Sweet Home (1989)

32308103225370736

Many people may know this title as belonging to a cult favorite Nintendo video game. The video game and the film share the plot and characters with a little known haunted house movie. Not a gonzo as another Japanese haunted house film, Hausu, this film still has its moments and a creepy atmosphere. In addition, the whole movie can be seen on YouTube.

A TV crew ventures towards the abandoned mansion of renown artist Ichiro Mamiya. They hope to find and present fresco paintings that Ichiro was working on until the death of his wife, whom was mourning the death of their infant son. The death of Ichiro’s wife was an act of suicide out of shame for murdering local children to make them playmates for her dead son.

Despite the warnings of a gas station attendent, Yamamura (Tsutomu Yamazaki), the TV crew goes to the mansion. The crew is lead by Kazuo the director (Shingo Yamashiro). Along with him is his daughter, Emi (J-pop star Nokko), Akiko the producer (Nobuko Miyamoto), Taguchi the womanising cameraman (Ichiro Furudate), and Asuka the art restorer (Fukumi Kuroda).

During their time in the mansion, bizarre poltergeist happenings occur. They discover the body of Lady Mamiya’s infant, thus bringing her back into the world of the living as a vengeful spirit. With her supernatural powers, she poses a serious threat to the lives of the TV crew. She enables the shadows to burn people like acid among other abilities. Could the body of her infant son be the key to halting her vengeance?

This is very much a conventional haunted house story, not unlike that of Robert Wise’s The Haunting. If it wasn’t for the Japanese actors, this could easily pass for an American production. Toho Studios clearly wanted a film that was the polar opposite of their cult classic, Hausu.

The cast does a pretty good job playing the material straight. There isn’t a lot of overacting. I saw this on YouTube with Japanese subtitles. There is a rhythm to the language that I prefer to the horrible dubbing that would ruin the genuinely frightening spirit of this film. While there is some humor in the beginning, it is quite brushed aside for the horror elements.

Unfortunately, IMDB doesn’t have a credit for the set designer. Whoever or whatever team was responsible should be commended for a stellar job. It mimics the typical haunted house of American productions to every detail.

The real star of the film is the effects work by the trio of Etsuko Egawa, Kazuhiro Tsuji, and Dick Smith. Egawa’s other effects credits include Ghostbusters and Dune. Tsuji’s work as an artist has made him a major figure in Hollywood effects, notably for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s look in 2012’s sci-fi hit: Looper. Dick Smith was one of the most revered effects artists with credits including The Exorcist, The Godfather, Little Big Man, and the 1999 remake of House on Haunted Hill.

Director Hiyoshi Kurosawa does a great job at bringing the American haunted house horror film to Japan. It surpasses some of the American efforts it emulates, notably the horrendous 1999 remake of The Haunting. Despite being conventional, the effects work wonders and atmosphere really make this a solid horror film. Much like The Driver and Return of the Blind Dead, you can catch it on YouTube.

Series Review: Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-1975)

kolchak_the_night_stalker_386_1280

Before Supernatural, before the X-Files, there was one show that paved the way for such programs involving the paranormal. With a pair of successful TV movies building momentum, actor Darren McGavin spearheaded a weekly series continuing the adventures of news reporter Carl Kolchak. Despite its flaws, it does have its charm and its influence on genre TV shows is undeniable.

Darren McGavin reprises the role of Carl Kolchak from the pair of hit TV movies, the Night Stalker and the Night Strangler. After the events of those films, Carl and his editor-in-chief Vincenzo (Simon Oakland) set up shop in the Independent News Service in Chicago. On a regular basis, Carl gets involved in supernatural hijinks with all sorts of creatures and entities. Why these bizarre events occur is never explained. They just happen.

Before I get into the show’s shortcomings, let me express that I have a soft spot for this show. First, Darren McGavin is fantastic as Kolchak. He’s witty, confident, and as stubborn a character can get. Other than his movie role as the Old Man in A Christmas Story, his role as Kolchak is his most recognizable TV performance. Despite only lasting a season, people still talk about this show and McGavin was a huge factor.

The supporting cast and guest stars played into McGavin’s chemistry with many an actor/actress. Oakland as Vincenzo is tragicomic, in having to deal with a maverick like Kolchak. Jack Grinnage as Ron Updyke could have made for an amusing rival for Kolchak, but he doesn’t appear on a frequent basis. The guest appearances include the likes of Richard Kiel, Scatman Crothers, Phil Silvers, Carolyn Jones, Tom Skerritt, and Erik Estrada.

