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Undead (2002)

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Starring Felicity Mason, Mungo McKay, Rob Jenkins, Lisa Cunningham

Directed by Michael & Peter Spierig


What was the last good zombie movie you saw? I’m not talking about a night with friends re-watching the Romero trilogy, and any frequent readers of this site know I’m not talking about any movie that starts with a ‘Re’ and ends with ‘sident Evil’. I mean something truly original?

For me, it was Undead. Last night.

You may have heard about this movie from time to time on the site, as the twin brother filmmakers slowly leaked just enough info to keep us short attention spanned horror fans interested. Now it’s completed and on it’s way to theaters all around the world, and I’ve gotten the chance to take a sneak peek at what we’re in for. And it’s awesome.

Undead is the story of a small town in Australia that is suddenly ridden with rocks falling from the sky, due to some very odd activity in space. If a rock lands near you (or on you, as is the case for a few), you become a flesh-craving zombie. The premise from there is simple as a group of survivors with their own sorted history have to ban together to try and survive the onslaught of the undead.

Hence the title.

I say the premise is simple, but it really isn’t. There are forces out there aside from their flesh-craving neighbors (and fish) that are trying to prevent them from surviving this big mess, complete with odds lights in the sky and ominous warnings from the town crazy (McKay) who claims he’s been abducted before and this is just the beginning of the end.

I swear to you, I’ve only just described the first, say, half hour of the movie. To go any further into it would spoil many surprises and moments of “huh?” (in a good way) that follow in the last hour and a half. It sucks that I can’t really go too much farther into the plot for Undead without dumping spoilers on you, because it’s one of the coolest and more original concepts I’ve witnessed in a very long time.

Instead I will focus on the strong suits outside of the plot. The first one that should grab any viewer that knows anything about the movie (i.e. that it’s an indie feature) is the amazing use of CGI. Not on a big George Lucas scale, but simply as an enhancement for what’s already happening on screen and making it that much cooler. But these two brothers know what they’re doing when it comes to not just CGI effects but straight-up old fashioned gore, of which there is plenty. At times a great throwback to the early days of Peter Jackson (ala Dead Alive, of course) and even some cool homages to Romero, I really hope we get to see more messy horror form these guys.

The other high-quality feature is the acting. I’m not sure how they came about the cast they have, but you’d never know they were first-time actors. They either trained heavily for their parts beforehand or were just naturally blessed with good acting skills, because you never get the impression this is their first movie. And that’s a really positive thing to have in an indie film because no matter how great your story or effects might be, terrible actors can ruin a movie for pretty much everybody.

My only complaints about the overall film involve some bits at the beginning that seemed to drag on ridiculously long, with the zombies taking this side of forever to catch up with their prey. This slow-action doesn’t last for too long, however, and once it’s out of the way you will forget it ever happened fairly quick. Who knows, maybe they wanted it to be that way to draw out the tension, but for me it just took to long to get through.

Trust me when I say, though, this is a very minor complaint when held up to the quality of ‘Undead’ as a whole. I really hope we in the states get a decent DVD release of it, and soon, because I want every single one of you to see it. We can only hope that more and more filmmakers like the brothers Spierig continue to flock to the horror scene because we need more quality zombie films like this to show Hollywood how it should be done.

Lions Gate Films acquire Undead a while back, and have plans for releasing it on U.S. soil sometime next year, though I’m not sure if it’s theatrical or straight-to-video yet. There is a Region 4 release of the movie in the Brothers’ home country of Australia, but make sure if you’re going to search it out that your DVD player is region-free.

For more on the film and the latest updates regarding it’s release, check out the official website for Undead right here. You can also now check the official site for the film’s composer, Cliff Bradley, right here.

4 out of 5

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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

Directed by Colin Bemis


Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

  • Strawberry Flavored Plastic
3.5

Summary

Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

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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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

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2.0

Summary

Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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