Starring Yahya Gaier, Mimoun Ouled Radi, Gigi Ravelli
Distributed by Well Go USA Entertainment
If thereâ€™s one cinematic staple of horror that needs to be put back into the grave, itâ€™s the zombie film. The ubiquity of the undead permeates every facet of our culture. Theyâ€™re in movies, television shows, commercials, viral videos, video gamesâ€¦ everywhere. Itâ€™s exhausting, and frankly, the trend needs to go away for a good while. Few films, if any, are bringing anything new to the table. And, really, how could you? Some donâ€™t even bother with an origin for the outbreak at all anymore. Does it even matter?
While the trend is exasperated and at the edge of death in major cinematic markets (read: U.S. and U.K.), there are some foreign lands that are trying to get in on the craze despite being late to the party. And not even fashionably late; this is, â€œHey, wanna see a new Harlem Shake video?â€ late. The Netherlands is one such country. Watching Kill Zombie! (2012, and a sure contender for worst title of the year), one has to wonder if the Dutch just now got the films of Edgar Wright in their country. It is more than apparent directors Martijn Smits and Erwin van den Eshof were heavily influenced by Wrightâ€™s work, specifically both Shaun of the Dead (2004) and, to a lesser degree, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010). This isnâ€™t necessarily that bad of a thing; there are certainly far worse directing styles to ape. The filmâ€™s biggest issue is that it all feels like old hat â€“ been there, seen that.
Our story takes place in Amsterdam-West, following the mundane life of Aziz (Yahya Gaier), an invisible office worker who finds himself out of a job and feeling depressed. He decides to attend a party with his brother and best bud, Mo (Mimoun Ouled Radi), who is a bit of a loudmouth. His shenanigans wind up drawing the attention of some local thugs, who decide to pick a fight with the duo. All four men wind up in jail, but just as soon as they arrive so does a Russian space station, entering the atmosphere and crashing down atop one of the tallest buildings in town. The result: immediate zombies. Seriously, a city full of these things springs up in no time.
Aziz and the men break out of jail, along with the districtâ€™s top hot cop, Kim (Gigi Ravelli), who proves more than adept at handling herself. With most of the police stationâ€™s armory raided, the group settles on using standard office supplies for weaponry. The best weapon of all goes to one of the thugs, who gets his fat fingers caught in a bowling ball, so he just uses his new â€œhandâ€ to smash zombie brains.
So now what? Aziz has a plan to rescue a woman heâ€™s got a crush on, someone he went on exactly one sort-of date with earlier that week. Sheâ€™s trapped in a building across town, and on this heroic notion the group sets out to battle hordes of the undeadâ€¦ all in the name of potential love.
Kill Zombie! is as unoriginal as its title, but that doesnâ€™t mean it canâ€™t be fun, too. The film truly does play like a Dutch clone of Edgar Wright deciding to redo Shaun of the Dead with trappings of his other pictures tossed in for good measure. During one scene later on, one of the group members fights a zombie Mortal Kombat style with on-screen health bars and all. There are also a few nods to other popular American films, most notable a scene pulled straight from Pulp Fiction (1994). With so many zombie films coming out these days that lack both style and substance, itâ€™s at least commendable that this one is trying to do something entertaining. The plot is secondary to the visuals, no question. Although, I will say the story gets some serious props for turning the typical â€œrescue a loved one in distressâ€ angle on its head once Aziz and co. arrive at their destination.
Horror fans who have been hungry (no pun intended) for some fresh meat in the zombie subgenre will find Kill Zombie! to be an easy watch. Itâ€™s full of action, entertaining, and never for a second does it take itself too seriously. Even the humor translates well, as the Dutch are known for biting, acerbic wit with a good dose of gallows humor thrown in for good measure. The title and absolutely atrocious cover art will immediately be off-putting to most that come across it, but better films have been marketed more poorly than this. The foreign horror scene has been steadily gracing the States with a number of exciting, inventive properties, and while Kill Zombie! isnâ€™t the most original film to hit our shores, itâ€™s definitely a good time. And nobody can fault it for trying to be just that.
Thereâ€™s very little fault in the filmâ€™s 2.35:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded image, which is virtually perfect. The picture features phenomenally razor-sharp crispness and a multitude of fine details, allowing for crystal clarity in facial close-ups, clothing textures, and background elements. Colors look accurate and well saturated, and black levels are rich and inky. The astute cinematography imbues the image with a great level of depth, adding dimensionality to both foreground and background objects. Thereâ€™s no grain to be seen here, which lets the pristine HD visuals take center stage with no interference. All in all, this is a damn fine image that makes full use of Blu-rayâ€™s capabilities.
If you thought the picture was stellar, just wait until your system gets a load of the filmâ€™s Dutch DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track (48kHz/24-bit). This track packs a serious punch, excelling on all fronts thanks to a boisterous array of sound effects, fantastic separation and directionality, and an LFE track that thunders with bombastic presence. Every on-screen hit has a real weight to it, allowing for some impressive immersion. The score, composed by Matthijs Keiboom and Martijn Schimmer, runs the gamut of styles, changing up frequently to suit the mood of each scene. Sometimes itâ€™s whimsical, sometimes itâ€™s intense, other times triumphant, and itâ€™s always working tirelessly to provide the right atmosphere to heighten emotions. Rear speakers come into play constantly, effectively communicating on-screen dynamics as well as off-screen violence. The disc also includes a Dutch DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 option. Subtitles are available in English.
The only bonus feature is the filmâ€™s trailer in HD.