While there were episodes that didn’t work, but when they did work they worked to the nines. There are a few episodes off the top of my head I can think of where the show shined. The Zombie was one of the more legitimately creepy episodes. Mr. R.I.N.G. has a great performance by Craig Baxley as the android at the center of the episode. One of the standout episodes was The Vampire, that hinted at a victim of Janos Skorzeny terrorizing Las Vegas, which was executed perfectly. My personal favorite had to be Skerritt as a politician who sold his soul to the Devil to advance their career. These episodes are worth seeking out on your streaming service of choice.

Despite those positives, the show was far from perfect. The biggest issue I have with the show was the lack of an arc throughout the season. You look at later shows like The X-Files, Millenium, Supernatural, and the reboot of Doctor Who, and their seasons have a common element that builds throughout the episodes. Kolchak just adhered to the monster of the week schtick that was common with Scooby-Doo. McGavin himself was unhappy with this approach, but bowed to demands from higher-ups to maintain this limited take.

For only lasting one season, the show remains a cult favorite akin to the likes of Twin Peaks and Night Gallery. TV shows like the aforementioned programs as well as the likes of Warehouse 13 and The Dresden Files owe a lot to Kolchak. Director Guillermo Del Toro is a huge fan. Even recently, there was buzz for a Kolchak movie with Johnny Depp rumored for the role (NOOOOOOO!).

While the series is inconsistent from episode to episode, the solidly produced ones are worth watching. McGavin put his heart into the show, yet was held back by external factors. If you can appreciate cult programming and TV horror, Kolchak: The Night Stalker is worth watching.

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974)

let-sleeping-corpses-lie

When George Romero released Dawn of the Dead in 1978, a wave of Italian zombie films followed. Yet, this was not the first time a Romero zombie movie influenced a country’s movie output. After Night of the Living Dead came out in 1968, Spain released a few horror films to capitalize on its success. There were two big films that stand out. One was Tombs of the Blind Dead in 1971. The other was a British-Spanish co-production made in 1974.

George is on his way out of London to enjoy his holiday weekend. At a gas station, his motorbike is doomed after being hit by Edna’s car. Edna agrees to give George a lift since they were headed in the same direction. On the way, they stop to ask for directions with Edna staying at the car while George asks the nearby residents.

In a farmer’s field is a machine being worked on by a pair of technicians. The device serves as a sonic pesticide, irritating the central nervous systems of the insects into killing one another. A farmer agrees to help out George with directions and they head back to the car.

Meanwhile, Edna is attacked by a stranger. He comes at her as she gets in the car. The farmer and George hear from Edna about the man who attacked her. The farmer jokes that it might have been Gutherie, but he’s been dead for the past few days.

We soon find out that Edna is visiting her sister, Katie. She is trying to be detoxed of heroin cold turkey with Edna helping her as well as her husband, Martin. Katie and Martin are attacked by Gutherie. Katie survives, but Martin is killed. After the police arrive, the investigator suspects Katie of killing Martin.

After Katie is moved to a hospital, George and a local doctor find out that the newborn babies in the nursery are attacking the staff. The doctor and George talk and suspect the machines in the farm fields has something to do with it. Could the machines be responsible for the odd incidents occuring in the English countryside? Will Edna and George be able to clear Katie of the investigator’s suspicions?

Director Jorge Grau already made a name for himself with with a film based on Elizabeth Bathory. Grau was offered Let Sleeping Corpses Lie due to the success of his film as well as from the international success of Night of the Living Dead. Grau added his own creative touches to the script. In the process, he ended up making one of the best horror films of the 1970’s.

Ray Lovelock gives viewers a socio-economic cynic as the film’s protagionist. Lovelock almost comes off as satirical in his scenes, pointing out stark differences between the city and the country, or even making a snark comment about DDT. He’s not the established hero-type from the beginning, which lends a lot of believability to his character. He’s a pacifist as long as he needs to.

