Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Radioactive Dreams (1985)

I've always had a fondness for a good post-apocalyptic movie. The different views on what happens after the civilized world fades into distant memory are often as ridiculous as they are fantastical. Most of my favorite ones are where the the premise tends to be towards the former. I like a post-nuke world where it's as absurd as it can get. I guess that's why I prefer 'The Road Warrior' to 'Mad Max'.

Combining different genres can sometimes be both a blessing or a curse depending on how the movie is made. One or two genres isn't hard in the case of horror comedies like 'Shaun of the Dead' or 'Slither', but when you're combining multiple genres it gets hairy. The example would be a film like 'Radioactive Dreams'; a comedy, action, science fiction musical. That description will either have you running to see such a hodgepodge, or ignoring it like a cold sore.

'Radioactive Dreams' tells the tale of Phillip (John Stockwell) and Marlowe (Michael Dudikoff). Two teens that have been in a bomb shelter since there was a nuclear war in 1995. The only education the two have received are from private investigation books, and articles from the 1940's. So, when they exit their shelter 16 some odd years later, they're thrown into the 1980's version of the future. Which means mutants, punks, cannibals, giant rats and a bad-ass New Wave soundtrack. When Phillip and Marlow accidentally wind up with a pair of keys to launch the last two nuclear bombs in the world, every gang is out to get these two dicks.

Now when I said earlier that 'Radioactive Dreams' was a hodgepodge of genres I'm not kidding. It's framed like a film noir, but the absurdity of 1940's detectives on the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world is too comical. Both main characters Phillip and Marlow play it completely straight, and it's their interactions that provide the humor. Then we have the aspect of the film also being a musical, which to me is what makes the film so unique. With songs by Sue Sadd we're given a soundtrack that both elevates the ridiculousness of the plot, but also sets the film firmly in the 1980's. I am sucker for New Wave and 80's music, but that can limit the audience and may make the film feel a little dated.

'Radioactive Dreams' is a fun time capsule of 1980's cheese. While the overall mishmash of plot points may be a little much too digest at first, with each watch there is more and more to notice. From the fantastic soundtrack, to the ridiculous costume and set design, 'Radioactive Dreams' is a real blast for fans of 1980's cinema. Currently the film is only available on the Vestron VHS in the USA, but there is a rip on YouTube which I've included below. Enjoy and share your thoughts below!

*Update 3/31/16* - After 3 years and multiple watches, I've determined that Radioactive Dreams is my favorite movie of all time. Also, if you can find the Region 2 German DVD by JAM I highly suggest it.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Trash Bags

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Night Train to Terror (1985)

More often than not, smaller film projects do not finish production. It happens to some Hollywood films as well, but independent producers have so much more on the line. Budgets can run dry, mechanical issues, technical ineptitude; all valid reasons why a film can fail. One then has to wonder what happens to the remnants of film, the shot footage of what would have been.

Which brings us to 'Night Train to Terror', a little anthology movie from 1985 comprised of three edited films. In my travels amongst the collectors circuit, I had seen the Prism clamshell VHS every now and then, but had never found a copy myself. Actually, I owned the theatrical one-sheet before I even saw the film. Upon viewing this poster for the first time I knew I had to see this movie.

Apparently this band is playing aboard some train because their ride has broken down. While practicing this completely asinine song over and over again, Satan (Lu Sifer) and God (Himself) are mulling over the fates of not only the band members, but outside individuals as well. Let me pause to state that, yes, the Devil is played by Lu Sifer and God does indeed grace us with his wonderfully hammy performance. From here we are given our three stories.

Instead of breaking down each segment, which I hate doing, I'm going to discuss 'Night Train to Terror' as a whole, because at the end of the day I didn't watch individual segments. Anthologies, as much as I love them, can be a mixed bag. Some stories are better than others, and it kinda sours the whole experience. Like biting into an apple and finding a worm at the core. "The Case of Harry Billings", "The Case of Gretta Connors" and "The Case of Claire Hansen" were all taken from full-length films and trimmed to show what, I'm assuming, are the best bits from each movie. We get electrocutions, body harvesting, killer bugs, demons; all parts for a gloriously terrible movie.

