GF sat for about 1 minute of the film before heading straight to bed moaning that she’s never seen such cheap CGI in all her life – and I’m almost inclined to agree – ZSDF kicks into the live-action in a forest somewhere, and we meet a few pockets of nefarious weirdos all separately going about their business. Such business includes some drug addicted Yakuza burying one of their victims, a group of army types on a training exercise, a J-pop starlet on a photo shoot and a sleazy husband breaking up with his pregnant mistress.

All these parties see a crude CGI flying saucer flying overhead, which crash-land somewhere in the forest emitting a bizarre green-glow of radiation. Obviously this strange gas thing has the side effect of reanimating the dead, and the remaining people meet up while running from the undead and seek refuge in a local bed and breakfast place.

Holed up in this venue with the undead knocking at the windows and the humans slowly succumbing to the zombie virus we get treated to loads of excellent low-budget gore (the best kind of gore hands down), a fantastically mental zombie-baby going on the rampage and the transformation of one of the characters from confused human to badass robot-cyborg. And then there is the aforementioned Space Octopus. Yes, (s)he only gets a screen time of about 2 seconds but it was the highlight of this bizarre cheapo gorefest.

An original film? Well, not particularly. Cutting-edge effects? Certainly not. Plot, script and storyline? Hell no. But bizarre comedy and loads of gore? Why yes please.

Gore Score B+
Norks Score F
Originality Score C-
Overall Score B-

Zombie Movie Review: Wasting Away (AKA Aaah! Zombies!!)

AKA Aaah! Zombies!!

This film is showing on Netflix Instant US. Visit Blog of the Living Dead for details

Vector for Zombie Movie Wasting Away

Ah, the old ‘chemical experiments on recruits to create a new breed of super-soldiers’ plot. The current standard for zombie films. Can’t we kick off another Cold War or have a new Nuclear Arms Race or something? Anything just to get a new idea for reanimating the dead.

At least Wasting Away tries to do something reasonably original, that is by infecting the stars with zombism – via neon green zombie beer ice-cream no less – without their knowing. Yes, these 4 losers have become zombies and don’t even realise it. They see each-other as full-on normal chaps, but to everyone else they are the walking dead. This is done quite cleverly by showing the scenes of the main stars in colour, while whenever anyone else glances at them the film switches to black-and-white and we see them as they really are – veiny, shuffling members of the undead.

As unique as this sounds for a film it does present some problems. The first minor issue is that blood and gore looks a lot more exciting when it’s in colour. Secondly – and this is the main problem – having one unusual interesting idea is not really enough to base an entire movie on. Oh yes, it’s all good and fun the first couple of times the camera switches to Black and White and we see them transposed as zombies, but when that is the whole plot device and we have to sit through it again and again it just gets irritating. If they actually wrote a story around this idea then maybe it wouldn’t be so annoying. But there isn’t one. It’s just some crappy characters becoming unexpected zombies who spend half the film hanging out together not realising their condition, and the other half hanging out still not really doing anything but this time with an army private who has the same condition.

I guess they were trying to go for the ‘Return of the Living Dead’ comedy angle, but the film it really reminded me of was Idle Hands. And that’s a shame as I quite like that movie, but I don’t want to be reminded of this plotless borefest the next time I watch that.

OK, the acting is actually pretty good for a low budget film, there are a couple of genuinely funny moments, and having one unique idea is better than none, I suppose. But surely there needs to be something more to fill out a whole film? Hell, there’s not even any nudity or any real gore? Seriously, what’s the point of that?

Gore Score D
Norks Score F
Originality Score B
Overall Score D-