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.

Next Gen to Regain What EVIL Took. “The Walking Dead: World Beyond” reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)

Ten years after the sky fell and the undead walked the Earthed, a new generation of survivors live comfortably behind gated walls at the Nebraska University campus.  Sisters Iris and Hope sometimes counteract each other’s position on campus hardly see eye-to-eye and, especially when dealing with the clandestine Civic Republic Military who has recruited their scientific father to do research in New York, but when secret messages about their father’s safety in potential jeopardy, Iris and Hope come together, along with campus outcasts Elton and Silas, to trek East on foot through the hordes of undead and the dangerous obstacles that separate them from their father.  The first generation to grow up in the apocalypse must learn to survive in the ravaged world of today and battle not only the dead and evad the mighty Civic Republic Military but also confront their individual haunting pasts. 

“The Walking Dead” executive showrunners Scott Gimple, Robert Kirkman, Brian Bockrath, Matthew Negrete and David Alpert envision a vast Walking Dead universe filled with endless storylines searing with undead mayhem on the precipice a human emotional depth charge explosion.  In 2020, a new and limited two-season spinoff series of AMC’s “The Walked Dead” lumbered forward with “The Walking Dead:  World Beyond” that aimed to explore the untapped emotive locomotive with teenagers having grown up naïve of usual adolescent behavior while also learning how to survive the outside world having been safe behind guarded walls most of their young lives living inside a smaller-scale social structure and guidelines like pre-apocalypse.  While “The Walked Dead” focused on the mid-Atlantic, stretching from George to West Virginia, and “Fear of the Walking Dead” went to the West Coast in Cali, down the border to Mexico, and finally landing near the Gulf coast, “World Beyond” takes the Pacific Northwest beginning inside Nebraska then stretching our main character’s journey to New York state, through the upper areas of what’s left of the country, but filming is actually shot in yours truly home state of Virginia surrounding the capital Richmond area.  Based not off the popular graphic novel series by Robert Kirkman, albeit with a few minor connections, “World Beyond” is a production of AMC, Idiot Box, Skybound Entertainment, Circle of Confusion, and Valhalla Entertainment.

A younger, fresher cast of faces grace “The Walking Dead:  World Beyond” with an innocence facade and juvenile decision making that lifts the series into that rite of passage in adolescent-hood where the children of the apocalypse must explore their own needs and desires as if the evolutionary behavior of growing up has never changed.  Only this time, someone’s trying to bite your face off or actually steal everything you possess off your back.  Aliyah Royale and “Unfriended: Dark Web’s” Alexa Mansour play the contrasting adopted sisters Iris and Hope with an underlining bond that’ll blossom sluggishly forward to season one’s conclusion.  Iris has always conformed to safe living behind the campus walls, but takes a page out of Hope’s book of radical ideas to venture out against policy to find their CRM recruited, and possibly distressed, father.  Through the series, I found Royale to be slightly unauthentically preachy in her delivery that never fastens an emotional connection to her saintly-turned-intrepid persona.  Hope has more complexity turmoil tinned up inside of her pulled and worked very delicately by Mansour in becoming the wild card amongst the group.  “Nine Perfect Strangers’s” Hal Cumpston and voice actor Nicolas Cantu join Iris and Hope as the reserved Silas and the ever hopeful pessimistic Elton, searching for a fresh start and answers to their philosophical questions.  Silas and Elton add more dramatic complications than friendly assistance on the journey with personal violent demons resurging out form Silas’s past to the death of Elton’s mother in which Hope hesitant disclosure of her involvement in the killing of his mother back during the first days of apocalypse sets the tension for a good portion of their travels.  As supporting characters, Silas and Elton also provide sub-storylines “The Walking Dead” thrives on along with two more characters, a pair of campus security details in Nico Tortorella (“Scream 4”) and Annet Mahendru (“The Americans”) playing close friends and colleagues Felix and Huck venturing out to rescue the four inexperienced youngsters from a fate far worse than being a gnawed on scrap of undead jerky. Mahendru’s pulled up hair, facial scar, and widely inflated draw is quite a far cry from her dolled up and partial nudity espionage performance in “The Americans,” a performance that makes her nearly unrecognizable, while Tortorella shoulders a lot of personal baggage in self worth and difficult promises to his makeshift family built on friendship – a regular theme throughout not just with Felix but with the youth group searching for answers.  “World Beyond” rounds out the cast with Ted Sutherland (“Fear Street:  Part Two” and “Part Three”), Natalie Gold (“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance”)), Joe Holt, Jelani Alladin, and Julia Ormond (“Inland Empire”) as the CRM spearheading a covert operation.