However, since these are truncated versions of full stories we're left scratching our heads bloody and raw over continuity errors, pacing, and general "what the fuck did I just watch?" moments. It's these factors that make watching a film like 'Night Train to Terror' so special, so similar to Ed Wood's 'Plan 9 from Outer Space' or, to a much lesser extent, 'The Abomination'. These are films that are so bad in every sense of the word that no one outside of Arkham Asylum should enjoy them, but due to how inept they're crafted, an audience warms to the terribleness. There's no justifying it's a bad movie, but at the end of the day it's this:  how much fun can we have with it? It's subjective, but I found 'Night Train to Terror' a hoot.

Ever since seeing George Romero's 'Creepshow' when I was a kid, I've always had a soft spot for anthologies, no matter how terrible. Like Dr. Ellie Sattler digging through triceratops shit, we're trying to find prime examples that keep us coming back for more. 'Night Train to Terror' is by no means a good film, but with horrible continuity, terrible effects and one of the most absurd wraparound stories ever, it's a fun way to hang out with some friends and laugh.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 Trash Bags

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Trash Pile Love Notes: Pacific Rim

After being a few weeks removed from my viewing of Guillermo Del Toro's 'Pacific Rim' I have found myself wanting to re-explore the world of Jaegers and Kaiju again. While it's not uncommon to find myself wanting to see a film again so soon, there's something about 'Pacific Rim' that's different.

The theaters have been devoid of giant monsters since 'Cloverfield' back in 2008, and while that may not be the most shining example of a Kaiju film it still was entertaining enough to show that the public would still pay to see strange creatures. So, here we are, five years later, and there's been one giant monster movie released and one due to come out next year. Some may claim that Gareth Edward's 'Monsters' is a giant monster movie, I say it's a movie featuring giant monsters. Still a good movie, but big difference.

Kaiju and giant monster movies have been a part of the American film culture since the original 'King Kong' in 1933. The interesting note is that outside of the "Big Bug" films of the 50's through the early 60's, American film companies didn't make too many giant monster movies. I guess you can blame that on kids' attention moving towards the space race, but Asian filmmakers were able to incorporate that into their stories. I guess you could say that's how the monster movie transcended that culture shift.

In terms of building sized monsters, we were without a major presence in the theater from the first 'King Kong' remake in 1977 to 'Godzilla 1985' in, um, 1985. After that Godzilla film failed to scare up big numbers in the States, it was another thirteen years until the horrid, yet surprisingly fun, Roland Emmerich 'Godzilla' remake in 1998. Looking at that timeline of monsters it's surprising that Legendary Films and Warner Brothers had the balls to give Del Toro the tools to make the biggest Kaiju film of all time.

The scale of 'Pacific Rim' is so grand that it couldn't have truly been captured in one film, but Del Toro did his damnedest. With the comic prequel 'Year Zero' the audience was able to see how the initial attack in San Francisco took place. From there, we dive right into the arc of the film, and without missing a beat, we fly through the runtime. It's here where the film succeeds for me:  I didn't realize that the time had passed so quickly since I was having so much fun.

So when it became time to tally those U.S. box office numbers, it was upsetting to see such a low performance. I suppose the main reason it is upsetting is that 'Pacific Rim' is a very well crafted summer movie. It's not high art, but it's a movie that succeeds in knowing its audience, and to me that is one of the most important parts of making movies. Thankfully the foreign markets understand the value of entertainment, and the financial returns have been solid overseas.