3 out of 5
1/2 out of 5
Friends Don’t Let Friends Review – A Haunting Mixture of Psychological Turmoil and Brutal Supernatural Horror
Starring Brittany Anne Woodford, Jenny Curtis, Kanin Guntzelman, Brendan McGowan, Jake White
Directed by James S. Brown
We all like to think of ourselves as being surrounded by friends, but let’s face it, if we were to ever truly hit hard times, there are probably very few, if any, people we could truly rely on. So on some level, Friends Don’t Let Friends is a film we can all relate too, as it deals with this very issue.
Stephanie is an emotionally unstable young woman who strangles her boyfriend to death after he insults and breaks up with her. She calls her friends to help her dispose the body out in the Joshua Tree National Part area, and instead of reporting her to the police, they reluctantly comply. As their car breaks down, the four friends find themselves alone at night in the Californian wilderness with the rotting corpse in need of disposal. Given their dire circumstances, they begin to become more and more aggressive towards each other, and this was where the film was really at its best. I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how far the limits of their friendship could be stretched, and who would be the first to crack and turn on the others.
Anyway, their body disposal endeavor soon proves to be a mistake, as Stephanie’s ex rises from the grave as vengeful zombie demon thing with claws as long as knives. I’ll admit, I first I thought Friends Don’t Let Friends was going to be a movie purely about the limits of trust, so I was pretty surprised when the supernatural elements came into play. And when they did, the trust and friendship elements of the plot were somewhat downplayed in favor of a more traditional horror approach, and while it was still entertaining, I still would have preferred for the film not to have strayed from its initial path. At least the ending came as a shocker. I won’t go into spoilers, but let’s just say the even the most attentive viewers probably won’t see it coming.
As you can probably guess from a psychologically-driven film of this kind, the performances were top notch, with Brittany Anne Woodford being on particularly top form as the manipulative and unstable Stephanie, a character who revels in the revels in the power she felt when ending another human life.
With its mixture of psychological turmoil and brutal supernatural horror, Friends Don’t Let Friends is a film I would certainly recommend, but keep in mind that it may make you think twice when confiding in people who you think of as being your friends.
8 out of 10.
Coulrophobia Review – One of the Most Entertaining Killer Clown Films in Quite Some Time
Starring Pete Bennett, Warren Speed, Daniella D’Ville, Roxy Bordeaux
Directed by Warren Speed
The word ‘Coulrophobia’ refers to the fear of clowns, and if you happen to suffer from it, you might want to avoid director Warren Speed’s film of the same name. However, if you can stand the sight of clowns with gaping wounds in their manly parts, then you’re in for one heck of a fun time.
An all-female hockey team get lost deep in the Scottish woods on their way to a match (don’t ask), and are captured and forced to participate in a series of horrific games by the Grock family of clowns. All of the members of said family are absolutely fucking insane, but the one that really stood out was Twitch (Pete Bennett), who wears jester cloths and it said to have a short attention span. He longs to be a violin player and wishes he could blend in with normal society like the other members of his family. And you almost feel sorry for him, even though he’s a mad killer with bells on his head.
Director Warren Speed also appeared as Milo, a grunting mute who had his tongue cut out when he was a boy. As mentioned above, we see a close-up shot of a open wound in his penis being stitched up, which is not an image that will be leaving your mind anytime soon. Speed is clearly fearless when it comes to his art.
Inter-spliced with all the torture and mayhem, we also see documentary-style telling the sad history of the family involved, and this was where the film unfortunately faltered, because these scenes seemed out of place and just didn’t flow with the rest of the plot.
Ultimately, however, Coulrophobia almost seems like a film Rob Zombie might have made before he lost his way and started churning out trash like 31. Comparisons to House of 1000 Corpses are inevitable, and I absolutely mean that as a compliment. This is one of the most entertaining killer clown films in quite some time.
The Gatehouse Review – What Is Found in the Woods Should Be Left in the Woods
Starring Scarlett Rayner, Simeon Willis, Linal Haft
Directed by Martin Gooch
Now while no one will sneeze at the prospect of bringing up a bit of a rebellious child alone, it’s those damned kids that like to tempt fate by pissing off creatures in the woods…oh kids, they do the funniest things, don’t they?
In Martin Gooch’s moderately spooky presentation, The Gatehouse, a struggling writer named Jack (Willis) finds himself behind the 8-ball following the tragic drowning death of his beloved wife, and if that isn’t enough to torque your drawers, his young daughter, Eternity (Rayner) is becoming quite the salty soul herself. Unfortunately the little one has been finding herself bullied at school, and her recourse of sorts is to simply toss attitude around as if it was pleasantly acceptable. Her pastime has become lonely wanderings in the deep woods, digging for hopeful treasures…and we all know what problems reside in the woods, don’t we, horror fans? Well, Eternity’s father is attempting to re-start his writing career with a frightening backstory – taking the reigns on a novel that was abruptly ended when the author committed suicide, and supposedly the tome is quite the dark piece of literature.
Eternity’s never-ending quest for fortune and glory in the forest leads her to a most interesting (and ultimately) dangerous discovery (don’t sweat it – I won’t spill it for you). Bottom line here is this: the little girl has taken possession of something that should have been left in the friggin’ woods, and now someone (or something) wants it back PRONTO. What follows is a lackluster series of “spooky” events, and far be it from me to say, I’ve seen creepier stuff watching the evening news. Gooch then tries to bombard the audience with a plethora of instances and swerving plot direction – it’s fun at the beginning but can grow a bit tiresome over a duration.
Performance-wise, both Rayner and Willis play the perfect combination of mentally-shot dad and determined-to-be-independent daughter – their scenes are ripe with subtle contempt, and the right amount of indecision. Overall, the film is best suited for those fans of fantasy/fable-like horror, and while it might not scare the pants off of you, it definitely will give us all another reason to stay the hell out of the woods once and for all.
Children in a forest-setting don’t always add up to cutesy-pie encounters with furry creatures – this one’s got a few scares to keep fans of coppice-horror appeased.
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