The enormity of the “TWD” universe and with end in sight of the undead not working the Earth would inevitably bring up the question of how young children would grow up and face old world teenager issues.  Their not-so-normal childhood forged when the sky fell, as phrase that use to describe the day the dead risen, has ultimately molded who they are when we meet the characters 10 years after that doomed day, but the series dives into backstories on the regular with flashes back, turning every episode of the 10 episode series into a non-linear segment, something that strays, but is not completely foreign, to the “TWD” universe.  Another aspect that’s different, and is terribly detrimental, is the lack of graphic bloody violence, especially against the living.  “World Beyond” tries very hard to shield the viewers from gruesome dispatching of the undead by offscreen kills to implied deaths and not until the latter half of the season does “World Beyond” begin to ooze out of it’s conservative shell as the story becomes more complicated and into more adult themes from lies and betrayals to violence and loss, a parallel of the passage from childhood to adulthood when reality of the real world hits you in the face.  What does stay true to it’s origins us the same is the overgrown sets, the detailed decay, and same beautiful morbid imagery that really compliments to effort in production value and budget.  My only gripe is that many of the actors look fresh out of the shower with perfect hair and loads of makeup in a scenario that would harried and haggard any individual. The story also connects to it’s more fierce bigger brothers with a broader introduction of the Civic Republic Military whose symbol shows up in “The Walking Dead” when whisking Rick Grimes away in one of their helicopters and also in “Fear of the Walking Dead” in the troops who were the bite impervious suits, sleek black helmets, and the assault rifles with dual piercing bayonets. “World Beyond” builds upon their mysterious nature by giving an wider, longer look into their enigmatic, cavillation building window.

With the series finale, aka season two, in full swing this fall at AMC, Acorn Media International concurrently delivers the first season onto an UK 2-disc Blu-ray. The region 2, PAL encoded, BD50s are presented in a televised widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio with a total runtime of 453 minutes. Not discernable issues with the digital image that renders virtually the same veracious tone as the other two “Walking Dead” series with “World Beyond” being a tinge bit more colorful as if the saturation provided more youthful characteristics. There really is some nice imagery happening in certain episodes, such as in episodes “Brave” and “The Blaze of Gory,” that work the dead into being connected with the surrounded elements as if the dead are now the more natural bond with Earth. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound audio channels with clarity and equally amongst the five points. Dialogue is clean and unobstructed with a balanced breadth of depth and range amongst the various scenarios of death and deception they stumble into. English subtitles are also optional. Bonus features include A Look at the Series that dives into what “World Beyond” aims to accomplish with a fresh young cast, A Meet the Character segment that, obliviously, dives into the actors going over their character profiles, and the Making of Season 1, split into two parts with one on each disc, with the cast and creators provided a deeper understanding of character headspaces. “World Beyond” is rated 15 for the violence, some language, and some gore. Diluted decimation of the dead with a softer complexion in an overall comparison, “The Walking Dead: World Beyond” is the naïve little brother of two juggernauting series macheting a path of blood and guts for the less traumatic to have a spot in the world. Yet, the sluggish first few episodes clears out for a much more palatable and gripping series that we’ve come to expect from a universe built on rotting corpses and collective violence.

Catch Up on “The Walking Dead: World Beyond” season 1.  Purchase the Blu-ray/DVD here!