At the end of the day, there are a few reasons why 'Pacific Rim' failed in the states, but it's not the end of the world. With strong support from fans when the film hits digital and disc this fall, the studio will see that there is an interest in a continuation from Del Toro. When a film that works so well struggles to find its audience, I've found that those who do enjoy it rally to support it. Much like 'Dredd', 'Pacific Rim' is a film that needs those who enjoyed it to stand up, and say "Hey! This movie is a lot of fun, and will provide more entertainment than ______." I left that blank to fill in any movie title, but you get my point. Now, where were my Godzilla action figures...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hamburger: The Motion Picture (1986)

When 'Porky's' hit it big in the early '80s, a wave of sex comedies aimed at teens were excreted from every producer in and out of Hollywood. A low budget sex romp was almost guaranteed ROI for anyone wanting to make a name for themselves, so we were "given" films like 'Hot Resort' with Bronson Pinchot. That's not to say that there aren't some genuinely funny moments in these films, but it's like finding a stack of cash in a port-a-potty. You may have come up on top, but you still had to wade through a lot of shit.

The appropriately named 'Hamburger: The Motion Picture' was a cover that I had seen plastered in almost every mom 'n pop video store I had been in. What pre-teen wouldn't be excited over naked women busting out of a giant hamburger? Well, I guess kids nowadays wouldn't be interested, but that's for a different blog. Throughout the years, I had wondered if a DVD release of this film was to ever happen, let alone some type of streaming capability via Netflix. Low and behold, a VHS copy happened to be in a lot we had purchased.

'Hamburger: The Motion Picture' tells the story of Russell, a college man whose studies have gone astray due to the copious amount of intercourse he enjoys. The ladies just can't have enough Russell, and it's caused him to be expelled from four different universities. While getting reamed out by his parents at home, a commercial for Buster Burger University appears on TV. Russell enrolls at BBU, and finds himself at the mercy of Drootin, the drill sergeant of making hamburgers. Also, because this movie is full of cliches, Russell also finds himself falling for the Buster Burger heiress, who also happens to be engaged to Drootin. Will Russell overcome his slacker lifestyle? Will he defeat Drootin and get the girl? Find out in 'Hamburger: The Motion Picture"!

Before we continue, please try to enjoy the opening credits of this film:

The absurdity of this movie is summed in the opening credits. The song sounds like a mesh of Bon Jovi and  Bruce Springsteen, while featuring a montage of delicious hamburgers. What a shit show. It's horribly edited, and tells you that Americans are fucking fat and eat a ton of meat. So, here's a view into a satirical take on a franchise restaurant like McDonald's, add a mix of characters from better films and you have 'Hamburger: The Motion Picture'. It's not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, but in no way is it any good either.

There are really only three standout performances in the entire film, and that is from the lead portrayed by Leigh McClosky, Charles Tyner who plays the founder of Buster Burger and Dick Butkus; just because it's the greatest name ever. In terms of comedy, the film only has a few standout moments, but that seems to be from a weak script. I don't see fault in the actors, but more so in the mediocre script by Donald Ross. Not familiar with the name? Well, unless you were watching a shit-load of 'Murder She Wrote' or 'Small Wonder' that doesn't surprise me. It seems like this was his first break in writing a film script, but he should have put this dud back on the grill.

At the end of the day, 'Hamburger: The Motion Picture' will fade into obscurity. There's nothing original in the film, and outside of a few physical gags and one-liners, there is not much to recommend. With a wide array of 80's sex comedies to choose from, you're better off going with a tried and true classic.

Rating: 2 out of 5 Trash Bags


Amazon Page

Wikipedia Page

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Slashing the Options: The Future of 'Friday the 13th'

News broke earlier today that the rights for 'Friday the 13th' and its antagonist Jason Voorhees have reverted back from New Line/Warner Brothers to Paramount Studios in exchange for Chris Nolan's new film, 'Interstellar'. Now the speculation comes as to what will happen with Camp Crystal Lake. The last rumors floating around were to set the next installment during winter, and possibly have it be a found footage film. These are intriguing ideas, sure, but here are some ideas on how I think Paramount should handle the franchise they buried years ago.

1. Up the Gore:

While the 2009 reboot wasn't a bad film there just wasn't much balls behind it. Sure, there were trickles of what made this franchise so special to the fans, but it just felt like a watered down rip-off. The biggest downside, to me, about the '09 offering was that the kills, while vicious, weren't to the level we had seen in previous entries.