Cristina Galbo as Edna is essentially the film’s version of Barbara, the Judith O’Dea character from Night of the Living Dead. She is the damsel frequently in distress who must bu rescued by George. Her characterization as weak and vulnerable plays to horror’s cliches. Yet, Edna isn’t as easily forgivable given that there isn’t a reason for her frequent distress, not at least as understandable as Barbara seeing her brother killed right in front of her.

Arthur Kennedy, a frequent actor for Arthur Miller plays, stands out as the authoritarian antagonist for George. George is the cynical idealist while the detective is an embittered realist, restlessly trying to maintain the old world view of order. You can see some of Kennedy in the role. He was frequently cast in the premier performances of Miller’s plays like The Crucible and Death of a Salesman. But, Kennedy was often stuck playing supporting films roles with few chances ever to be a lead.

Horror fans may be surprised by the gore of this film, given its not the campy Herschell Gordon Lewis blood and this was before Lucio Fulci’s bloody horror films. If it feels like a Lucio Fulci movie, you’re not far off. Gino De Rossi helped with the film’s make-up effects. There’s something about De Rossi’s gore that is unique to him much like when you know you see a Tom Savini or Greg Nicotero effect.

The music by Giuliano Sorgini might be some of the most underrated horror music. The tracks range from moody ambiance, vocalizations, and a band/orchestral mix. Cues from this particular film score would influence the music of horror films like Suspiria, The Beyond, and Beyond the Darkness. It makes for great Halloween party music.

The cinematography by Francisco Sempere adds to the charm of the film. He captures the beauty, as well as the isolation, of the English countryside. This mix of love for set design and the serenity of the British rural areas make for a strong visual appeal. Not only is the film violent, but its beautifully shot.

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, also known as Living Dead at Manchester Morgue and Don’t Open the Window, is one of the best known and well-respected Spanish horror films. You have a decent cast, great effects, and the best blend of visuals with music. It is also one of the more accessible Spanish horror movies to be found, thanks to Blue Underground and Anchor Bay. The film can be found at various retailers and on Netflix Instant.

Ghostbusters (1984)

ghostbusters_theater

During the 30 years of my life, I’ve seen a lot of films. I could wax nostalgia regarding my family video collection. Universal’s Frankenstein and Monty Python & The Holy Grail were frequently in my VCR. I saw A Clockwork Orange before I was 14 years of age. Only one movie has stayed at the top of my all-time favorites list.

After losing their jobs at Columbia University, Professors Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, and Egon Spengler start their dream business: professional investigation and extermination of paranormal/supernatural entities. Dana Barrett, a musician, is their first client, and Venkman is head over heels in love with her. Shortly after, they get their first call: The Sedgewick Hotel and the first appearance of one of the franchise’s signature ghosts, Slimer.

Business increases and more ghostly phenomena are reported. Spectres and spooks are seen all over New York City. The team accepts a new hire, Winston Zeddmore. Venkman finds out more regarding the ghost haunting Dana. Meanwhile, the team’s success and methods have caught the attention of the EPA and one of its agents, Walter Peck. Peck believes the Ghostbusters are frauds and accuses them of disposing dangerous chemicals. Venkman mocks him and ignores him.

Unfortunately, Dana is possessed by a spirit known as the Gatekeeper. Louis, her neighbor, is inhabited by a specter called the Keymaster. They wait for the arrival of Gozer. Due to actions perpetrated by Peck, the ghosts are unleashed and signal the arrival of Gozer. After a meeting with the mayor, the Ghostbusters must go to the rooftop of Dana’s apartment to challenge the forces of Gozer and save Dana, Louis, and the world.

One of the strengths of the film is its ability to juggle multiple genres without the audience realizing it. You have comedy blended with horror. There is a screwball-type romance between Dana and Peter. There are elements of a Western in the climax with Gozer. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is a parody of the classic giant monster movies. For a movie made in the mid 1980’s, the special effects still hold up today.

The cast is some of the era’s top comedians. Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson have almost a Marx Brothers-esque chemistry. After being a strong female lead in Alien, Sigourney Weaver is believable as Dana, the damsel in distress. Rick Moranis, William Atherton, and Annie Potts are fantastic in their supporting roles. Some of the minor characters have their moments. For example, there’s the guy waiting for the elevator at the Sedgewick, played by Murray Rubin: “That’s gotta be some cockroach.”

