Let the Heavens Fall to Cleanse the EVIL Away! “Undead” reviewed! (Umbrella Entertainment / Bluray)

The small finishing town of Berkley, Australia comes under siege by blazing meteoroids that turn the quaint residents into mindless flesh-hungry zombies. A small band of survivors led by the town’s dismayed local beauty queen and a fisherman turned doomsday prepper fight the undead hordes in order to escape the carnage by reaching the city limits, but when faced with an otherworldly monolithic barrier surrounding the town and blocking the exits, a hopeful way out becomes quickly fleeting. To make matters worse, unusual rainstorms drench them with fear of what’s really in the rainwater of the apparent alien attack. In a last-ditch effort, the remaining survivors board a personal prop plane to scale the great extraterrestrial wall that’s imprisoning them with the undead. An onslaught of end of days catastrophes drives their instinct to battle on, to push forth toward living, despite all the evidence of a contrary methodology to the misunderstood, overwhelming alien actions.

A 9-year marriage, three children, the death of my dog, two states, a new home, four jobs, four presidents, and a global pandemic in more than almost two decades’ passing has transpired since the first and last time I saw the Spierig brothers’ 2003 zombie-comedy “Undead” and, still, the 2003 Australian film impresses with a large-scale gore show on a small-scale budget. Before terraforming new vampire words with Ethan Hawke in “Daybreakers” and taking a stab at an entry in the “Saw” franchise with “Jigsaw,” the brothers Michael and Peter Spierig’s first full feature-length venture was an ambitious love letter to their’ most endeared cult films of their youth, more heavily influenced by Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead.” Blowing through the meager budget halfway into filming and shooting an insane 40 to 50 shots per day for the better part of two months, the completion of “Undead” was a must for the self-funding brothers under their production banner of Spierigfilm and the success of “Undead” also jumpstarted the careers of cinematographer Andrew Strahorn (“Hostel III,” “Lethal Weapon” television series), production designer Matthew Putland (“San Andreas”), and special effects artist Julian Summers (“Bait,” “Mortal Kombat” ’21).

“Undead” was the first film for Felicity Mason and Mungo McKay in a lead role as that dismayed local beauty queen, Rene, and that fisherman turned doomsday prepper, Marion, mentioned in the above synopsis. Rene seeks to leave the town of Berkley in the wake of the tragic death of her parents before becoming the burdened beholder of their debt; instead, she thrusted into a crisis that won’t allow her to escape so easily from a destiny laid out for her in hometown. Mason’s humble portrayal of Rene is nearly invisible compared to her more boisterous and gun-fu counterparts but grounds us to an agreeable realism of reactions whereas Marion’s limitless gun-toting out of his fishing overalls and Matrix-like gunplay moves adds that layer of voguish fun of the Chow Yun-fat variety. The other four survivors fall into the run-of-the-mill of yowlers and cutting personality types who throw around their weight and cowardly sarcasms in immediate show of unfounded animosity. Supposedly, a longer cut of “Undead” provides more backstory for father-to-be charter pilot Wayne (Rob Jenkins, “Australiens”) and the law enforcement neophyte Molly (Emma Randall, “Bullets for the Dead”) but the release copy which this review is based off was not of that longer cut. Dirk Hunter supplies a purge of negative comic relief as Harrison, the chief constable without a clue, and Lisa Cunningham’s Sallyanne is Wayne’s antagonizing pregnant lover of bitterness as she comes in second place next to Rene at the local beauty pageant and seizes moments, during all Hell breaking loose, to confront Rene’s rope-wrangling talent that won her the cast prize.

Over the past year, I watched and reviewed another Australian sci-fi horror “Dustwalker” from director Sandra Sciberras where crash landed space objects turned the local dustbowl residents into the resemblance of zombies and connected to the chaos is a not from this world creature. I likened “Dustwalker” to be a lesser, weaker, total rip-off of the Spierigs’ ozploitation rager and I still stand 100% behind my claim as I reaffirm “Undead” to be the reigning supreme champion, and “did it first” as far as story goes, between the two nearly identical narrative plots. There’s an uncrushable affinity for “Undead’s” bold risk of looking at the bigger picture head on and absolutely landing each scene whether in prosthetics or in post with better than your average computer rendered imagery. Are the effects the sleekest, most realistic, graphics you’ve ever seen? Absolutely not but what they are are ultra-rich in creative detail rather than quality detail and can give most substantial budgeted films a run for the money, especially in the closeup shots that can be an obvious slapdash, might as well be silicone, fake. The Spierig brothers also don’t overcomplicate the plot with survivors trying to simply quickly decamp the overran town madness with plot points sensible to character designs and not relying on gratuitous happenstance scenarios for the sake of gore alone. However, do believe me when I say that “Undead” will delight gore geeks with a gut-spilling, face-lifting, head-decapitating mixture of zany zombie knockoffs that are steady throughout. If you’re deciding between the more recent “Dustwalker” and the now almost considered antique 15+ year-old “Undead,” the choice is clear with “Undead’s” superior campy, shoot’em, blood-splattering zombie mayhem.