In a Remote Australian Town, EVIL Can Hear You Scream. “The Dustwalker” reviewed! (Umbrella Entertainment / DVD)

A quaint, outback town become the epicenter of a mysterious, otherworldly contagion that infects lifeforms to become mindless carriers, targeting loved ones for senseless, uncontrollable violence.  In her last days as sheriff of the town she grew up in before moving to the big city, Jolene must piece together the puzzle of last night’s mysterious meteor that crashed on the outskirts of town having an correlating connection between the town’s sudden communications blackout and the unknown epidemic that has physically and mentally transformed the townsfolk into a vicious, violent horde.   Jolene bands together the remaining survivors when the town is overrun by the zombie-like residents and tries to organize an escape, but a large dust storm walls them in not letting them flee to safety, while a large subterranean creature burrows through the dusty landscape intent on searching for the infected.

Sandra Sciberras’ “The Dustwalker” brings big universe problems to small town Australia as an alien tainted corruption courses violence through the veins of secluded outback locals with a humungous extraterrestrial on a raging prowl.  Shot in the shire of Cue, Western Australia, Sciberras’ written-and-directed Sci-Fi terror cataclysm of zombies and monstrous creature showcases some of Cue’s unique historical and architectural buildings and natural landscapes landmarked around the microscopic population of a few hundred people of the dust bowl region, creating a isolating apprehension of endless nothingness when hell breaks loose on Earth.  “The Dustwalker” is the first thrilling genre film outside the drama and comedy context for the director, creating new challenges for the seasoned director to incorporate monsters and mayhem into the fold, while also serving as co-producer, alongside Megan Wynn and Grace Luminato, in this female steered production under Sciberras and Luminato’s Three Feet of Film banner and financed by a conglomerate of Head Gear Films, Kreo Films, Metrol Technology, and SunJive Studios.

With a strong female contingent behind the camera, there is also one in front of the camera beginning with Jolene Anderson (“Prey”) as longstanding Sheriff Joanna Sharp who’s ready to leave her hometown in the dust, but before disembarking on her new big city adventure, the municipal officer has a showdown with a plague not of this Earth.  Anderson is sided by “The Hunger Games’” Stef Dawson and “Wolf Creek’s” Cassandra Magrath, playing the roles of little sister, Samantha, and the local geologist, Angela, respectively.  Aside from the sheriff rounding up an uninfected posse to arm and fight their neighbors plagued by an insidious infection, Samantha and Angela rarely contribute to the cause with their subtle character terms.  Samantha cowers mostly behind her big sister’s shield and gun, never adding substance to the sibling dynamic, sidelining Dawson’s confident performance.  Subjecting Samantha’s young son, Joanna’s nephew, into harm’s way would have affably weaved an obligatory edge-of-the-seat motivation toward family tension and desperation into the story that’s very honed in on a small town framework.   On the opposite side, Angela runs wild around town and is continuously depended upon by the story to be the scientific expert, though displays very little scientific knowledge, who discovers the crash site crater in solid rock and is willing risktaker with experimenting driving into the dust storm wall.  Despite her character’s poor introduction and setup who literally appears out of nowhere, Magrath’s outlier enthusiasm forces her character more into the narrative than otherwise innately.   The poorly written Samantha and Angela character are completely overshadowed by Joanna’s second in command, and the town’s only other cop, Luke, played with a righteously thin long mustache and scruffy mullet on Richard Davies.  Davies entrenches a consistency that’s present throughout “The Dustwalker’s” fluid scenario as the causal, yet dedicated, man of the law that compliment’s Anderson’s butt out the door Sheriff who has to stick around a few hours more to see the disturbance come to a head.  A miscellany of townsfolk partition side stories for the sheriff to investigate, involving a portion of the film’s remaining cast with Talina Naviede, Harry Greenwood, Ben Mortley, Ryan Allen, and Oscar Harris.

