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Zombie Flesh Eaters (UK Blu-ray)

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Zombie Flesh Eaters (UK Blu-ray)Starring Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver, Auretta Gay

Directed by Lucio Fulci

Distributed by Arrow Video


A derelict boat floats ominously in the New York harbour, coming close to crashing into the Staten Island Ferry. Sent to check it out, a couple of city cops find the sole inhabitant to be a rotting, corpulent zombie that takes a bite out of the throat of one of them, before falling overboard when the other unloads a few rounds into its chest. And so begins Lucio Fulci’s classic gut-muncher Zombie Flesh Eaters

Sent to investigate the incident, reporter Peter West (McCulloch) teams up with plucky Anne Bowles (Farrow), whose father owned the derelict vessel, as they set off to its point of origin — the island of Matool. There they find a population increasingly ravaged by a blight of the living dead, while the despondent Dr. Menard (Johnson) works tirelessly to find a cure for the plague. Unfortunately for them all, the rise of the flesh eaters appears to be due to Voodoo magic and completely beyond the realms of science.

From here, there isn’t really a whole lot going on in Fulci’s film in terms of narrative. Our protagonists encounter a few of the walking dead when checking up on Dr. Menard’s ill-fated wife, crash their vehicle and are eventually forced to make a stand at the good doctor’s makeshift hospital when the zombies arrive en masse. Sometimes simplicity is the best approach — and where Fulci’s film knocks it out of the park is not in the storyline, but the presentation. The locations look fabulous, especially so in this particular high-def presentation, while the zombies look similarly excellent — filthy, rotten things that growl and shamble at a snail’s pace, predominantly closed-eyed and somnambulistic, and the results of their attacks are truly stomach-churning.

Way back in 1979, Fulci nearly blew the lid off of the expectations of cinematic gore with this film — most famously with the notorious splinter eye impalement that to this day remains a tense, daring and flinch-inducing sequence. That’s not to mention the kind of sequences that were simply unheard of in the genre: Where else are you going to see a zombie fighting a shark underwater?

The backbone of what makes Zombie Flesh Eaters an indisputable genre classic, however, is Fabio Frizzi’s unforgettable, pulsing score — its effectiveness brought to startling life during the climactic slow-burn sequence of zombies rising from the grave and shambling towards our heroes’ makeshift fortress. No other film has, in one sequence, presented such a bone-chilling representation of the rise of the dead as this, and the symbiosis of music, imagery and pace is a treasure to behold every single time.

Sure, most of the characters act like total idiots – standing in place and screaming theatrically while the slowest zombies one could possibly imagine approach them rather than, say, running away or seeking a weapon, and the dialogue is functional at best, but this goofiness feels somewhat inherent in the Italian horror of the time, bleeding right into the hilariously overblown voiceover that tops off the sucker punch ending. Still, this is one of Fulci’s most conventional, coherent narratives and thus a steady, focused tale for what it is. Zombie fans should hold it dear in their hearts — Zombi 2, Zombie, Zombie Flesh Eaters, call it what you will, brings the walking dead to skin-crawling life in spectacular fashion and still sits in the revered position as one of the greatest zombie films ever made.

It’s good to see that the folks at Arrow Video also recognised the classic status of Zombie Flesh Eaters and thus put in a staggering amount of effort with this new release. The specially remastered video presentation is, quite frankly, mind-blowing. Limitations of the older source are apparent through the occasional bit of softness, but for the most part the image is remarkably clear and regularly displays an excellent amount of texturing. The film has never looked this good and is unlikely to look any better in future. The soundtrack is similarly impressive — free of hiss or any kind of interference, Frizzi’s score is free to chill in all its unbridled glory.

On the special features front… well… where the hell do we start? Star Ian McCulloch drops in for a UK-exclusive introduction to the film, and viewers also have the choice of which original title and credit sequence they would like to see (Zombi 2, Zombie or Zombie Flesh Eaters). A beautiful bevy of lengthy featurettes by Arrow regulars High Rising Productions kicks off with Aliens, Cannibals and Zombies: A Trilogy of Italian Terror. This lengthy interview with star McCulloch sees him go through his memories of working on Italian horror and sci-fi in the form of Zombie Flesh Eaters, Contamination and Zombie Holocaust. While he never seems particularly enamoured with any of his Italian genre appearances, McCulloch comes across as a genuine, frank and honest gentleman, with many an interesting or fun story to tell.

Next up, From Romero to Rome: The Rise and Fall of the Italian Zombie Film is essential viewing for any zombie fan. Featuring interviews with the likes of Luigi Cozzi, Kim Newman, Dardano Sacchetti, Antonio Tentori and Ruggero Deodato, this is an in-depth exploration of the Italian zombie explosion in the wake of Romero’s success that’s packed near bursting. Excellent stuff. This leads us to The Meat Munching Movies of Gino de Rossi, which sees High Rising’s Calum Waddell and Nick Frame head to the workshop of effects guru Gino de Rossi for a discussion of his work on many of the most infamous Italian nasties. This, again, is a very fun and interesting talk with a hugely talented but down to earth individual — and watching him demonstrate the breast-hooks from Cannibal Ferox with a confused, non-Italian speaking Waddell is worth the time alone.

Zombie Flesh Eaters – From Script to Screen has writer Dardano Sacchetti display a few pages of an early version of the screenplay (entitled Island of the Living Dead) but feels rather aimless and superfluous. A digital copy of the screenplay itself would have been much more worthwhile for fans and collectors, but obviously that’s a rather difficult request! On a similar note is Music for a Flesh Feast, which features a recording of composer Fabio Frizzi answering audience questions after a screening of the film at the Glasgow Film Theatre in August 2012. This is relatively lengthy and offers up a decent amount of insight, but the quality of the recording leaves much to be desired, resulting in a frustrating watch.

Original TV spots and trailers leave the final on-disc features being two full feature commentaries — one with screenwriter Elisa Briganti moderated by Calum Waddell, which plays as an enthusiastic and highly enjoyable extended interview, and the other with Fulci biographer Stephen Thrower and horror expert/Frightfest co-founder Alan Jones. This is one for the Italian film buffs, absolutely, as Thrower demonstrates his excellent knowledge of the field throughout.

Physically, inside the box are a collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Stephen Thrower, a new interview with Olga Karlatos by Calum Waddell, a history of the BBFC’s reaction to Zombie Flesh Eaters by Craig Lapper (one of the board’s senior examiners), excerpts from the original 1978 screenpla, and a Lucio Fulci CV compiled by Jay Slater.

All considered, there are a few words that can be used to describe this release: Essential. Unmissable. Astounding. Superlative. Simply put, any fan of Zombie Flesh Eaters, or zombie films in general, needs this in their life. Thank you, Arrow Video. Thank you very much indeed.

Special Features
• Audio commentary with screenwriter Elisa Briganti, moderated by Calum Waddell
• Audio commentary with Fulci biographer Stephen Thrower and horror expert Alan Jones
• UK exclusive introduction to the film from Ian McCulloch
Aliens, Cannibals and Zombies: A Trilogy of Italian Terror
From Romero to Rome: The Rise and Fall of the Italian Zombie Film
The Meat Munching Movies of Gino de Rossi
Zombie Flesh Eaters – From Script to Screen
Music for a Flesh Feast
• Trailers and TV Spots
• Collector’s Booklet

Film:

4 1/2 out of 5

Special Features:

5 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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