Short Takes: Z

Zombeavers (2014)

Producers: Evan Astrowsky & Chris Lemole & Tim Zajaros and Chris Bender & Jake Weiner & JC Spink
Director: Jordan Rubin
Screenwriters: Al Kaplan & Jordan Rubin & Jon Kaplan

Three sorority sisters go to a cabin in the woods to get away from their boyfriends. Unfortunately, toxic waste has been dumped in the river and now the beaver population has turned into zombies. Luckily, the boyfriends show up so there are more people to kill.

This film features strong dialog and good acting. The story’s pretty standard and the college students are at least as annoying as real college students. It’s clearly meant for a high school audience. More discerning audiences should check out Killer Piñata.

Starring Rachel Melvin (Madtown), Cortney Palm (The Dark Tapes), Lexi Atkins (Accidentally Engaged), and Rex Linn (Cliffhanger). Bill Burr has a small role.

Zombeavers is copyrighted. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

1 December 2020

Zombi 3 (1988)

Producer: Franco Gaudenzi
Director: Lucio Fulci
Screenwriter: Claudio Fragasso
Alternative titles: Zombie Flesh Eaters 2

Scientists create a drug that reanimates corpses. It gets stolen and released and suddenly everyone’s turning into zombies. A small group of people try to survive the zombies and the military.

Roughly half of this film was directed by Bruno Mattei and based on what he’s said, it’s the boring half. Much of this film is Grade-A Fulci — in particular the scene where the guy saves the girl in the water but she’s turned into a zombie. The boring stuff is more like The Crazies. It isn’t bad. Mattei has done great work. But here he’s just cleaning up a broken production.

Starring Deran Sarafian, Beatrice Ring, Ottaviano Dell’Acqua (Rats: Night of Terror), and Massimo Vanni (After Death).

Zombi 3 is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray with commentary and interviews.

8 September 2021

Zombie (1979)

Producers: Ugo Tucci & Fabrizio De Angelis
Director: Lucio Fulci
Screenwriter: Elisa Briganti
Alternative titles: Zombi 2, Zombie Flesh Eaters

A boat floats into New York with nothing but a zombie onboard. The daughter of the boat’s owner goes searching for him with the help of an interested reporter. They make it to an island where everyone is turning into zombies.

This is a solid zombie picture with Fulci’s usual eye for brilliant visuals. It has two particularly notable scenes. One is an underwater fight between a zombie and a tiger shark. The other is of a woman’s eye being being impaled on a large wooden splinter. If nothing else, look up those scenes on YouTube!

Starring Mia’s sister Tisa Farrow (Fingers) and Ian McCulloch (Survivors). With Al Cliver (Endgame), Auretta Gay, Richard Johnson (The Haunting), and Olga Karlatos (Murder Rock).

Zombie is under copyright. It is available on DVD with a couple of minor extras. It is available on a single Blu-ray with a commentary with Ian McCulloch and an introduction by Guillermo del Toro. It is on a two-disc Blu-ray that adds a ton of interviews with people who worked on the film. And it is on a three-disc Blu-ray that comes with all that plus a commentary with writer Troy Howarth and a CD of the music.

Zombieland (2009)

Producer: Gavin Polone
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Screenwriters: Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick

A nerd survives the zombie apocalypse by following a set of rules. He hooks up with a redneck with a heart of gold. And then they hook up with two sisters who are con artists.

This is a zombie film for people who don’t like zombie films. It’s very funny at times and many of the zombie bits are effective. More often the zombie attacks lack continuity and seem more like something out of a video game. It also features incessant narration. But people really like this film. I recommend Dead Snow: Red vs Dead instead.

Starring Woody Harrelson (The People vs Larry Flynt), Jesse Eisenberg (Adventureland), Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man), and Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine). For some reason, Bill Murray (Where the Buffalo Roam) playing himself has received widespread praise.

Zombieland is copyrighted. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray. You can also get it with the sequel on disc.

25 May 2021

Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)

Producer: Gavin Polone
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Screenwriters: Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick
Alternative titles: Zombieland 2

It’s six years after the first film and the crew is living at the White House. However, the younger sister is growing up and leaves to look for people her own age. The rest of them go looking for her and find her at a pacifist hippy commune.

This is basically just a copy of the first film at a time when its visual style is even more annoying and the jokes even more tired. It weds this to some reactionary politics for reasons that are unclear. Was the world looking for a film that made fun of hippies? I thought that was old in the 1980s.

Starring the same people: Woody Harrelson (White Men Can’t Jump), Jesse Eisenberg (30 Minutes or Less), Emma Stone (Aloha), and Abigail Breslin (Wicked Blood). Rosario Dawson (Death Proof) is added to the cast. Bill Murray (Groundhog Day), who the filmmakers think of as some comic legend instead of just a successful and accomplished actor, is back in a pointless (post-film) scene.

Zombieland: Double Tap is copyrighted. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray. You can also get it with the original film on disc.

25 May 2021

Zombie Cop (1991)

Producer/Director: JR Bookwalter
Screenwriters: Matthew Jason Walsh (story: Bookwalter)

Somewhere in the suburbs, a couple of cops try to arrest Dr Death, a voodoo drug dealer. One of the cops dies while killing the Bad Doctor, but they both rise up. The zombie cop and the living cop team back up to send the doctor to hell where he belongs.

A lot of people love this film. It doesn’t work that well for me. Maybe it’s the very suburban setting for what should be an urban film. Maybe it is the marginally racist voodoo element. I don’t know. But like I said, people love it, so give it a try!

Starring Michael Kemper (Robot Ninja), Ken Jarosz (Maximum Impact), and James Black (Ozone).

