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DeadHeads (2011)

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DeadHeadsStarring Michael McKiddy, Ross Kidder, Markus Taylor, Thomas Galasso, Ben Webster

Directed by The Pierce Brothers


Waking up in a makeshift laboratory housed in the rear of a crashed van, a bewildered Mike Kellerman (McKiddy) is about to have a very bad day. Not only does he clamber from the wreckage with a case of amnesia, but after coming across flippant slacker Brent (Kidder) alongside a gang of feasting zombies in the woods, he further discovers that he and his new friend also count themselves amongst the ranks of the living dead – and he’s been in captivity for three years. These two are different, though – while the majority of the zombies now marauding in the countryside are the usual mindless flesh-eaters, Mike and Brent have somehow managed to retain control of their faculties despite technically being walking corpses.

With Mike’s memory gradually returning, the pair set off on a road trip so that Mike can make contact with his lost girlfriend and finally pop the question that he was just about to ask before his sudden disappearance. Along with a grizzled Vietnam veteran and a zombie of the mindless variety named Cheese, whom Brent picks up as a kind of pet/companion along the way, Mike and his new friend are forced to face off against a mysterious government organisation determined to put them on ice once and for all.

Landing firmly in “Zombedy” territory, The Pierce Brothers’ DeadHeads juggles the horror, road trip, buddy and romantic comedy genres on a constant basis; and while it does so respectably, it doesn’t fully succeed in gelling them together. Performances from the cast are admirable, especially leads McKiddy and Kidder, who manage to keep up a perfect back ‘n forth buddy chemistry. Benjamin Webster’s villainous McDinkle is played primarily for laughs, but his pro wrestler line delivery and posturing self-appreciation feel somewhat too affected to be a legitimate comedic caricature. This same kind of affectation is a consistent thread throughout DeadHeads, creating a distinctly off-kilter ambiance, whether concerning some characters or the narrative itself. The Pierce Brothers appear to be aiming for that peculiar feel of many late 80s/early 90s horror comedies (Dead Heat is a definite influence) but just can’t quite seem to settle comfortably in there. Once the bloody first half (which includes probably the best sequences in the film, referencing Night of the Living Dead and other classic zombie siege and action flicks) has passed, the film finds itself resting more comfortably into generic rom-com territory as it struggles to play the proceedings increasingly more safe.

So with the horror elements gradually waning post-setup, DeadHeads also finds itself being more chucklesome than laugh-out-loud funny. Moments involving Mike losing an arm are initially humorous but quickly overplayed, and some of the dialogue’s punch lines fall flat. Not to say that the film isn’t enjoyable – it most certainly is, but it isn’t as consistently hilarious as it seems to think it is. What DeadHeads doesn’t lack, though, is heart. Sentimentality raises its head quite often, but outright schmaltz is skilfully (and thankfully) avoided, and the inclusion, and fate, of Brent’s friendly zombie Cheese is a strong addition. Reminiscent of Day of the Dead’s Bub, Cheese is a fine example of the kind of emotional heart underpinning the proceedings.

Besides its failings DeadHeads is well shot and directed, suitably appealing, and the laughs that it does deliver (if variably) and likable characters will definitely see you through to the end. As long as you’re expecting more of a romantic comedy angle than real zombie mayhem, you should be more than satisfied with what it has to offer. Touted as North America’s answer to Shaun of the Dead, DeadHeads won’t be stealing the former’s crown any time soon but still remains worthwhile — and with its lack of the more straight horror elements found in Edgar Wright’s film it could, dare I say it, act as the perfect date movie for those zombie-loving guys out there paired with a horror-shunning other half.

3 out of 5

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Us and Them Review – Fantastic Acting Bolsters a Tense Standoff

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Starring Jack Roth, Andrew Tiernan, Tim Bentinck, Sophie Colquhoun

Written by Joe Martin

Directed by Joe Martin


The age old debate of “Is this movie actually horror?” has been around for decades and will probably carry on for the rest of eternity. As Kristy Puchko recently tweeted, “Just because you think it’s also art doesn’t mean it’s not horror. It just means your definition of “horror” is too damn narrow.” Horror should be able to cast a wide net, just as films in the comedy and drama genres are able to. Where that goes awry is when a film simply doesn’t know its own identity, as is the case with Joe Martin’s feature-length directorial debut Us and Them.