Sure, there was a call back to the sleeping bag death from 'New Blood', and the bear trap was an excellent choice of weapon, but this is JASON FUCKING VOORHEES we're talking about here. He should not be moping around in underground caverns. He should be slow walking while cracking dudes in half, crushing skulls to a pulp or some other wacky means of dispatching his victims.

For most fans, the special effects in this series are a highlight, and that was the biggest downside in the '09 remake. To Paramount, I say: don't be afraid to show the gore. You pussied out with 'New Blood' by trimming the violence, so here's your chance to make up for it.

2. Keep the Setting at Camp Crystal Lake:

Another downside from the '09 version was that we weren't at Camp Crystal Lake long enough. This is probably one of the most iconic locations in horror history, and all we get is a glimpse of a broken down camp. Take a note from the original film, and have a group of people trying to re-open the camp to the public. Hell, do one better and follow 'Jason Lives' with the camp being open AND in session.

This will add for huge tension with a plethora of bodies for Mr. Voorhees to mow down, and at the same time give us a chance to see humanity amongst our protagonists. There are parts in 'Jason Lives' where we see the counselors looking after and enjoying the company of the children attending camp. This adds to the character development as while they may not be the best people (pre-marital sex, drug use, drinking, etc.), it at least shows us that there are redeeming qualities. This will make their deaths that much more impactful.

3. Embrace the Past: 

While there were nods to the original series in the Platinum Dunes reboot, it just didn't really fit the cannon of the franchise. It was too mean spirited, whereas the other entries at least had a sense of fun to them; kind of like a theme park ride. Perhaps the best way to reboot the franchise is to set it in the 80s? I doubt Paramount would want to do this, but it would be a fun way to be meta about the series while still creating an original storyline.

4. Casting:

If there's one name (outside of Sean Cunningham) that is synonymous with 'Friday the 13th', it's Kane Hodder. Kane played Jason from Part VII to Part X, and is who fans know and love as the hockey masked slasher. I have my gripes about the '09 reboot, but Derek Mears portrayed Jason rather well. What I think, and this is a long shot, is to cast both in the film. Not having dual Jasons running around, but either have Mears portray Jason again or Kane, but have BOTH in the film. It should be littered with a who's who of Friday stars, and, more importantly, show that the studio is creating a film for the fans.

5. Plot: 

If there's one thing that has been missing amongst the Friday franchise over the years, it has been Jason's arch-rival; Tommy Jarvis. Portrayed original by Corey Feldman, then John Shepherd until finally being played by Thom Mathews in 'Jason Lives'. The Tommy and Jason relationship is the equivalent of Nancy vs. Freddy. There's something to be said about a character with a history, and since 'Jason Lives', all we've had is Jason mowing down teen after teen. I mean sure, that's really what this series is about, but there is a rich history between these two that should be continued.

There are probably a dozen or so other points I would tell Paramount to take in their re-acquisition of this beloved franchise, but the clock is ticking. The deal with Warner Brothers states that within FIVE YEARS there must be another entry made, or the rights will revert. My concern is that we'll get a cookie cutter entry that doesn't really serve the series justice, but I could just be talking out of my ass.

What are your thoughts? Do you think Paramount will show this franchise love after manhandling it for decades? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Adam Green & Wicked Bird Media Teaming Up to Help Boston

For those of us in Boston we are still coming to terms with the horrific tragedy that fell on Marathon Monday. Patriots Day is a tradition amongst us Bay-Staters where we go and cheer those who run the marathon, or perhaps go and catch the early Red Sox game at Fenway. Since those events there has been an outcry of support from allover the country with fundraisers and events.