I have a very big problem with Sciberra’s “The Dustwalker.”  A problem that is approx. 16 years the film’s senior and has invaded a portion in my brain that is already occupied, trying to evict the current and rightful tenant that has paid, in full, dues of being the blend of sci-fi and horror I want domiciling my mental vacancy.  “The Dustwalker” follows nearly an identical story path as the 2003, Michael and Peter Spierig film, “Undead,” that follows a small Australian town under siege by a meteorite brought plague that turns residents into flesh eating zombies with something more obscure transpiring around them.  Sounds familiar, right?  If not, scroll up to the top and re-read the synopsis for “The Dustwalker” once again.  Now, I won’t slip spoilers into this review to explain exactly how “Undead” and “The Dustwalker” are undoubtedly two peas from the same pod, but minor tweaks here and there issue obvious differences in names, places, and villainous traits, but the rudimentary bone structure mirrors strongly “Undead” so conspicuously that “The Dustwalker,” after some contemplative comparisons, leaves a sour taste.  As for the film itself, the first 20 minutes of “The Dustwalker’s” first act compellingly sets up caught off guard characters being mixed into an unknown and threatening situation that is well-crafted with bread crumb clues provided to the characters as well as the audience, but the second acts staggers through principle character awareness with a stillness in their too-little-too-late reactions from being completely ignorant of the facts that something terribly wrong is happening and this leads into the unfolding of the third act which divulges the “Undead” echo.  The mindless local horde have a malformed screech producing from an abnormal elongated jaw, are speedier than Speedy Gonzales, and jump higher than a professional basketball player, but their purpose for at first targeted then randomized violence has an unclear schematic other than being driven by the ooze from the space. Correlation between the substance controlling the townsfolk and the oversized camel cricket with a scorpion tail and can breath fire fails to materialize purpose, especially when great dust walls, expanding as far as the eye can see, are formed to keep things nicely contained that provides one certainty – there is an alien intelligence at work here.

From out of this world and into your living room, Umbrella Entertainment releases “The Dustwalker” onto DVD home video. The NTSC formatted, region 4 release runs at 95 minutes and is rated MA15+ for strong horror, themes, and violence (and language if you’re easily offended by “what the fuck was that?” line stuck on repeat by the principle characters). Presented in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, image consistency holds throughout and really develops that dusty, outback setting with a bunch of aerial shots of the rocky terrain and spread apart shanties to tune up the isolation factor. David Le May’s blend of hard and natural lighting adds to emptiness as long shadows have no structures to bounce off on. However, some of May’s shooting techniques on filming the running infected tilted into being too cleanly staged that often downplayed the tingling fear from the organic full speed sprint of a crazed person. “The Dustwalker” standalones as a feature without any bonus materials on the DVD which isn’t atypical of many Umbrella Entertainment releases. There were also no bonus scenes during or after the credits. Supporting Sandra Sciberras’ “The Dustwalker” has been nothing less than controversial for the soul due chiefly against the derivative storyline from a better assembled modern classic that’s full of gore, fun, and, at that time, an ingenious concept, but “The Dustwalker” clone feels pieced together by the leftover scraps of an august predecessor.

Own “The Dustwalker” on DVD!

EVIL’s All Inclusive Resort. “Paradise Z” reviewed! ((Yet) Another Distribution Company / Digital Screener)

Sylvia and Rose are living the life of harmonious luxury together on a beautiful and serene Thailand resort. There’s only one tiny problem with their first-class accommodations: the world surrounding them is overrun by a population of rabidly crazed zombies. After establishing a rigorous routine of perimeter checks and pool time, food and gas are running dangerous low to keep a secluded and safe survival lifestyle sustained, leaving them no choice but to venture out to nearby villages in search for fuel, but the smallest of sounds could invite the hungry dead to storm their idyllic retreat. No matter how careful scouring outside the gated walls of isolated tranquility, the zombies’ insidious ways infest as bad resorts guests that turn Sylvia and Rose’s make-due habitation to their prospective tomb when all routes of escape are foiled by flesh-feasting zombies. The couple must rely on each other for survival.

