Zombie Creeping Flesh

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Sometimes, you just have to go Italian. Whether it be Ice Cream, football, or movies, Italy has an exotic credibility which other Countries lack – a cultural history going back thousands of years showcasing some of the greatest minds, innovations, and pieces of art our species has ever known. Which brings me aptly to Zombie Creeping Flesh, as seminal a slice of outspoken, challenging genre fiction as you’ll ever see.

Or perhaps, more accurately, a flaccid turd. See, sometimes you go Italian and you remember that at least Hollywood’s horror efforts of the 80s had a budget, maybe a professional actor or two, and didn’t rely on whatever passed for Google translate in pre-Internet days. Zombie Creeping Flesh cashes in on many other stronger Italian gore movies – Zombie Flesh Eaters being one of the most obvious flag-bearers – while borrowing liberally from Romero’s masterworks. It’s a mess by anyone’s standards, and the use of several Goblin tracks taken from other movie soundtracks simply serves to remind you that you could be watching those movies instead.

Still, there are positives. credible and otherwise. Zombie Creeping Flesh (also known as Hell Of The Living Dead; also known as Virus), is helmed by Bruno Mattei who had a varied career in Cinema by the time he took on this project. Known to horror fans for his Nazi exploitation films, he would eventually become known for dubious unofficial remakes and sequels and spins of Hollywood hits – Shocking Dark Terminator 2, Robowars, Strike Commando, and of course the ever delightful Women In Prison sub-genre. You’d think some coherence of plot and some degree of care, or at least the ability to shoot another take if one of the zombie extras was snickering clearly in the background would have been borne out of his years of experience, but no. The film leaps about in time and from scene to scene without explanation, weaving through its bare-bones plot with the grace of a turd dropping from ass to bowl. Somewhere in there is an admittedly interesting environmental subtext, but it’s hardly Romero level satire. What we have is a bunch of scientists causing a zombie outbreak, and the military and journalists caught between trying to contain it, report on it, and escape from it – and even that brief sentence is more complex than the plot. As if to highlight this fact, a notable slice of the running time is taken up by largely unrelated scenes of animals running, hunting and assorted tribal and wildlife footage – surprisingly it isn’t even Mondo stuff, just generic ‘oh look, an elephant’.

So we start with a faintly amusing scene of Scientists realising they have unleashed some toxic gas which turns you into a flesh eating zombie – it amounts basically to someone (a rat) pressing the wrong button. Within moments there is shouting and running and sudden neck chewing. The Scientists are overrun. We skip confusingly to a random mansion where a group of the least threatening hippy-terrorists this side of the Gluten Free Coffee Shop down my road are holding some people hostage. I have no idea who the hostages are, and neither it seems do our gun-totin’ heroes who blast there way in to the room in cavalier fashion, brandishing their firearms in the most bizarre and ineffective way I have ever seen. I think the terrorists wanted the Government/Scientists in the opening scene to stop polluting the world or cutting down trees or something, but it’s not very clear. We then skip to Papa New Guinea where our elite team of 4 marines (who look like went for a few pints down their local in 1976 and never left) because they have to investigate why the Scientists haven’t been communicating, but rather than land at the camp the have to trek for days through the jungle first? By this point I’d lost track of what was going on. They meet a Journalist lady and her porn star cameraman who are maybe doing a report on the Scientists. Zombies attack and rather than leave immediately, they head to the Plant.

There are several bizarre and hilarious moments throughout – in fact most of it is bizarre. The lead actress – her thing seems to be to repeatedly widen and shrink her eyes, when talking, when reacting, when screaming – it’s like she’s in a constant state of surprise, open wide, shrink, open wide, shrink, expand, dilate, repeat. The zombies are at times masters of stealth and dumber than a group of Big Brother presenters. As alluded to already, the zombie performers are hilarious – most are low on make-up but high on not knowing what a camera is as they visibly smirk quite jovially on their swaying arm march of doom. Every so often one catches a squib to the chest – the effects being mostly shoddy – but there is one great moment later in the film when the group is trying to escape in a car only for one zombie to casually open the door of the moving car and get in. From barely being able to walk for most of the movie to struggling to maneuver their way through a front door, this particular zombie has clearly evolved and re-mastered the art of chasing an Uber.