Ramis and Aykroyd wrote the screenplay with the right build-up, pace, and climax. Ivan Reitman does a great job of keeping the effects from overshadowing the comedy and make them palpable with the actors. Elmer Bernstein’s music has the right quantity of quirkiness. Ray Parker Jr. hit it big with the catchy theme song. The effects by Entertainment Effects Group are caricature, but still scary.

After all these years, the movie still has some of the most memorable lines. My uncle thought he was St. Jerome. Somebody blows their nose and you want to keep it. You’re right, no human being would stack books like this. We came, we saw, we kicked its ass! He slimed me. Don’t cross the streams. If there’s a steady paycheck in it, I’ll believe anything you say. That’s a big Twinkie. Human sacrifices, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria! I may as well post the whole script at this point. Dare I say that this is as close to perfect a movie can be. Seriously. What flaws are in this film? I can’t honestly think of any.

Even with the sequel and the upcoming female cast reboot, the first one’s stance as a classic will never be questioned. All the elements came together with nothing holding it back. Over 25 years later, many filmmakers and comedians hold this film in high esteem, and justifiably so. When looking for a film that is perfect, you can’t go wrong with Ghostbusters.

Mack Rant: Barbarians at the Gamergate…

Gamergate

Up until a few days ago, this whole Gamergate mess was outside of my radar. I was too busy enjoying my gaming hobby to really get myself into this divisive atmosphere. Then, I decided to catch myself up on this situation. I’m sorry for the unfounded claims set against Zoe Quinn and for the women involved the industry who are trying to do their part to make gaming better for everyone. I was not set to take a side in this issue since there are people who on both sides who have legitimate concerns. Women in gaming shouldn’t have to deal with such immaturity and insecurity, yet expecting gaming journalism to be ethical and without a feeling there’s conflict of interest is something applicable to all press.

Yet, my ire over the whole thing isn’t with the bullies who first harassed the female gaming populace. They’re a small minority. We’re talking about a few hundred, a few thousand to be generous. This is out of a community of millions, a minute percentage. My resentment is reserved for the gaming media, for they had the audacity to lump all gamers together as being of the same ilk as the bullies. To that I say, I have no intention of ever supporting another video game media outlet.

Personally, I have every right to be angry at gaming media for generalizing all gamers as being bullies. Just look at the Gamasutra article, “’Gamers’ Don’t Have To Be Your Audience. ‘Gamers’ Are Over.” Other media outlets included The Financial Post, Ars Technica, The Daily Beast, The Stranger, Beta Beast, and Polygon. Not only were gamers targeted, but those who presented arguments in favor of gamers, such as Christina Hoff Summers, aka The Factual Feminist.

To be fair, there are those of the Gamergate side that are keen on addressing the issue of journalism ethics.  Unfortunately, there is a noticeable number of people who have bastardized the Gamergate tag to share their own narrow-minded stances towards women.  Here is when the Gamergate proponents must make it clear they don’t share these boneheaded ideals.  Sure, its not all members of this side of the internet conflict, but its grown enough that not standing for such behavior needs to be stated.  While you may not share such notions, it would only harm your cause to not address such.

As pointed out by Luke Plunkett in the article, “We Might Be Witnessing The ‘Death of An Identity,” he said the tag “Gamer” doesn’t refer to all gamers, just the people being jerks. To that I say, then use the term “jerks” or “bullies.” Of all your journalistic prowess and mastery of linguistics you can’t use a more fitting word? You have to use the most inclusive of titles to address the dickish fringe element?

Imagine if all of a community were labeled as antagonistic because of the actions of a few. That’s the logic perpetuated by gaming media. Imagine if I exclaimed, “Anita Sarkeesian’s threat against her life in Utah was a hoax for publicity because she’s associated with Meg Lanker-Simons, who pleaded no contest after police found threats against her to be fake and interfering with a police investigation.” Not fair, is it? Then why should all gamers be slandered because of the actions of a pathetic, vocal minority?

In fact, Anita Sarkeesian in a tweet said that one person threatening her admitted to be associated with Gamergate, so she concluded that all who support Gamergate are accomplices after the fact. Its okay for her to accuse all people of a group as evil, but present even the slightest criticism against her and you’re banned from Twitter, as what happened to Dr. Phil Mason aka Thunderf00t. If it wasn’t clear enough, all sides of the issue of Gamergate reek of hypocrisy.

