EVIL Waited 30 Years. Now It’s Unleashed! “Zombie Rampage II” reviewed! (Wild Eye Releasing / DVD)


A zombie ravaged world divides survivors into gangs. In this case, two warring rivals, a group of decent folk versus cannibalistic savages, spar over little territory left untouched by the undead. Seeking tactical advantage, the contentious factions either scheme a plan for appropriating the land while the other recruits and trains an inexpert survivalist to better their odds against one another. Leave it to humanity to still be the most dangerous animal on Earth during a zombie apocalypse when an armed showdown opens the doors for death and the undead to wreak havoc on the best and worst parts of being human.

Full disclosure. I have never seen or even sought out Todd Sheets’ renown direct-to-video, zombie epic, “Zombie Rampage,” from 1989. So, when the opportunity came around to check out the sequel, “Zombie Rampage II,” presented on a Wild Eye Releasing DVD, I jumped at the chance to witness the anticipated follow-up despite the sequel not being steered by Sheets himself. The “Bonehill Road” director’s involvement extends to the credit of producer and co-writer of the aborted 1990 sequel, which had unearthed VHS footage repurposed for the 2019 release, while Alexander Brotherton makes his directorial and script debut the new material and Mike Hellman and Charles Gooseman, who were a heavily involved duo of the original discovered footage, are credited as co-directors. In the last few years, Brotherton’s been a staple of Sheets’ films in some skeleton cast and crew capacity from the satirically bonkers “Clownado” to the narcotically world toppling chaos of “Dreaming Purple Neon” and with full confidence in Brotherton, therein lies sanctions for the filmmaker to pay homage to the 1989 original with its own shot-on-video rendition that maintains that gritty VHS integrity, continuing to be a financial churned out by Todd Sheets’ production company, Extreme Entertainment, which has been goring out content since 1988 and that makes “Zombie Rampage” and “Zombie Rampage II” larger than life, honorary bookends to Sheets’ continued indie success.

Cast is comprised of Sheets’ entourage of actors and actresses, starting off with Antwoine Steele whose reprising the afro-sporting, smooth talking, lady loving, ass-kicking Durville Sweet from “Zombie Bloodbath 3: Zombie Armageddon.” Steele steals the show with his indifferently foul mouth Sam Jackson approach that somehow manages to spin into a favorable personality trait. Another show stealer is Dilynn Fawn Harvey serving a plate of scantily-cladded roughness with the sexually suggestive Hot Stuff. Harvey jumps at the opportunity to show off her chest again while being the sultry lass who never has to be the dame in distress. Both Steele and Harvey are bigger than life on screen and that trend continues with other key players in Jack Mccord as the cross-dressed Mr. Hyde, leader of the cannibal gang, Eve Smith as an androgynous warrior for the good side, Jay Perkaple as the inept survivor recruit, and Skyler Roberts as a psychotic cannibal with a severed finger partner in crime. The supporting cast is made up of Daniell Bell, Carol Word, and Jenny McCarty.

“Zombie Rampage II” is a rough, SOV mix of black-to-satirical humor and a healthy amount of zombie carnage that isn’t a direct sequel. Don’t expect the carnage to be overwhelming complete and gory as the low budget bullet flatlines the realism of any kind of flesh-eating horde violence, but that lack of zombie realism is to be expected from the kitschy quality that seals in air tight the stank of the 30-year-old VHS predecessor. Yes, mistakes and miscues will be a natural condition of a penny-pinched film, such as a conspicuous train passing by in the background during a supposed zombie desolated world, fight sequences that will be hilariously and horrendously overstated, and the gore would be nothing more than quick explosive flashes of red matted paint and be about as Wharferin thin to the point of being limpid clear. Yet, what bothers me the most out of everything is the drifting flimsy and anorexic plot that initially emphases on finding Stewart and his assimilation into the gang of well-versed survivalist, but then grossly upends more for a battle of territory between gang one and gang two with a final showdown involving Durville swinging a colossally fluorescent, two-sided dildo as a num-chuk and the bashing of heads in with foam covered kids’ toy bat that you can purchase offline for $10. There’s a crude and abnormal sense of poetry in that scene involving an adult’s orifice stuffing sex toy with a children’s athletic plaything being combative instruments in the same scene, but for the sake of not going off on a tangent, “Zombie Rampage II” bares little plot growth that flaunts more tasteless humor than rampaging a zombie chorus and the destruction that leaves in it’s wake.

