Dead Rising: Watchtower (2015) Review

deadrisingwDead Rising: Watchtower (Canada, 2015)

Dir: Zach Lipovsky

Starring: Jesse Metcalfe, Meghan Ory, Virginia Madsen

Available on UK DVD & Blu-Ray from Content Media / Platform Entertainment

Plot: Dead Rising: Watchtower follows reporter Chase Carter (Jesse Metcalfe) who finds himself in the middle of a zombie outbreak. The outbreak starts when the Zombrex drugs used during a quarantine effort fails. Chase fights for his life along side fellow survivor Crystal (Meghan Ory) as they attempt to undercover a conspiracy and escape with their lives. With the imminent threat of bombing from the military, a vicious biker gang on the streets, and hoards of hungry zombies, Chase and Crystal’s chances look slim.

There has been a long tradition of trying to make video games into good movies and many would argue itis paired with the equally long tradition of making bad video game movies. While franchises like Resident Evil have made some fun movies, they have usually failed to capture what makes the games so great. Dead Rising: Watchtower is one of the few game adaptations that actually manages to capture the essence of it’s source material.Zombies in both film and video games have been done so often that it’s difficult to stand out. The Dead Rising games did this by focusing on the “anything is a weapon” mentality and thankfully that mentality is also prevalent in Watchtower. Duct-taped chainsaw, hammers, bomb axes, and machete halberds are all on show here.

drw2Other key features shared between the games and the movie include roaming gangs of psychos and criminals,the threat of military involvement, and an overarching mystery. The psychos and criminals in the game played the role of mini-bosses and it’s how they work in the movie too. A serious threat but not the lead villain. While the zombies are still a serious threat, it’s always the other humans in a zombie movie that are the real sadists.Virginia Madsen’s (Candyman) character balances precariously on the edge of going psycho which makes her both a looming threat and a painfully tragic character.

The military threat and the mystery are what keeps the pace of this film, Chase and Crystal have got a deadline before the bombs drop so scenes never dwell longer than they should but not at the expense of letting the story unfold naturally.The movie is supposed to act as a bridge between the storylines of the second and third games in the series and most fans of the series will probably see where the mystery plot is going way before it is actually revealed.

drw3While the story is quite predictable, it’s a fun movie that does it’s source material proud.There are loads of references to the games for fans to nerd out on as well as a number of cameos to enjoy. Cameos include appearances from Canada horror directors Jen and Sylvia Soska (American Mary), and YouTube personalities Harley Morenstein (Epic Meal Time, Tusk) and Ryan Connolly (Film Riot, Tell). All these little details and Easter eggs make Watchtower an enjoyable film for horror nerds and video-game fans alike. It shouldn’t be too surprising that a movie adaptation of a video game series that started with a loose game adaptation of Dawn of the Dead actually works by coming full circle into being a zombie movie again. One to watch for hardcore zombie fans.

8/10

Eyes Without A Face (1960) Blu-Ray Review

ewaf1EYES WITHOUT A FACE (Dir- Georges Franju, FRA/ITA, 1960)

Starring- Pierre Brasseur, Edith Scob, Alida Valli

UK Release August 24th from BFI on Dual Format DVD/Blu-Ray.

Once reviled on release, especially in the UK, EYES WITHOUT A FACE took its time to be eventually looked upon as a classic of genre cinema, even having the gaudy title THE HORROR CHAMBER OF DR FAUSTUS on it’s US release, which makes the film sound like a B-movie schlock fest. However it’s a film that also gained praise on it’s initial outing and has since become hailed as classic of genre cinema, one that fuses elements of melodrama, noir, mad scientist movie with a slight Gothic aesthetic to produce a superb and beautiful masterpiece, and thankfully the British Film Institute has made a fantastic Blu-Ray release worthy of any cinema fans collection.