There’s trouble in paradise from Wych Kaosayananda’s melancholic-apocalypticism horror “Paradise Z” focusing on two young women, romantically brought together by undead circumstances, to outlive the encompassing fatalist outlook. Marketed in the United Kingdom as a “Lesbian Zombie Apocalypse Gore-fest” and having been through the wringer with title changes from the original title of “Two of Us” to “Dead Earth,” as called in the States, the uptrend to incorporate the Z in any zombie film has been a musky motif ever since Max Brooks introduced the epithet for his 2006 zombie apocalypse novel, “World War Z,” yet that doesn’t stop writers Kaosayananda and Steve Poirier in dishing out a sanguine trilogy with “Paradise Z” laying the ground work as the first installment and “The Driver,” the third installment, following suit shortly after wrapping production on “Paradise Z.” With the second film, “The Rider,” is still in pre-production and the shot films released out of sequential order, Kaosayananda’s unconventional trilogy methods caters to a seemingly budget and location ready-timeline to which characters from all three films will interconnect the dissociated titles under the filmmaker’s self-funded production company, Kaos Entertainment.

Throughout the entire 1-hour and 35-minute runtime, there are only five speaking roles with three of those roles rarely comprising of about four minutes of combined dialogue, assigning by default much of the chitchat the principle characters, Sylvia and Rose. For the first nine and half minutes, Milena Gorum and Alice Tantayanon don’t say a single word as the day’s routine of waking up, showering, topless swimming, poolside yoga, lunch, and other recreational activities dominate the setup of quietude. When Gorum (as Sylvia) and Tantayanon (Rose) do utter a few words, they’re muttered projection is nearly unintelligible with little effort into the purpose of speaking. Born in Los Angeles and now, predominately, a New York city fashion model, Gorum has come across my radar before with a bit Succubus role in the 2017, Cleopatra Films produced demonic thriller, “The Black Room,” opposite Lin Shaye, Lukas Hassel, and Natasha Henstridge and though “Paradise Z” provides Gorum with her first lead role that showcases her immense beauty but limited acting range. The same wooden expressive opinion can be said for the little known Alice Tantayanon whose pigeonholed herself into a Kaosayananda celluloid corner with her only credits being three of his films. Sylvia and Rose rarely separate from each other sides, being lovers noodled into a pot of thick zombie soup, in a rigid position of affixed dynamics difficult to gauge how either one of them is handling the situation. When a show of complexity is finally unveiled, such as when Sylvia murders in cold blood two other survivors and turns to Rose to say it’s better this way, those actions somewhere along the story from there on out should be dissected in explaining just why lacerating two men to death is a good thing. Of course, we can all assume the survival of the fittest and selfish obvious reason that two rugged men are looking for more than just a box of Twinkies and an unopened can of goulash substitute from two good-looking ladies outside the safety of their homemade stronghold; yet, doesn’t answer where the killer instincts root and Kaosayananda shelves that bit of human nature when the zombie caca spreads throughout the resort upon their return that also evaporates a steamy sex scene and inklings of frustration for their dwindling supplies and mundane routine symbolizing an inching wedge between them. “Ghost House’s” Michael S. New rounds out the cast the DJ, an on-air beacon of infected information.

An Elysian-fabricated getaway resort can be an ideal hunker down for an apocalypse of the zombie kind. Mega resorts have a large footprint that are usually gated and fenced, plenty of food and lodging to accommodate a small village, and an escape route from the beach to the open waters where we all know zombies can’t swim. That works here for “Paradise Z” and almost plays like a pillar character that embeds the women survivalists from going on walkabouts, creating a real sense of comfortable isolation and simmering paranoia of the outside world. Kaosayananda, who can’t quite get the bad taste that lingers from out his mouth with the panned Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu starring critically slammed and chaos-riddled film “Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever,” left himself to his own devices in trying to rebuild his career shooting in Thailand, but “Paradise Z” crumbles as a stepping stone trilogy that lacks proper severe conflict of placing the heroines into a tight, perhaps inescapable, spot. What the couple have to escape from are the wild, warm flesh-craving leftovers of a plagued mankind, springing to a sprint at the first audible or visual morsel that tickles the eardrums, but the patchwork caked-face, grayscale zombies don’t render the likes from the bygone Golden Age of Horror, or even the current Golden Age of Modern Horror for that matter, in what looks and feels like cheap knockoffs of the genuine fictional man-eaters by rouge applying professionals. What Kaosayananda has made here is a two-tone, straight-forward, out-smart the dumb zombie breed of uninspired mirth, burdening the actresses to shoulder the story on looks alone rather than include emotional depth oppressed by the Z-factor.