Sarkeesian

Also, it would be bitter irony for these media outlets to propose the end of the gamer label. Why? Because studies show that the number of women gamers is on the rise! The Daily Dot, CNN, The Entertainment Software Association, The Guardian, The Washington Post among others have reported that women make up the majority of the gaming population. As stated in her video, Ms. Summers noted that gaming is becoming more inclusive. Even the label of gamer not only refers to those who play on consoles and PCs, but also on smartphones and table top games.

Many women have taken steps to provide gaming alternatives.  Today, we have Zoey Quinn and Brianna Wu continuing the foundation set by the likes of Roberta Williams, Carol Shaw, Dona Bailey, and Amy Briggs.  The more they can contribute to gaming, the more people can see how the likes of Duke Nukem Forever, Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, The Guy Game, Rumble Roses, Leisure Suit Larry, and Custer’s Revenge are not what gaming should be.  Gaming will change for the better and it will happen organically.

What do I propose? For painting gamers with the broadest strokes, I say stop supporting video game media. Don’t get your news from the likes of Kotaku, IGN, Gamespot, GameTrailers, Polygon, The Escapist, Game Informer, or any resource other than your gaming retailer and the gaming developers/publishers themselves. For the any of the aforementioned outlets not involved in Gamergate and may feel wronged for being dragged into the conflict, I can only say this: welcome to my world.

 

Gamergate image courtesy of avoiceformen.com

Mack Rant: Second Chance is the Charm…

Movies based on comic books often share similar habits to their source material: If something doesn’t work, give it time before repackaging it and reselling it. Just look at Captain America. Reb Brown, Matt Salinger, and Chris Evans mark an upward trend for Marvel’s famed patriot. Another example: The Punisher. What started with a generic action film with Dolph Lundgren led to Thomas Jane’s fun, but inconsistent, turn and the “as perfect as it gets” take by Ray Stevenson. There have been reboots for the likes of the Hulk, Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four. What about the lesser known heroes with infamous movie turns?

As a moviegoer, I’m willing to give a second or third chance. Whether it applies to actors, directors, or licensing properties if its an earnest attempt to make a movie. I’ll wait until the final product is set before making a judgement. In the wake of San Diego Comic-Con and the recent release of Guardians of the Galaxy, I was impressed with cinematic prospects from two unlikely characters, one of which has been recently announced as set for release in 2016.

With the disaster that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, rumors and development Hell have stalled the production of a Deadpool movie. While Ryan Reynolds was promising in the beginning of Origins, the genetic clustermuck they turned Wade Wilson into at the end likely killed whatever momentum the character had to get their own film. Despite this lackluster turn, Deadpool remained a popular character in comics, video games, and animated works. Even the short film, “A Typical Tuesday,” showed the cinematic possibilities, albeit on a small scale.

Deadpool-leaked-test-footage

Thanks to the widespread, positive reaction from the footage at San Diego Comic-Con, a movie is now happening. The six minute proof of concept footage cut down to two minutes was enough to build buzz. That buzz turned into a vocal demand for a full Deadpool movie. There was some question as to why four minutes were cut, but what we saw was enough to convince us that they can take our money.

Given the popularity surrounding the character, one would think a movie on him would be a no-brainer. In the hands of the duo of Lord & Miller (The Lego Movie, the Jump Street films), I would be very comfortable with them getting their hands on the Merc with the Mouth. My one qualm is the casting. Ryan Reynolds is not my top choice. I would much rather see Sean William Scott in the role. Still, as long as an earnest Deadpool movie happens, I’ll take Reynolds.

The other character that might be prime for another shot at the multiplexes is one with a serious stigma. The last time he was in a movie was back in 1986 under the productive supervision of George Lucas. While it was a financial and critical bomb, it has gone on to become a cult classic. Yes, I am referring to Howard the Duck, who made a surprise return in the post-credit sequence for Guardians of the Galaxy.

Howard-The-Duck-In-Guardians-of-The-Galaxy-Teaser

After all, why shouldn’t Howard get another chance? In the decades since, Howard has been involved in noted story-lines like Civil War and Marvel Zombies vs Army of Darkness. He made a surprise appearance in Lego Marvel Superheroes. With Marvel having greater control over some of their properties, I say give Howard another shot on film! Bring back Seth Green to do the voice while we’re at it!