Opening with a noir-esque shot of a women alone in a car driving down a stretch of road and then getting out of the car to dispose of a corpse. This women is Louise (Valli) a loyal assistant to celebrated surgeon Dr Genessier (Brasseur), whose daughter has gone missing. The reasons for the disposal of the corpse at the start become clear when once its found by the authorities, Genessier identifies it as his daughters, as this is all a cover, as his sibling is at his secluded mansion and is in hiding or rather more like imprisonment as she is hideously disfigured from a car crash with only her eyes remaining and with most of her facial features gone and with a garish white looking mask to wear that. His daughter, Catherine (Scob) strikes a tragic figure throughout the film almost bound to be imprisoned whilst her father and Louise lure girls to the mansion and drug them and surgically remove the face, so that Genessier can make sure Catherine obtains a new face. It’s only when cracks start appearing in the Surgeon’s work and he needs to find more girls who will replace his daughters missing facial skin, that the police start to show interest and its not long before Catherine has other ideas of her own.

ewaf2Franju’s film, as mentioned before, was dismissed by some critics on it’s release though also hailed by others. The revulsion might come from the films infamous sequence of facial removal surgery, that even I found slightly queasy to watch, yet at the same time fascinated by it’s characters precise surgical movements done in an almost technical instructional manner yet at the same time going against all moral conduct that Genessier has now forgotten. This is only one sequence though in a film in which the characters are the main interest and not the sight of gory surgery, Herschell Gordon Lewis this aint, if that’s what your looking for. In many ways it blends an almost traditional mad scientist horror motif with a updated present day (for its time) background as Genessier can be seen as the mad doctor obsessed with performing the most ground breaking surgical breakthrough, yet losing his moral compass completely albeit assisted with a loyal aide (not a hunchbacked Igor like assistant) and with his daughter as less of the monster as more of the captive imprisoned victim who would rather accept her fate than become a mere subject for her fathers experiments. Indeed there is a certain tragic element in Scob’s superb portrayal of Catherine and even though we only see her actual face/other persons face grafted on in one scene, she spends most of the film hidden behind a haunted looking white mask that only has eye holes to show any expression.

ewaf3Yet her performance shines through this showing the hidden anguish inside her especially at her father’s seemingly horrific obsession which is costing the lives of many innocent women. In particular one stand out memorable scene is when Catherine goes into the basement of the house and comforts the dogs imprisoned in cages constantly barking and also victims of Genessier’s experiments, as these are the only beings she can relate to now as she herself is effectively caged. Brasseur is also excellent in his role as the surgeon, a well respected man who we see for the first time giving a lecture on the possibility of skin grafts, and some can argue he is also a tragic figure someone driven by a need to restore his daughters beauty, as he feels guilt for causing the car crash that led to her disfigurement yet he is also willing to lie to the authorities about her death and willing to cross the line to use human subjects. He comes across as less of a monster and more a flawed, obsessed individual who cannot see what harm he is causing. As his assistant Valli, is again another superb addition and whose name horror fans will be familiar with from Argento’s SUSPIRIA, and is great in her role as a loyal aide to the doctor acting very friendly and to the victims she lures to the house, and even in once scene starts to seemingly question the madness and motives behind what she is doing but remaining ever loyal to the surgeon.

ewaf4This is only the second time that I’ve seen Franju’s film and even on its first viewing I knew the film had a certain appeal to it, and now on a second watch the film becomes more richer in its dark mood, it’s superb rendering of old horror motif’s into an updated story, and a beautiful slight Gothic quality to its proceedings, and without giving too much away contains a superb final shot that is equally haunting and moving in its eerie beauty. A deserved masterpiece worthy of any genre fans attention.