For fans sworn to be loyal acolytes of Todd Sheets, take a long, hard gander at “Zombie Rampage II” on DVD home video from Wild Eye Releasing on their Raw and Extreme banner. Those who’ve waited for a sequel will be pleasantly surprised in how the video presentation and quality are comprised of two similar but distinct formats with a letterbox 16:9 in the recently shot video that bookends the letterbox 4:3 footage from 1990. Both formats are heavily lossy in providing a detailed presentation and express vapid color that comes to not surprise inside a production value cost little-to-nothing at all. “Zombie Rampage II” definitely harks back to the demeanor of a shot on video film where quality is but an intangible illusion compared to the unfathomable gore that fills the quality caliber void, but to my shock, there is just not enough fake blood in the sequel to justify a purchase of a subpar quality pardon. The English language single channel stereo output caters to the same lossy conditions of a low bitrate amplitude with a stiffened dialogue track and poorly edited stock foley inserts. Again, all telltale attributes of an indie video recorded classic that’ll certainly get SOV and Todd Sheets’ fans rocks off. The only special feature amongst a model static menu available is the film’s trailer, but the visceral DVD cover, distributed by MVDVisual, has a milky eyed zombie grotesquely chowing down viscera that’s very poignant of a Raw and Extreme title and very welcoming, eye-catching package feature. There are bonus features before and after the feature with a fake trailer for “Durville Sweet and the Lost Temple of Ass Pirates” and bloopers during the rolling credits. “Zombie Rampage II” covers 30-years of ground, breaking the laws of time, and giving retrograde VHS and Todd Sheets aficionados what they want – blood, boobs, and butchery.

“Zombie Rampage II” on DVD!

Nihilism Brings Out the Evil in All of Us! “The Vicious Sweet” reviewed!


Popular B-movie scream queen, Tyler Phoenix, just walked out belligerently from the latest screening for her new schlocky horror film. Fed up with worrisome managers, pressuring producers, and hot-headed directors, the leading lady glazes over her career as the past creeps back into her life, sourly affecting the platonic, one-sided relationship with her boyfriend. Tyler’s downward spiral toward the depths of depression and frustration attractively consider suicide by pills, but when Tyler awakes, she finds herself handcuffed to a bed with a mysterious masked man looming over her. What the man wants is unclear to Tyler, but one thing is absolute, he’s an adoring fan of hers who seemingly knows more about Tyler than she knows about herself. Hours seem like days, days seem like weeks, and weeks seem like months as Tyler is continuously drugged and asked personal questions about her past and about the disparage campaign to capsize her life. Tyler begins to hallucinate and can’t tell what’s real or not as she confronts internal demons while being completely forthcoming to her dangerously devoted captor.

“The Vicious Sweet” captures visceral surreal existentialism from Sub Rosa Studio’s own Ron Bonk in the shoes of writer and director. The 1997 thriller is a cinematic blend of psychological horror, self-deprivation, and coming to terms with one’s own identity. All shot on analog video and on a micro budget, Bonk’s able to depict dreamlike scenes hauntingly and pragmatically without the assistance of costly visual effects that often cheap in appearance on video transfers. Shot in Syracuse, New York, “The Vicious Sweet” could be set anywhere, USA and with locations that set the main characters in close knit quarters for nearly most of the 90 minute runtime, the “House Shark” is able to fashion an under the radar overwrought mystery. Though the SRS Cinema retro DVD cover is lustfully tasteful with an illustrative Tyler Phoenix handcuffed to the bed and in her underwear, “The Vicious Sweet” isn’t about abduction for sexual exploitation. Yes, one scene does represent the DVD cover; however, Bonk’s story tickles the frayed and blurry realm of the mortal coil that can push the limits of not only the story, but also Bonk’s ability to explore that plane of existence that inhibits zombies, large rat-faced looking creatures, and the intangibility of time.