Spend your vacation in a halcyon “Paradise Z” exclusively releasing on UK digital platforms come the new year on January 4th from the marginalized advocating distributor (Yet) Another Distribution Company. In regards to cinematography, presented in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio, Kaosayananda safely approaches most stories set in Thailand with a warm, yellowish glaze overtop the lush tropic vegetation, but, aside from a class I rapid stream the women decide to cool off in on a whim, without weapons and, basically, in their skivvies, outside the resort walls, there’s a limit to the Thai landscapes that doesn’t reach beyond the resort perimeter sufficing to just the surrounding allure rather than cutting in scenes of breath-taking grandeur. Kaosayananda occasionally reduces the frames per second to emphasize certain scenes with slow motion, such as with Gorum and Tatayanon’s topless make out session or when the two are back-to-back unloading an unlimited amount of ammo against a rushing horde with every shot being a fatal one; the silver lining here is the scene is at least aesthetically cool to watch. However, once again, Sylvia and Rose are given winning hands to play without as much showing their cards that work backwards their highly skilled background of arms fire. With the digital screener, there were no bonus material or bonus scenes included. No need to check the yelp reviews on holiday spot as “Paradise Z” is a four star resort with one star performances battling an underwhelming, minimum gory zombie contingent without dutifully jeopardizing survivors enough for the sake of gratefully being alive.

The Dead Don’t Stay Dead in EVIL Burial Grounds! “Pet Sematary Two” reviewed! (Scream Factory / Blu-ray)


After the accidental and traumatizing death of his beautiful actress mother, happening right before his eyes, Jeff Matthews and his veterinarian father move from Los Angeles to his mother’s quaint hometown of Ludlow, Maine to start over. The father and son are met with small town hostility from an arrogant, abusive Sheriff and the high school bully, but the ease of settling into their new surroundings with a new veterinarian business going well and Jeff gaining friendship with the Sheriff’s stepson, Drew, provides some inkling of comfort after their loss. When the Sheriff’s hot-headed temper murders Drew’s dog, the disconsolate Drew, along with Jeff, buries his beloved best friend in a sacred Indian burial ground with a smidgen of hope of the dog’s return, as the town’s urban legends suggest, but the dog becomes the first to return in a series of deaths and catastrophic returns that stagger to a family reuniting climax Jeff and his father won’t ever forget.

With Stephen King removing his name and separating himself from the overall project, the sequel to the 1989 “Pet Sematary” raised a few eye brows from the general public, and I’m sure some anxious investors, of how just would a non-adapted sequel to one of Stephen King popular novels would pan out come release. “Pet Sematary Two,” released three years after first film, would follow the predeceasing story a few years later with an entirely new cast of characters while still evoking the presence of the first film to linger about with director Mary Lambert to return to the director’s chair and helm a script by a relatively unknown writer, Richard Outten. Yet, Lambert’s return didn’t necessary equate to the reimplementing a broody, ominous, darkness facade as the well versed music video and television director flipped the script on a film she might not have any control over albeit financial backers did. Instead, “Pet Sematary Two” garnishes a scoffing rock’n’roll polarity that’s a raiper-like obverse approach of merriment morbidity doused with flammable fun and demented delight.