10/10

Special Features

Remastered in High Definition

Feature-length audio commentary by film expert Tim Lucas (Video Watchdog)

Monsieur et Madame Curie (Georges Franju, 1953, 14 mins): a study of the life and work of the Curies, told through the words of Marie Curie

La Première nuit (Georges Franju, 1958, 20 mins): a young boy spends a night in the Métro

Les Fleurs maladives de Georges Franju (Pierre-Henri Gibert, 2009, 50 mins): an overview of Georges Franju’s career

For Her Eyes Only – An interview with Edith Scob (L P Hugo, 2014, 17 mins)

Fully illustrated booklet featuring essays from Kate Ince, Isabel Stevens, Roberto Cueto Llera, Raymond Durgnat, Kevin Jackson and Michael Brooke; and full film credits

UK | 1960 | black & white | French language, with optional English subtitles | Original aspect ratio 1.66:1

Disc 1: BD50 | 1080p | 24fps
Disc 2: DVD9 | PAL

The Caretakers (2014) Review

The Caretakers PosterThe Caretakers (2014)

Director: Steve Hudgins

Starring: Nick Faust, Michael Coon, Brittney Saylor, April Jennings, Joe Estevez

“Come on, let me show you how to liquefy a body.”

Hmmmm… this one takes a minute to digest.

Catherine (Jennings) the vampire has a network of lackeys (mostly fat guys) who kidnap women for her to feed on. She is what the film calls a pure-line vampire in that she was born, and it’s impossible to turn people into vampires. But she can’t just feed off of humans directly either. She injects the kidnapped women with a venom through her fangs and they are changed. Not into vampires, but into a sort of pseudo vamp that she can feed off.

One of the women, Rachel (Saylor) is “rescued” by her creepy stalker Jimmy (Coon) when he sees her get kidnapped (while following her). Now they are running around trying to get her blood, but the longer she’s running around the more savage she becomes. AND she can only drink blood that’s the same type as her own, which is type O, but she drinks B (I don’t know how this works!)?? Meanwhile, the main vampire Catherine’s caretaker Jack (Faust) is an old man and she’s making him train his replacements which is a father and daughter team. MEANWHILE the father of the main kidnapped girl who escaped has managed to find a PI named Parker played by a poorly aging Joe Estevez who just happen to know a couple of vampire hunters. One of the vampire hunters is a pasty woman who looks supernatural (due to make-up and contact lenses) but it turns out she’s just a knife wielding albino. All three plots come together at the end, believe it or not (I was as surprised as anyone)!

The Caretakers 1So, is The Caretakers good? Sweet floral wallpaper that has burned itself into my brain, NO. But also yes. The production values are terrible, the acting is all over the place. The director and producer are both actors in their own movie (and they aren’t that good) and the credits are full of the same last names that can only mean their family was cheaper to hire than real actors. BUT (there are going to be a lot them in this review) some of the actors were okay. Brittney Saylor for one did a good job at turning into a feral vampire. Faust was tolerable. The tween girl and apprentice caretaker played by Lucy Turner is also pretty good. Though her main job is to look haunted during the entire film. On the lower end of the scale is Michael Coon who is prone to bursts of over acting. And apprentice Caretaker “dad” Kenneth R. Root is wooden. A lot of scenes are stilted, there is a lot of infodumping.

BUT The Caretakers has good ideas. A good concept, a happy ending for the vampire which I really appreciated. Good worldbuilding, lots of imagination, and (some) not terrible writing. And well, an overall je ne sais quoi that is somehow SLIGHTLY better than the sum of its poor production values. Or not. A lot is going to depend on the viewers ability to make it past the first fifteen to twenty minutes. Who am I kidding, if I hadn’t had to watch it I would have shut it off immediately. But if you can settle in it DOES get better. No, not the sound recording, unfortunately, it’s terrible and in some places downright unintelligible. But gosh darn it, it actually made me want to write the novelization.

The Caretakers 2The big question is “Would I recommend this movie”. The answer is that I’m not sure I could, in all good conscience tell people to watch it. It’s kind of terrible. But kind of not. If somehow, you can, in the theater of your mind, replace everything happening on screen with a high budget version, then yes, watch it. If you aren’t a fan of low budget vampire films (and low budget productions in general) then don’t. Seriously. Don’t. You will never forget the floral wallpaper.

Kudos for: Madness inducing wallpaper.

Lesson learned: Never put up wallpaper.

4/10