Tyler Phoenix whirls as an angsty actress with a chip on her shoulder and a metaphorical duffle bag full of internalized secrets. Sasha Graham straps herself right into the role, exhorting all the right kinds of anger and cynicism into her seemingly successful character’s career. Graham has seen her fair share of mid to late 1990’s lowballed b-movie films, such as having a substantial role in “Polymorph” directed by “The Dead Next Door” director J.R. Bookwalter and in “Bloodletting” helmed by the “Witchhouse” screenwriter Matthew Jason Walsh, but “The Vicious Sweet” marks the debut of leading lady, a true scream queen role, and Graham wears it well. She’s complimented by the debut performance of the late Bob Licata as the mysterious tormentor who goes by the name of Grimaldi, one of the performers from Phoenix’s early, short-stinted porn career. Grimaldi, who repeatedly notes, is a part of Phoenix and, for a lack of a better term, symbolizes the actresses betwixt past and present on a conscious level of trying to make sense of all that’s entangled in that screwed up and complex mind of hers. Licata, in regards to his character, is cold and consistent, playing the act of a passionately solemn and unpredictable serrated fan hellbent on trying to expose Tyler Phoenix’s true self. “The Vicious Sweet” also stars Jason Wicks, Theresa Constantine (“Bloodletting”), Jeffrey Forsyth (“Gut-Pile”), Al Marshall, Steve Wood, and Jeff Jones.

The story progression through Tyler’s figuratively personal hell hardly goes stagnant despite, for most of the her status, being manacled to a bed for relentless interrogation. Tyler’s put through a variant ringer of drug induced hallucinations and cerebral caprices and much of the credit, alongside Sasha Graham, should go to writer-director Ron Bonk who is able to translate from script to screen his vision. Contrary to the restraints of a SOV production, the creativity of Bonk’s camera work in masking, in more ways than one, Grimaldi’s stoic façade and centralizing Tyler’s and her experiences is evocative , the antiquated practical effects are still appositely poignant, and the diverse content holds “The Vicious Sweet” to a larger scale than the finances suggests. I’m not trying to elevate Ron Bonk’s film up to being the Holy Grail of low budget horror held in the vibrancy of limelight, but in my opinion, to dismiss the appreciation for producing something out of nothing would be a tremendous disservice to all auteurs. “The Vicious Sweet” leaves us with an open for interpretation perspective that somehow manages a jaw-dropping mound of shock and perplexity, nothing short of the likes of Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” ending.

The SRS Cinema DVD home video release of Ron Bonk’s “The Vicious Sweet” is presented region free, 1.33:1 aspect ratio from a S-VHS Betacam SP, that mostly result with black bars on each side of your 16:9 HD television. The limited edition Blu-ray is marketed as remastered, but the DVD image quality is awfully poor from the analog master transfer and doesn’t seem to have a smidgen of touch up where marco-blocking artifacts and aliasing run rampant. What also doesn’t help matters is the faded coloring and the blacks nearly void of any shape of definition as if you’re in a bright room and the light is shutoff and nothing but a blurry black void is present between the light and the time you’re eyes can adjust. The English language lossy 1.0 uncompressed mono track is frail and shaky, but still manage to push through without an obfuscate obstacles. Dialogue cozily lies low on the audio totem pole and the range and depth lack during more fantastical moments of zombies and monster swarming about. Bonus features include a director commentary, a director and Sasha Graham commentary, and SRS Cinema trailers. The best DVD feature, along with the film itself, is the illustrated, VHS letterbox DVD cover of the aforesaid Tyler Phoenix beautifully bound to the bed with candles lit by her table side and dressed scantily with a nice Please Be Kind, Rewind cherry on top. Despite the technical woes, “The Vicious Sweet” remedies the longstanding misinformed notion that independent b-horror movies are a hack and burden to the cinema fuselage with vast imagination and sturdy ambition.

The Vicious Sweet DVD is a must buy!