I don’t see why it would be far-fetched for either character to come to the big screen. If lesser heroes like Jonah Hex, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, and members of the Justice League who aren’t Batman or Superman can make it to the big screen, give Deadpool and Howard the Duck a turn. If both X-Men: Days of Future Past and Guardians of the Galaxy are any sign, they would be given justice for a change.

Tales of Monkey Island (PS3)

Tales of Monkey Island

Telltale Games rarely disappoint me as a video game developer. With the exception of Jurassic Park, I’ve enjoyed all the time I’ve spent with their console titles. Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People, Back to the Future, Poker Night II, both seasons of The Walking Dead, Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse, and The Wolf Among Us offered great writing, interesting characters, and tricky puzzles. One of Telltale’s early efforts was the return of one of the PC’s classic series: Monkey Island.

Tales of Monkey Island begins with Guybrush Threepwood, mighty pirate, fighting the infamous LeChuck to rescue his wife, Elaine. After a supernatural mishap, the voodoo curse of LeChuck spreads to nearby islands, also infecting Guybrush’s left hand, but turning LeChuck back into a human. An explosion causes the ship to sink, separating Guybrush from Elaine, leaving her with LeChuck.

Guybrush arrives on the island of Flotsam, which begins the episodic journey. Through his quest, he’ll encounter strange characters and visit exotic locales. Memorable characters Guybrush will meet include the likes of French science eccentric Marquis De Singe, first mate Reginald Van Winslow, wily judge W.T., the Voodoo Lady, and pirate hunter Morgan LeFlay.

Much like other Telltale Games made around the same time, there is a lot of conversing and puzzle solving. With regards to talking to NPCs, this adds much to the game’s humor. The writing by Mark Darin, Michael Stemmle, and Sean Vanaman recalls other classic point and click games like Discworld or Monty Python’s Complete Waste of Time. The quirky dialogue and references to past Monkey Island games would make Ron Gilbert proud.

The puzzles will offer players many a tough challenge. If you aim to try this game without a walkthrough, you’ll need a lot of patience. You’ll need to explore environments for any and all collectables. Personally, I used a walkthrough to solve the puzzles and I’m glad I did. The solutions were esoteric, to say the least.

The graphics offer rich environments and detailed character models. While they seem dated for a 2009 game, there is a retro charm to the graphics. From the island of Flotsam to the game’s finish in Purgatory, you’ll venture through distinct lands and eye-catching worlds that make this game stand out more than other Telltale releases.

The music and the voice-acting stay true to the game’s off-kilter sense of humor. Dominic Armato returns from Curse of Monkey Island as Guybrush Threepwood. Kevin Blackton is clearly having fun as the villainous LeChuck. Roger Jackson gives Reginald Van Winslow much bravado for a side character. Joining them are the VO talents of Alexandra Boyd, Alison Ewing, and Jared Emerson-Johnson. Michael Land provides the music score, but it lacks any memorable tracks, save for the main title theme and the theme for De Singe.

The controls for the game work the same as those in Back to the Future. Just like Back to the Future, there are some hiccups with the navigation of characters when the camera changes. After a while, you get used to it and it becomes second nature. Fortunately, you can use the shoulder buttons to navigate if need be.

If the games of LucasArts and Ron Gilbert were part of your early gaming experiences, you would do yourself a disservice by skipping out on this Telltale entry. Tales of Monkey Island stands as one of the first strong entries of the studio. If challenging puzzles and a sense of humor are all you need to pass the time, this is a ripe selection for you.

Dead Alive (1992)

dead-alive-movie-poster-1992-1020199842

After Peter Jackson made a name for himself with the cult classic, Bad Taste, his follow-up was with Meet The Feebles. The film was met with mixed reactions. It was off-beat and weird, but gross and mean-spirited to a degree that it turned many viewers off. Jackson made a come back by going into familiar, gory waters with a film many consider to be one of the best zombie movies ever made.

Lionel is a mother’s boy. He’s stuck in a terrible living situation with his overbearing mum. One day, he meets a girl, Paquita, and they fall in love. Threatened by this, she spies on them. One day, they’re at the zoo and Lionel’s mum is bitten by the dreaded Sumatran Rat Monkey. This almost puts an end to their relationship as Lionel’s mum becomes deathly ill. Unfortunately, the bite turns her into a zombie.