Zombie Cop is under copyright. It is available on DVD with the Maximum Impact as part of the Bad Movie Police series.

Zombie Nightmare (1987)

Producer: Pierre Grisé (print) or Jack Bravman (poster)
Director: Jack Bravman
Screenwriter: David Wellington (print) or John M Fasano (poster)

A Good Samaritan body builder is run over and abandoned by a group of thuggish teens. His mother gets a local voodoo priestess to bring him back to life to avenge himself — and unknown to anyone else, and the voodoo priestess’ enemies.

This film features a bit of a sloppy script but still works very well. And it’s nice to see Batman in an unsympathetic role. I don’t know what went on with the credits. Everyone lists the credits on the poster. I suspect that Grisé was a money man. But who knows what’s going on with the script.

Starring Frank Dietz (The Lost Skeleton Returns Again), Jon Mikl Thor (Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare), and Adam West (Batman). Director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum) plays the worst of the teens. And Tia Carrere (True Lies) has a notable role.

Zombie Nightmare is copyrighted. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray neither have any extras as far as I can tell.

6 June 2021

Zontar: The Thing From Venus (1966)

Director: Larry Buchanan
Screenwriters: Hillman Taylor and Larry Buchanan

A great but naive scientist welcomes a space alien that looks like The Incredible Melting Man (1977) with wings. But the alien’s intentions are not honorable.

This is a rip-off of It Conquered the World (1956). If you can get past the Cold War propaganda of it, it’s a fun ride. John Agar (The Mole People) as the sensible older scientist is wonderful, as usual.

Featuring: Tony Huston (writer of Curse of the Swamp Creature), Pat Delany (Creature of Destruction), and Susan Bjurman.

Zontar: The Thing From Venus is available on Archive.org. It is available on DVD but I can’t speak to its quality. It was shot on 16 mm, so I wouldn’t hold out for a Blu-ray release.

Zorro (1975)

Director: Duccio Tessari
Screenwriter: Giorgio Arlorio

When his old friend dies, Diego must take his place as the new governor but with a promise not to kill anyone. So while pretending to be a weak governor, he moonlights as Zorro, bringing justice to the common people.

This Spaghetti Western version of the classic character is full of action, comedy, and good cheer. It features a great cast. And the final sword dual is amazing. Some people don’t like it because they are ideologically against fun. Try to see the 2-hour cut.

Starring Alain Delon (Le Samouraï), Stanley Baker (Zulu), Ottavia Piccolo (Mado), Adriana Asti (The Phantom of Liberty), Enzo Cerusico (Hercules, Samson and Ulysses), Giacomo Rossi Stuart (The Last Man on Earth), Giampiero Albertini (Return of Sabata), and Moustache (Avalanche).

Zorro is under copyright. It is available on various DVD releases but it isn’t clear what versions they have. The full version is available on a very expensive Blu-ray. But you can watch it on Amazon Prime.

26 January 2021

Zorro, the Gay Blade (1981)

Producers: George Hamilton and CO Erickson
Director: Peter Medak
Screenwriter: Hal Dresner (story: Hal Dresner and Greg Alt & Don Moriarty and Bob Randall)

Zorro does his usual thing, in this case mostly because he’s in love with a revolutionary woman. And he has a twin brother who is gay to help him out.

Despite the title, this one holds up remarkably well. The story is spotty but it’s pretty consistently funny. You need to enjoy gay camp, however.

Starring George Hamilton (Love at First Bite), Lauren Hutton (American Gigolo), Ron Leibman (The Super Cops), Brenda Vaccaro (Ten Little Indians), and Donovan Scott (Police Academy).

I would assume Zorro, the Gay Blade is under copyright but there is a nice print on Archive.org. It is available on DVD.

25 February 2021

Zotz! (1962)

Producer/Director: William Castle
Screenwriter: Ray Russell (novel: Walter Karig)

A professor of ancient languages finds an amulet that gives him special powers. The US military thinks he’s crazy but the Russians don’t!

I don’t think anyone ever doubted that William Castle had a sense of humor. And this film is pretty funny — the lighter side of Cold War propaganda.

Starring Tom Poston (Newhart). With Julia Meade (Pillow Talk), Jim Backus (Gilligan’s Island), Cecil Kellaway (The Postman Always Rings Twice), and Fred Clark (Auntie Mame). Margaret Dumont (Animal Crackers) has a small role.

Zotz! is under copyright. You can get it as a vanilla DVD. You can also get on The William Castle Film Collection along with 13 Frightened Girls, 13 Ghosts, Homicidal, Strait-Jacket, The Old Dark House, Mr Sardonicus, and The Tingler. Better is probably to get it on the extras-packed Blu-ray William Castle Volume Two along with 13 Frightened Girls, Old Dark House, and Strait-Jacket.

Xtro II: The Second Encounter (1990)

Producesr: Lloyd A Simandl and John A Curtis
Director: Harry Bromley Davenport
Screenwriters: John A Curtis, Stephen Lister, Robert Smith, and Edward Kovach

The government is working on a project to send people into another dimension. When they do, the people disappear and they have only 12 hours to get them out. Then they get one of them out. And then it’s Alien (1979).

A lot of people really like this film. It isn’t at all like the first film. But it has good sets, acting, editing. Sure, it’s derivative. But what isn’t?

Starring Jan-Michael Vincent (Deliver Us from Evil) and Tara Buckman (Blue Angel Cafe). With Paul Koslo (The Omega Man), Jano Frandsen, Nicholas Lea (The X-Files), and Rachel Hayward.

Xtro II: The Second Encounter is under copyright. And currently, it is not widely available. All the versions I’ve found are well over $100. It is available on its own disc. You can also get it with the first Xtro. You can get it at a reasonable price on VHS.

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