For U.S. horror viewers looking for something that borders obscurity and might be out of their comfort zone, “Undead” has yet to make an appearance on Blu-ray, surprisingly enough. Only the Lionsgate DVD version is the known, and authorized, copy to be released in America. For those searching high and low, the all-region Blu-ray from the Australian distributor, Umbrella Entertainment, offers a 2-disc alternative with a new 1080p, Full High-Definition, release as volume # 12 on the company’s World on Film: Beyond Genres banner. The Aussie cult modern classic is presented in a widescreen 1.77:1 aspect ratio and with a runtime of 97 minutes, mirroring the U.S. DVD length which is a bit disappointing as longer cuts of the film do exist on other European releases. Day scenes play into an agreeable enough flat, more natural, color scheme with some serious grain in the 16mm film stock use, moving the photography toward a retro de-aged semblance courtesy of Spierigs’ cult film homage, but the darker scenes, mostly through a moderately intense blue filter, sees the unstable pixelation flareups, especially in black blank spaces and I’m taken aback by the lack of touchup to clear up any stylized misgivings. Umbrella offers two audio options – an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and an English 2.0 DTS-HD Stereo. Paired with an excellent soundtrack, the audio tracks do “Undead” complete justice without a smidgen of lossy fidelity. With plenty of action to go around – firearm discharges, explosions, zombie grunts/groans/sneers, and sundry of miscellaneous and oddball effects – each elemental output is distinct and clear. The dialogue renders nicely as well. Umbrella holds a few exclusive and rehashed special features that include an audio commentary from Peter and Michael Spierig and cinematographer Andy Strahorn, a raw video behind-the-scenes look on the set of “Undead,” the more production quality making of “Undead,” “Attack of the Undead” short films from the Spierig brothers that inspired the feature, home-made Dolly Video, the camera and makeup tests, still gallery, and theatrical trailer. Plus, an exclusive Simon Sherry illustrated art on the front covers of the snap case and the cardboard slipcover along with reversal DVD cover art and a second disc containing the complete 17-track soundtrack from Cliff Bradley. The rating is listed as an Australian certified MA 15+ for horror theme, medium level violence. which sounds severely tamer than it is for the more recent video nasty with all its zombies punching holes through hapless skulls, bloody brain munching, gooey face ripping, and severed torsos with spine exposures.

Evil Roars as a Monster Tsunami! “The Wave” review!

waveposter
Local geologist Kristian, of the small lake side town of Geiranger, and his family pack for their start of a new life in the big city where Kristian has offered a new job. But when seemingly insignificant activity in the Åkerneset mountain that surrounds the nestled Geiranger displays on first alert’s monitors, Kristian fears that his beloved town will be washed away by the possibility of an 80ft tsunami created by a mountain landslide. Unable to leave town, Kristian stays one more night; a night in which a landslide occurs, creating a massive Tsunami heading straight for the heart of Geiranger and Kristian only has 10 minutes before impact to alert the town and escape with his family.
wave
Norwegian’s 2015 natural disaster-thriller “The Wave” aka “Bølgen” is a landslide victory for director Roar Uthaug. “The Wave” funnels disaster into a single locality where as Hollywood tends to doll up and glossy disasters films, Roland Emmerich’s “2012,” Steve Quate’s “Into the Storm,” Brad Petyon’s 2015 “San Andreas” starring Dwayne Johnson just to name a few, that hyper peril the catastrophes into a global event. The focus becomes too spread out and the parlous state is diluted amongst the characters if the catastrophe is affecting everyone in the world. To pinpoint an area or a region isolates the drama and the thrills resulting in more of an impact upon the characters. On a global scale, characters can escape with ease because the space is vast and non-constricting, but in Geiranger (which is also a real place with the same very real threat), a fortress of mountains loom over the town, higher elevation is safe haven, and the possibility of escape is not so easily achievable.
wave3
Academy Award winning The Revenant star Kristoffer Joner plays the heroic lead in Kristian who fights and claws his way through disaster and destruction. Joner isn’t bulky like Dwayne Johnson, but has a more down to earth appeal that’s more appreciated than Hollywood’s grander is better ideal. But like the “San Andreas” conquerer, Kristian is a family man trying to save his wife and two children. Joner’s Kristian reminisces a much older disaster film involving a small town with a Mount St. Helens explosion. “The Wave” story has Kristian with inklings of forthcoming disaster and his fears are put aside in the interest of tourism. The 1997 Roger Donaldson film “Dante’s Peak” compares very similar with Pierce Bronson’s Harry Dolton has the same concerns, but the town leadership ignores the facts and only has dollar signs on the mind. When disaster strikes, both Kristian and Harry stay behind to save whomever they can.
wave2
The cast rounds out with a enormously talented cast in “Dead Snow’s” Ane Dahl Torp, Jonas Hoff Oftebro, and Fridtjov Såheim. Their working dynamics are accomplished by their individual challenges due in part of the threatening tsunami wave and the second half of obstacles that comes post-event to where Kristian and his wife Idun must now stay alive to find each other through a girth of destruction from high elevation to sea level. The script is penned by John Kåre Raake and Harald Rosenløw-Eeg and I praise their storytelling in creating worthy characters and developing the plausible cataclysm on paper.
wave4
The special effects rival the big boisterous effects of Hollywood. The menacing tsunami means business on screen was created under the supervision of Pål Morten Hverven and splayed on the natural blue hue heavy and tone setting cinematography of John Christian Rosenlund. Usually, giant waves in Hollywood just can’t cut that CGI feel. Uthaug’s wave crests with such realism it’s frightening and to experience our characters at the moment of impact makes you never want to go in the water again – forget about giant man-eating sharks, its giant killer waves you have to worry about. Uthaug puts the viewer right in the path of an immense wave, capturing all the fear and intensity and the breathtaking aspects of simulating a dire situation.

Magnolia Entertainment releases the Norwegian disaster flick in Theaters and On Demand. Magnolia courtesy sent me a screener link so I am unable to comment on the video and audio quality. Also, there were no extras included in the screener as it’s solely a feature. “The Wave” washes over Hollywood’s big budgeted calamity films that’s been released over the past decade and will have you holding your breath from start to finish and long after the wave has subsided.