At the end of May 2013, Adam Green will be hosting a series of events to raise money for the One Fund. It's great to see someone with strong roots here in Massachusetts bring their art to help those in need. Here's the press release:

Boston, Mass - May 8, 2013 - Celebrated horror genre filmmaker, television star, and Massachusetts native, Adam Green will return to the Boston-area, from May 28 - 30, 2013, to host a series of events and raise money to help those families most affected by the tragic events that unfolded during the 2013 Boston Marathon. The events include an advanced screening of the second season of the sitcom HOLLISTON, which premieres on FEARnet June 4, 2013, a celebrity benefit and silent auction at the Worcester Palladium, and the first-ever marathon screening of all three HATCHET films, including the first public screening of HATCHET III, opening in select U.S. theaters on June 14, 2013.
Born and raised in Holliston, MA, Adam got his start making local commercials for Time Warner Cable Advertising in 1997, where he borrowed company equipment to make his first feature film COFFEE & DONUTS. In 2000, he moved to Hollywood, CA and set out to turn the film into a television series. Over a decade later, it was re-developed and re-titled HOLLISTON, and premiered on FEARnet in 2012, where it was immediately embraced by critics and audiences. Adam also made his mark on the horror genre with the 2006 slasher comedy HATCHET, which went on to become a bonafide fan-favorite worldwide franchise introducing the now iconic genre villain “Victor Crowley” to genre fans around the globe. Through ArieScope Pictures, Adam’s independent film studio, he has written, directed, and/or produced the theatrical feature films: SPIRAL, FROZEN, GRACE, and CHILLERAMA.  
“I live in Los Angeles these days, but Boston is still the place I consider home,” says Green. “I’ve never forgotten where I came from and always infuse my work with Massachusetts references, whether it be showcasing the Newbury Comics logo in the HATCHET series, naming the fictitious ski mountain in FROZEN ‘Mount Holliston’, or setting my sitcom HOLLISTON in Holliston, MA. While I am just one guy, thankfully I have a body of work and a loyal and extremely passionate fan base within the horror community that I can call upon to step up and help. I think a lot of people underestimate not only the sense of community that genre fans share, but the fact that we are some of the most kind hearted and generous people you’ll ever meet. I know that the Boston chapters of the Hatchet Army and Holliston Nation will join me for this, not to mention my fans around the world that will hopefully donate to the cause online. However, the real heroes behind this are my friends at Rock and Shock and Wicked Bird Media who have worked tirelessly to make all of the arrangements, not to mention all of the various sponsors that are rising to the occasion to support all of this. I’m merely the face of an enormous heart and collective of individuals who want to help.”

Details for the events include:

1. "HOLLISTON Comes Home to Holliston": Season Two advanced screening and Q&A with the cast Adam Green returns to his hometown of Holliston, MA to host an advanced screening of three episodes from HOLLISTON’s upcoming second season, followed by a live Q&A with members of the cast, including Joe Lynch and Laura Ortiz.

Date: Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Time: 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Location: Holliston High School, 370 Hollis St., Holliston, MA 01746
Admission: $5

2. “Horror / Boston Strong” Party at The Palladium: Hosted by Adam Green
Join Adam Green (HATCHET I - III, FROZEN, HOLLISTON), Kane Hodder (HATCHET I-III, FRIDAY THE 13TH VII - X), Zach Galligan (HATCHET III, GREMLINS 1-2) and more celebrity guests, for a one-of-a-kind party at the Worcester Palladium that includes a silent auction chock full of horror and music memorabilia, gift certificates, and other rare and amazing prizes.  

In advance of the event, fans can bid on an online auction to win a private dinner with Adam Green before the party starts. More information about the auction can be found here: http://bit.ly/11gFDml.
Date: Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Time: Doors open at 7 p.m.
Location: The Palladium, 261 Main St., Worcester, MA 01608
Admission: $5

3. HATCHET movie marathon: Featuring the first ever screening of the highly-anticipated HATCHET III. Join HATCHET franchise creator Adam Green for the first-ever HATCHET marathon, including a screening of a rare uncensored UK 35mm print of the original HATCHET, an uncensored 35mm print of HATCHET II, and the first ever screening of the highly anticipated, and also uncensored, HATCHET III.  Special guests from the films will be in attendance.
Date: Thursday, May 30, 2013
Time: 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Location: The Revere Hotel, Theater One, 200 Stuart St., Boston, MA 02116
Admission: $25

Green and special guests will also be doing a free in-store signing for HOLLISTON on Tuesday, May 28, 2013, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., at Fiske’s General Store, at 776 Washington St., in Holliston, MA.