Maybe the strangest scene takes place after one of the several arguments between the soldiers and the journos and moments after they almost died in gruesome fashion. They are suddenly sitting in around a slide in a back garden before one of them goes ‘weee down the slide’ and they all laugh and stare at the camera for a solid ten seconds. Then one of them looks around and says something like ‘Oh, there’s a house, we’d better check it out’. It’s like something from Garth Marenghi complete with bad dubbing. The dubbing and dialogue throughout is cause for giggles too, though I imagine it must be difficult to match meaningful dialogue to the actors’ mouths after the fact. I imagine none of you reading this will feel the desire to watch the movie, but Spoiler Alert if you must, most of the team die in the most unlikely ways. We get the requisite ‘stand with your back to the door’ even though you know there are hundreds of creatures waiting to literally eat you outside. We’ve seen how weak these creatures are – moreso even than in Romero’s hits, yet one guy simply yells as three crowd round him instead of lightly shoulder charging them and walking past, then another guy who has proven to be a reckless badass simply allows himself to be pulled in by a few after taking on a bunch easily himself, multiple times. I assume the running time was getting on and they needing to dispatch our heroes in as cheap a way as possible.

At least we get a suitably bleak ending as Screamy Wide-Eyes Magee has a fist shoved through her mouth and pops her eyes out – though how the survivors allowed fifty zombies to creep up on them is anyone’s guess. Naturally, we also are treated to a shock/twist ending as it turns out that the zombies have reached US shores – how, is anyone’s guess but it wouldn’t be a zombie movie if it didn’t end with everyone in the entire world dying. This is a hard one to recommend to anyone who doesn’t enjoy Italian horror and it’s hardly one of the bright lights. Still, if you haven’t seen it you might get a chuckle out of it this Halloween.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Zombie Creeping Flesh!

Demons

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The horror remake is the bane of the horror fan; every year sees the desecration of another classic, and maybe once every few years do we get something which equals or exceeds the original. Demoni is a film which should be remade – it has a wonderful central premise, and a wealth of nice ideas, but it also has terrible acting, a low budget, now dated effects, and plenty of other failures. That doesn’t stop it from being a highly entertaining film, but I’ve always thought that there could be so much more done with this story, if handed to a good director and crew, and if given a decent budget.

This is the first in a long series of films featuring the Demoni name, but most of the films do not relate to the original or one another. Now that I’ve typed that I think that a decent mini series could be made for TV featuring the central premise: In a European city a young woman is followed by a mysterious figure. Rather than anything overtly sinister, the man offers her a free movie ticket – a premiere of sorts for a newly refurbished Cinema. The girl, Cheryl asks a friend to go to see the movie too, and they head off to be greeted by a bunch of other people who have received tickets – college kids, elderly partners, a pimp and his prostitutes, a blind man and his daughter, and a mysterious woman who appears to know more than she will say. As everyone snuggles down to watch the movie it appears that the film they are watching is an experimental horror film which somehow mirrors events happening, or about to happen to the viewers. Before long, all hell breaks loose in the cinema as an outbreak of some sort of demon/zombie transformation disease occurs. The audience finds themselves trapped inside the Cinema, having to work together to fight off the demons and avoid being turned.

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There are a hell of a lot of ideas in this film and the scope for a massive apocalyptic tale is there. Not everything works though – the acting is mostly poor and the short running time means that the tension versus shocks and violence, versus the number of ideas and potential subplots and reasons don’t all get equal time. There is simply too much going on and not enough time to let each component breathe. That does work in the film’s favour as once the action starts everything moves at a frantic and exciting pace and we have fun questioning how the group will escape and who will be next to be picked off. With the pedigree of Lamberto Bava and Dario Argento at the helm, you know there will be gore and visual flair. The soundtrack is a mixture of 80s rock and metal, yet the overall tone of the movie is mysterious and evocative of an end of the world scenario.