The film follows Danny (Roth), a young man struggling in his lower class status and bristling with untapped rage at the 1% who use the downtrodden as footstools for their enterprises. Hatching a plan with his pals Tommy and Sean to break into the home of a wealthy banker, that scheme quickly becomes unraveled as thread after thread beings unraveling from the original tapestry. Determined but without a Plan B, Danny attempts to use the opportunity to drive home a message to the masses via social media to show that the 99% need to rise up against the 1% and create, as he says, some consistency. But as tensions arise within Danny, Tommy, and Sean, it’s questionable whether or not the night will end in triumphant rebellion or sadistic revenge.

Clocking in at a lean 83 minutes, Us and Them doesn’t waste any time getting straight to the point. Within the first few minutes, we’re already deep mix and ready to watch Danny take on the “man”, to see him wage war against the establishment. But as the film goes on, his mission begins to feel empty as his lack of a plan is mirrored by the misdirection of his anger towards a family that, for all intents and purposes, might be snobbish but haven’t been shown to hurt anyone personally.

This resulting conflict then raises questions about the greater fight that Danny has decided to undertake and champion. Who is the real villain of this story? Who is the hero? Who are we even supposed to care one bit about? While Danny spouts on and on about the injustices of the world, his tortuous methods are cruel and manipulative, undermining his own self-righteousness.

Us and Them practically screams its Ritchie, Tarantino, and de Palma influences. From split screen scenes to “hip” and “cool” licensed background music, Martin clearly wants to be seen in the same realm. The problem is that his script leaps around with reckless abandon in an attempt to overly explain the simple story instead of finding ways to break it into new and exciting territory.

Despite these issues, it must be said that the performances are fantastic across the board. Roth shines as Danny, torn by his own personal griefs that can easily draw sympathy, while Bentinck’s almost frothing, slobbering disdain splashes across the screen. Even with only a few lines each, both Colquhoun as Phillipa and Carolyn Backhouse, who plays her mother, Margaret, revel in their terror. And while I have my critiques about the violence Danny inflicts, I cannot deny that it is brutal and makes for a squeamish experience. Martin milks every drop of the family’s fear to great effect.

While Us and Them comes at a time when financial inequality is undeniably an issue, the film loses its purpose just as it fails to cement itself as a heist thriller, a horror home invasion, or even a black comedy. Its unwillingness to embrace any, or even all, of these genres makes it a lacking film experience.

  • Us and Them
2.5

Summary

Us and Them is anchored by stellar performances, Roth especially, but it can’t decide what it wants to be or whom it wants to champion.

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SockMonster Short Film Review – The Day The Laundry Fought Back

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Starring Briana Evigan, Derek Mears, Soso Bianchi

Directed by Wesley Alley


While some might detest the prospect of doing laundry, I personally find it quite therapeutic – the act of separating the whites from the colors, the perfect amount of detergent to spruce up that awkwardly funky favorite shirt of yours, and then there’s the dryer…a beast all its own. Too long a cycle will have your garments shrunken down to the point where they could become a fashion accessory for a chihuahua – too short will have them wet, wrinkled and limp to the touch, kind of like grandma tucked away in the basement – okay, forget that last part. But what if one day, your laundry had just enough of your shit and decided to strike back in blinding semblance?

Enter Wesley Alley’s short film, SockMonster – produced by Darren Lynn Bousman, this 4 minute front-row seat to “laundrycide” if you will stars Briana Evigan as a grieving woman who looks longingly into the tumbling cylinder of her cellar dryer, almost as if something of hers has gone missing. Crouched on a cold-slab cement floor, she awaits for the door to open as soon as the appliance has run its course…and the results are less than spring-fresh. Alley’s direction coupled with the horror know-how of Bousman all add up to a seriously fun few minutes, and toss in the towering, menacing form of one Derek Mears, and you’ve got yourself an insanely concocted quickie that only has one glaring negative – it’s too damn short! Overall, I can’t recommend this one enough to those wanting a little blood with their bleach…just make sure to use the appropriate amount of stain-lifter, or that shit will NEVER come out.

  • Film
4.0

Summary

Hate doing the wash? Well, maybe for one hot minute did you think about how much your wash hates you right back?

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep159 – Demons at the Door

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For the last year, Producer Shane has been bugging the shit out of us to give him a “Producer Shane Pick”. After doing everything in our power to get him to forget about “his pick” Shane got his wish. This week we’re discussing 2004’s Demons at the Door, a movie who’s entire soundtrack is provided by none other than the Insane Clown Posse. Yup, it’s gonna be one of those shows!

You think you’ve got what it takes? I’ve been guarding my gate for a long time, bitch. It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 159!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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