Soon, more people are attacked and become zombies. Lionel’s uncle isn’t helping either. He eyes Lionel and hope to make off with the inheritance. To make matters worse, he finds out about the zombies and blackmails Lionel. During a house party held by the uncle, the zombies escape and all hell breaks loose. It leads to a bloody climax that must be seen to be believed.

Peter Jackson has said he’s been heavily influenced by Sam Raimi and the Evil Dead films. It shows in Dead Alive. Lionel goes through a similar character development as Bruce Campbell’s Ash, as he goes through a metamorphosis from weakling to dashing hero. The lawnmower scene surpasses any chainsaw moment and lays the blood thick. Much like Raimi, Jackson uses the gore as a means of comedy as much as for gross effect. Also, the camera angles during the horror sequences mirror those of Raimi’s director of photography, Bill Pope.

The cast is as much a motley crew as the characters they play. Timothy Balme as Lionel readily adapts between the comedy, horror, and romance elements of the plot. Diana Penalver as Paquita serves as a charming love interest. Elizabeth Moody and Ian Watkin steal the show in their respective roles as Lionel’s mum and uncle. Stuart Devenie, Jed Brophy, and Bill Ralston provide amusing bot performances. Daniel Sabic has one of the film’s best scenes in the whole film as the zombie baby in the park. Director Jackson has a cameo as the embalmer.

Even though Dead Alive was only his third film, Meet The Feebles felt like such a radical departure that Dead Alive felt that much more like a return to form. The comedic use of gore as well as the great cast make this film stand out in Jackson’s filmography. While he may be known as the director of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, horror fans still hold his early work dearly.

TV Review: The 9th Doctor (Christopher Eccleston)

9th Doctor

For nearly a decade, I have been well aware of the pop culture cult phenomena known as Doctor Who. The show’s theme song by Ron Grainer was in heavy rotation of my music selections. I knew a few of the actors to play him in various media, ranging from Tom Baker, Peter Cushing, and Rowan Atkinson. In the past year and a half, my social circle has increased in the number of Whovians. It was only a matter of time before it sunk its claws into me. At my roommate’s suggestion, I started with the 9th Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston.

Technically a re-boot of the series, we follow Rose (Billie Piper) as she travels with the Doctor (Eccleston) on various misadventures and tribulations. The pair go to the past, present, and future, encountering dangerous foes and strange characters, thanks to the time traveling machine known as the TARDIS. Robotic spiders, Cassandra the last living human, bizarre news broadcasts, and deadly game shows account for some of the more enjoyable episodes.

While I recommend watching the season as a whole, I can recommend specific episodes for those just wanting to dip their toe. In chronological order, “The Dalek” is a solid choice and serves as a proper introduction to one of the Doctor’s most infamous of his rogues gallery. “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances” is a great two parter that features my favorite monsters of the Eccleston era: the gas mask zombies. Last, “Father’s Day” is one of the most heart-wrenching episodes and does an excellent job of developing Rose as a character.

Eccleston is a sheer joy to watch as the Doctor. He has a child-like glee and disarming charm. Yet, when needed, he can be very serious and aggressive when needed. Compared to his work in films like the Gone in 60 Seconds remake, 28 Days Later, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, and Thor: The Dark World, the Doctor stands as his best work.

I know people who complain about him only being on for one season. Who could blame him? He had a disagreement with how the employees of the show were being treated. How much can one take of seeing their co-workers frequently degraded? Sure, the show didn’t suffer for it and Eccleston had no trouble finding other work. Yet, if we had Eccleston longer, would we have had Tennant come in when he did?

Billie Piper as Rose was a great fit for Eccleston. But, I’m not gonna lie, she did get on my nerves at times. Those moments were few and far between, and she showed much dramatic range. Trying watching “Father’s Day” and not almost bawl out in tears. For all the sci-fi elements and cheesy aspects, Piper was the heart of the Eccleston era.

If there is one flaw with the show, its the effects can come off as obvious. These are often the case with the computer effects. The effects in Father’s Day are painfully obvious, but they don’t take away from the sincerity of the episode. Fortunately, the in-camera and physical effects were great. The X-Ray shots of the Dalek lasers and seeing real animatronics for the Daleks instead of CGI go miles farther than taking the Lucas approach.