This is a very enjoyable movie for horror fans, but I expect modern audiences won’t get much out of it – just one of the many reasons while I feel a remake or mini series would work well. Imagine a better group of actors, each given adequate screen time and back story, placed in the same situation, in a modern environment. Let the paranoia play out, let the cultural differences in the audience cause friction rather like The Mist (which incidentally is getting the TV treatment and may be exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about here), and once the shit hits the fan there will be a siege which we care about. Throw in various external elements trying to get in to the cinema too. And of course, once the survivors get out and see what has happened to the world, you have a new story to tell. Recommended viewing, but it could have/could yet be so much better.

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Have you seen Demons? Do you think the movie deserves a remake or should it remain untarnished by such things? Let us know in the comments!

Perlasca: The Courage of A Just Man

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*Note – originally written on Amazon based on a free copy by Amazon

Like most other reviewers have commented here, I had never heard of Perlasca, though was always aware that there were likely very many unsung heroes during the war who did whatever they could to save lives and help in the struggle against the Nazis. The obvious comparisons with this show, and with the story, are with Schindler’s List, and I was worried that this would be a low-budget affair with too many cheap similarities. Thankfully, within the opening moments of the movie (split into two parts for Italian television) it is clear that a lot of money, effort, dedication, and love were put into making this. We get an action packed, tense opening to set the scene and introduce a few of the main characters and Morricone’s tragic, soaring score sets a high standard for miniseries/tv movies to follow. To summarise the story briefly will not do it any justice, but for those looking for such things this is the story of a man who, thanks to his past and position, struggles to save the lives of as many persecuted Jews as possible whilst simultaneously trying to get out of occupied Hungary and back home to his wife. Using his greatest powers – confidence, intrigue, persuasion, powerful allies, and of course great doses of fortune, he masterminds the saving of many lives.

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The man himself

Everything about this production has a quality sheen to it, from the large cast who are, without exception, brilliant – to the sets, costumes, and directing. While there is humour and action in small doses, it is the heart-wrenching set pieces and the stand-offs Perlasca has with a variety of opponents which set this work aside from others as truly great. There are moments here which will fulfill any nail-biting, edge-of-seat requirements you may have, and at times the emotion, whilst never melodramatic or over played, is overwhelming. I should mention that I don’t think I recognised any of the cast members from anything else, but special praise goes to the lead- Luca Zingaretti as Perlasca. Those moments where he trades mind-game blows with those in the Nazi ranks only work because of his performance – in a lesser actors shoes we would neither be convinced that his actions would be taken seriously or that he was doing them not for selfish reasons. In spite of the emotional weight on his shoulders, he rarely allows himself to succumb to his emotions, and we can see him holding back at every turn, as an outburst would mean certain death. At times it does feel like his lucky streak is too unbelievable, but this is of course countered by the fact that everyone around him is dying, some of his attempts at rescue are futile, and we never see his ultimate goal – getting home. Special praise should also go to Gyorgy Cserhalmi as the charming, soulless Captain Bleiber and Amanda Sandrelli as Magda.

This is gripping viewing throughout, and feels like an ‘easier’ watch than Schindler’s List though I haven’t quite worked out why I feel this way. Perhaps the main characters are more likable, perhaps we have less of a focus on the Nazis, I’m not sure. Even though the content is similar, and both have horrific visuals, Schindler’s List is a colder film. I would advise anyone with an interest in WWII or war movies in general to give this a go, but of course be warned that there are plenty of scenes that will haunt you once seen, and while not graphic in any way, many may find them too upsetting.

What is your favourite WWII movie, or which film dealing with the Holocaust have you found the most powerful? Let us know in the comments!