Advanced tickets for all three events go on sale on Friday, May 10, 2013, and can be purchased here:  http://bit.ly/10nN7gI.

Tickets will also be available at the door the day of each event. For more information regarding ticket sales, please call The Palladium box office at 508-797-9696. All proceeds will go towards The One Fund Boston.

Events are hosted by Rock and Shock and Wicked Bird Media, and are sponsored by Green Van.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

V/H/S 2 (2013)

Since 'The Blair Witch Project' broke box office records back in 1999 it seems like everyone under the sun has tried to put their own spin on the found footage sub-genre. From zombies and ghosts to Sasquatch and Nessie; pretty much every producer could put in a little financial backing and receive a pretty solid ROI.  The truth is that most of these films were shoddily put together with little foundation of creating an entertaining film.

Last year, horror website Bloody Disgusting ventured into the original film department with their horror anthology release, 'V/H/S'. The film fared rather well in terms of audiences and critics, so inevitably a sequel would manifest itself in no time. I enjoy the first film immensely as it was a fresh take on the tired found footage formula, but I did have my issues with the film. The wraparound story of the group of men trying to search for a wanted tape was the first films biggest downfall, as the acting and characters weren't anything to envelop the stories in-between. The other issue, as with any anthology movie, is that you're going to be left with films you really like, maybe some you're impartial to, and others that you just didn't care for at all. A lot of people didn't seem to enjoy the Ti West offering in the last installment, but I enjoy a slow burn.

As with the previous 'VHS' film, the sequel starts off with a wraparound story to envelop the found footage horrors. This time round we follow a group of private investigators who are sent to find a woman's missing son. As they enter the apartment, they find TV sets stacked in a wall with dozens of VCRs and tapes haphazardly strewn about the room. As one investigator goes searching through the house, the other starts looking through the man's tape collection.

Now here is where I should provide details of all the tapes that are viewed, but that would take away from the fun of the film. Each of the four stories are so different, but compliment each other rather smoothly. The basic premise for the films are: Ghosts ('Clinical Trials'), Zombies ('A Ride in the Park'), a cult ('Safe Haven') and an alien abduction ('Slumber Party Alien Abduction'). Whereas the first film had a few mediocre segments this sequel finds all the right beats from the first one, and amplifies them to the umptenth degree. Laughs, gore and atmosphere are all present in each segment, and the crowd I saw it with was laughing and screaming the entire time.

Honestly, I'm pretty hard pressed to find any issues with 'VHS 2'. It was exactly what I wanted from a sequel, and had a great sense of fun with each offering. The directors involved all did a wonderful job of staying within the horror genre, but allowing for comedic elements to ring throughout to offset the violence and scares. I don't even have a favorite segment, but if there was one that the audience seemed to respond to the most it was Gareth Evans 'Safe Haven'. This is the gentlemen who directed last years fantastic 'The Raid'.

While found footage may not have been reinvented with 'VHS 2', it certainly was well crafted in how to entertain an audience. For whatever faults there may have been in the previous installment, all have been eradicated with this new outing. The best thing about a budding franchise like 'VHS' is that it's a venue for up and coming directors to showcase their talents in a condensed form. They can churn out one a year like any other horror franchise, but the difference here is that we'll never see the same movie twice.

'VHS 2' will be released by Magnet Releasing on VOD July 6th with a limited theatrical run July 12th.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Trash Bags

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Battery (2013)


/ˈbatərē/ : A container consisting of one or more cells carrying an electric charge and used as a source of power.

Independent horror fare is a dime a gross. More often than not someone (like yours truly) thinks that they can grab a camera, and make the next 'Night of the Living Dead' or 'Blair Witch Project'. The sad truth is that most of these productions lack competency, but they still find their audience. Those examples stated above are the obscurity. The odd balls. Thankfully, I've never (successfully) attempted to make a film.

'The Battery' is a project where determination and passion outweighs any financial hurdles most films run into. The production was made for $6,000 and was shot in a staggering 15 days. Those figures alone should make any Hollywood production flip their respective shits. Through friends, co-workers and family the film was financed, filmed and edited.