If you’re new to the Doctor Who world like I am, the 9th Doctor is a solid place to start. Sure, you can try to go back to the beginning with William Hartnell, but I would stick to as close to contemporary Who before digging way back into the show’s history. You can easily find the 9th Doctor era on Netflix or for sale at various retailers.

Top Ten Wrestling Themes

As a fan of wrestling, music plays a big part in the experience. Whether it was the 80’s work of Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart to the 90’s work of Jim Johnston, theme music is an integral element. ECW continued the method of the territories of using real music for the entrance of the wrestlers.

Another aspect to theme music is that while one may not like the wrestler, the theme music can add some degree of appeal. This applies vice versa as well. That will be part of this list as I countdown my picks for favorite wrestling theme songs.

Feel free to reply with your selections of your favorite theme songs.

10 – Brutus “the Barber” Beefcake

Granted, I am not the biggest fan of Brutus Beefcake. Yet, I can’t deny how sick that bassline in his theme song. Its got the synth melody with a backing guitar riff. It added a lot to his entrance and his strutting to the ring complimented the theme song.

9 – AC/DC: “Big Balls” (Balls Mahoney)

With the budget that ECW had, wrestlers had to involve the crowd with their entrances in place of pyro and a big screen. While Rob Van Dam had “breath, sweat, walk,” Balls Mahoney had the most involving entrance theme that the crowd ate up. Hearing the crowd sing “We’ve got the biggest balls of them all” gives me chills just reminiscing of it.

8 – Chris Jericho

No question, this song is connected with one of the greatest WWE debuts of all-time. When Jericho first appeared on WWE television, this song blasted with his name on the titantron and the crowd exploded. There is a swagger to this track that fits the Y2J persona. Credit to Jim Johnston for creating a track that fits the wrestler it was made for.

7 – Dr. Dre & Ice Cube: “Natural Born Killaz” (New Jack)

I am not the biggest fan of rap music, but this song feels as if it was made for New Jack and I really like it. This is probably the only case where a theme song played through an entire match for a wrestler. This added so much to New Jack’s matches that when removed really kills the momentum.

6 – Stone Cold Steve Austin

Sure, the Rock gets a huge pop when his music hits. But, Austin still garnered the biggest pop when his music hit. When his music hit, starting with that sick glass-breaking, some serious crap was about to go down. To think, all Austin said to Jim Johnston was that he wanted a song like Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade.” The rest is history.

5 – Randy Orton “Burn Inside My Light”

I hate hate hate hate Randy Orton’s “Voices in my Head” theme. This doesn’t fit the persona Orton has. This is befitting an emo take on Al Snow’s head gimmick. But, “Burn Inside My Light” is a genuinely awesome track. Plus, it has this bravado that works with Orton’s entrance mannerisms. But, “Voices in my Head” just has nothing for Orton.

4 – Metallica: Enter Sandman (The Sandman)

Much like New Jack, you couldn’t find a theme song/wrestler pairing as fitting as this. Granted, the man couldn’t wrestle for the life of him. However, he knew how to make an entrance. Hearing the crowd sing along as Sandman made his way to the ring is an experience where you had to be there. Watching it on TV or the dreadful WWE Network, and the magic is not there.

3 – Jimi Hendrix: “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” (Hollywood Hulk Hogan)

Sure, the nWo had its share of good theme music. The main theme as well as the Wolfpac rap theme, but licensing this Jimi Hendrix made for an unforgettable entrance. Seeing Hogan play the championship belt as a guitar with this track belting in the arena encompassed the cool of wrestling in the 90’s. There was an edge that is sorely lacking today. Yeah, Hogan may forever be affiliated with “Real American,” but “Voodoo Child” drew a lot of people in.

2 – Mick Foley/Mankind

This is one of the few instances where WWE was able to mirror the ECW mantra of music fitting the wrestler, but without using a licensed song. You watch a highlight reel of Mick Foley matches and you’re literally watching a man crash and burn himself through anything and everything. Watching a Foley match was like watching a car crash, the theme song captures that notion perfectly.

1 – The Undertaker

The Deadman has gone through a number of different theme songs through his career. Kid Rock’s “American Badass” and his early theme modeled from the Chopin’s Funeral March were good, but his re-arranged theme for the Attitude Era had the cadence of the character. This was a repackaging of the character and needed a theme to fit. Just go back and give this a listen. It still stands today as one of the greatest theme songs for a wrestler.