Hot off the presses of his first major role as a young John Connor fighting man-killing machines from the future in “Terminator 2: Judgement Day,” Edward Furlong stars as the scathingly broody Jeff Matthews. While Jeff Matthews isn’t as punk, off the street, as the delinquent turned hero John Connor, Furlong is about to turn Jeff back into being a kid with real life problems such as bullying, father-son quarrels, and dealing with the death of a parent. That screeching cry, those sunken eyes, and that bad boy attitude from “T2: Judgement Day” convinced thousands of young teenage girls that Edward Furlong was a desired heartthrob and “Pet Sematary Two” continued to showcase those attributes even further. However, in my humble opinion, Clancy Brown is the real heartthrob of the sequel with his over-the-top performance in the abrasive Sheriff Gus. The New England twang instantly sells Gus’s malignancy and crimson temper without even lifting one ill-fitting moral finger. From another King adaptation in “Shawshank Redemption” to being a bug hunter Commander Zim in “Starship Troopers,” Brown’s distinguishable deep and resonating voice, square jaw, and tall with broad shoulders has made the veteran actor the picture of law enforcement and military type and while “Pet Sematary Two” played into that typecast, Brown, who didn’t want to venture into horror, saw the laughter in the darkness and came out on top with a stellar exaggerated and unforgettable Sheriff Gus as a full blown undead maniac. Furlong and Brown stands out immensely over the rest but the remainder of the roles are just a grand with performances from “Revenge of the Nerds'” Anthony Edwards, Jared Rushton, Darlene Fluegel (“Freeway”), Jason McGuire, and Sarah Trigger.

“Pet Sematary Two” might have been profane against all that is (un)holy from the Stephen King’s novel and Lambert’s first film, but truth be told, the sequel is a whole lot of fun, a shell of the name worth watching, and provides substantial brutality with gory leftovers including skinning stark white rabbits, shredding the face off a young punk with the back wheel of a motocross bike, and an electrocution that ends with a head eruption. The Steven Johnson effects had range and bite, but unfortunately, the full brunt of the “Videodrome” and “Night of the Demons” effects artist’s work was perhaps not entirely showcased with some hard cuts to obtain a R rating, even unfortunately keeping the age-old rating with the new collector’s edition from Scream Factory that’s also the feature’s Blu-ray debut. Lambert certainly wanted the sequel to bask in a different kind of darkness that’s more comedic than gloomy and the schism between the two gulfs compares like a night and day, but the core principles of what makes “Pet Sematary” “Pet Sematary” remains faithfully intact. In hindsight, the sequel should have been labeled something else other than “Pet Sematary.”

Back from the physical media graveyard comes Paramount Pictures’ “Pet Sematary Two” onto a full 1080p, High Definition, collector’s edition Blu-ray from Scream Factory, hitting retailers February 25th. The release sports a new 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative and presented in the original aspect ratio, 1.85:1 widescreen. The fact the source material remains unblemished becomes a plus that renders the newly scanned transfer with complementary darker shades of Autumn foliage and outerwear, delineating the burial ground and town nicely, and offering a range over hues that amplifying the perilous circumstances ahead. Still leaving some natural grain, the scan chisels through the softer portions and really does offer some nice details toward facial finishes, even in the dog’s mangy and matted blood stained fur. A few select poor edit choices, such as slow motion techniques, counteract against the detail naturally by disrupting the frames per second and causing a bit of a smoother finish than desired. If the English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio could be described as one thing, that would be a menagerie of ambient gratification. The crinkling of leaves and the subtle cries of wildlife really set the primal and augury atmosphere. Dialogue clearly comes through and Mark Governor’s score shutters as a gothic western, an oddity for sure, mixed with wolf howls and Native American percussions, that fits the in the film’s black argyle pattern. All new special features accompany the single disc release, sheathed in an Laz Marquez illustrated cardboard cover, including a new audio commentary by director Mary Lambert, new interviews with Edward Furlong, Clancy Brown, Jason McGuire, special effectors advisor Steven Johnson, and composer Mark Governor, and a standard edition theatrical trailer. While not a fully uncut, “Pet Sematary Two” for the first time on Blu-ray is paramount to the genre the feature serves, swerving far from the antecedent, and evolving into a promising guilty pleasure.

Zowie Wowie! Check Out Pet Sematary Two on Blu-ray come Feb. 25th!