'The Battery' is the story of two baseball players, Ben (Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim) who are traveling across New England aimlessly. The only problem is that there are zombies at every turn, so the two men decide to venture in the woods for fear of overrun cities. In their journey through a deserted neighborhood, the two men come upon a pair of two-way radios, and find a conversation amongst two survivors: Annie and Frank. The two are discussing items for Annie's "shopping list" which happens to include a copy of the movie 'Tremors' for a child's birthday at The Orchard. Mickey attempts to communicate, but is told by Frank to never use this channel again. 

Ben and Mickey begin to travel further into the wilderness, but tempers between the two rise. Ben, the realist of the two, pushes Mickey to accept the reality that the vision of things going back to normal won't happen. Mickey represents the romantic of the group. Hiding away in his headphones, he refuses to acknowledge the hand that has been dealt, and hopes and dreams for the world as he knew it to return. Ben and Mickey are the two ends of a battery, a term used to describe their relation as pitcher and catcher, but also their positions in life.

Jeremy Gardner's 'The Battery' is a crowning achievement in simplicity.  Keeping the cast and locations limited allows for the dialogue between the two protagonists to shine. The conversations between Ben and Mickey flow with ease between the two leads, and it feels like both Gardner and Cronheim have been acting for years. The supporting cast, while limited to only a handful, is present in the screenplay to serve as plot devices to further our look into the relationship between Ben and Mickey. With outstanding acting, the film moves at a rather excellent clip.

The cinematography is another highlight of 'The Battery' as the vivid New England landscape is captured in its rawest form by Christian Stella. The beauty of nature plays just as important of a character as Ben and Mickey by being the one constant in the world of the walking dead. Finally, the soundtrack is one of the best you'll hear in years with artists like Wise Blood and Rock Plaza Central are used to heighten the emotional journey between Ben and Mickey.

'The Battery' is a film that is simply a must-see. Whether you're a horror fan or just a fan of movies in general there is a lot of positives find in 'The Battery'. From an emotional character arc for each of the protagonists to gorgeous cinematography plus a fantastic soundtrack, Jeremy Gardner is a name to watch for in the upcoming years. It all starts here.

'The Battery' will be hitting VOD this June with a physical release later in the year.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Trash Bags

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Interview: 'Adjust Your Tracking' Co-Director Dan Kinem

As huge supporters of independent artists we here at The Trash Pile hope to provide new films for our readers. We're thankful today to bring you an interview with the co-director of 'Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story of the VHS Collector'. ' Adjust Your Tracking' is a documentary that looks into the lives of fans that collect home video.

Trash Pile: As a lifelong collector of VHS it’s great to see a documentary covering our fan base. What was your decision to do a documentary as opposed to, let’s say, a narrative feature?
Dan: Well, through collecting I was meeting and talking to so many interesting characters that a documentary just seemed like a logical step. I knew the fans of VHS could hold a feature-length film and be interesting enough, funny enough, and compelling enough without having to turn them into actual characters for a narrative feature. Though I do have many ideas for horror films and comedies involving VHS collectors that I think would be priceless...

Do you remember what your first VHS was?
I know what my first VHS was when I realized I was actually collecting. It was Birds II: Land's End, the made-for-TV sequel to Hitchcock's masterpiece. It was one of the worst movies ever but also a movie I realized was unlikely to ever be released on DVD and an interesting part of film history. Then I just started buying up everything I could that never was released and it moved from there. As far as movies I remember watching on VHS religiously as a kid that would have to be Tremors, Puppet Master, Home Alone, Fiddler on the Roof, Alive, and Star Wars.

Why do you think the format has lived on for so long after its death?
Well, despite not having a commercial release in a pretty long time I feel like it never truly died. As long as there are great or interesting works of art that can only be viewed on VHS it will never be dead. I still have teachers at school show videos on VHS, I still screen movies for friends and family on VHS (either because that's the only way to get it or because that's the way it was intended to be seen, like in the case of a direct-to-video or SOV film), and I still buy VHS. I don't think it will ever actually die.

Where did you travel in making ‘Adjust Your Tracking’?
Man, where didn't we travel? That was the most insane and fun trip I've ever been on. We literally went in a giant circle around the whole country collecting interviews with VHS collectors and hunting for VHS. It was the most physically demanding trip but definitely the most rewarding. We went through Ohio, to Chicago, to MN, all the way across the top of the country through Montana to Seattle, down the west coast, then swooped around to Texas, then all through the south, and rounded it all the way back up to NYC. We collected over 100 interviews and thousands of hours worth of footage. And that was just one of the trips we made while filming!

As a VHS fanatic I’ve traveled to flea markets, thrift stores, etc. What were some of the crazy adventures you heard from some collectors.
Well, without spoiling any of the stories found in the film, as crazy as it may sound, we heard multiple near-death experiences involving hunting for tapes. We heard stories that will get everybody's blood pumping and heart racing, whether they are VHS collectors or not.

In a lot of ways VHS collecting has become very similar to collecting vinyl records. Do you think the collecting market will continue to grow as it has?
Yes, I do. I see it every single day. There are new people who decide to start collecting VHS daily and I hope this documentary will push that number up even more. The goal of the film is to give a glimpse into the world of the people who still cherish what many still call a dead format, but it also works as a little nudge to people who might not look at VHS when they are shopping at a thrift store or a yard sale and says, "Stop and look at those tapes, you never know what amazing shit you might find!"

How long did the project take from fruition to completion?
Well, as of doing this interview it has actually been two full years to the month. Our first interviews were shot April of 2011 and the early beginnings of doing the documentary were in March 2011.

What are your plans for release? Will you be doing the festival circuit?
We hope to tour the film around the country and play it all over the place. We have a couple screenings set up so far which can be seen on our Facebook page (link below). We are also going to be submitting it to some festivals and attempting to set up some foreign screenings as well. As far as the release goes, possibly an early 2014 release on VHS and DVD is a goal.

In the day and age of HD and digital media it’s hard for most people to understand why people still collect formats like VHS and vinyl. How would you explain to a non-collector why they should watch your film?
To a non-collector I'd tell them they should watch Adjust Your Tracking because you need to see the highly enthusiastic, sometimes insane, subculture of VHS collectors. There's nothing like them anywhere else and if anything, this will appeal to non-collectors even more because it will give them an inside look into a crazy world they know nothing about. Beyond that, however, no matter your age your first memories of watching movies are on VHS and that should never be forgotten. Those are some of the most fun memories that people have about film and watching Adjust Your Tracking will take you back to that.

Lastly I just want to say thank you for bringing light to our crazy little world of collecting. Any last comments you’d like to share?
Well, I want everyone to go "like" the Facebook page (http://facebook.com/adjustyourtracking) and for everyone to tell your friends. Post about the film on your blogs, websites, etc. Do you have a magazine or write for one? Hit me up for an interview. My goal as of right now is to get as many people as humanly possible to know the name Adjust Your Tracking and to get excited to see it. What I put everything I have into is finally finished and I couldn't be more excited for people to finally be able to see it.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

'Crossed: Dead or Alive' is the future of creative control.

Outside of the weekly updates on the live show, it's rare that we cover our love of comics on The Trash Pile. Both Jason and I have been reading and collecting comics for upwards of 20 years, and our love of horror translates to comics as well. One of the premier destinations for modern horror comics is Avatar Press. Avatar was started in 1996 by William Christensen and has released everything from Tim Vigil and David Quinn's 'Faust' to the expanding universe of Garth Ennis's 'Crossed'.

I was exposed to 'Crossed' at the very beginning thanks partially due to the extremely graphic covers and amazingly detailed illustrations by Jacen Burrows. Even with the visceral gore on the pages, it is only through the words of creator and writer Garth Ennis that this fantastical story comes to life. Many have known Ennis's work through amazing books like 'Preacher', but 'Crossed' was different.

For those unfamiliar with the source material, 'Crossed' tells the story of a world turned inside-out. A disease infects millions, and unleashes their wickedest desires. From murder and rape to cannibalism and torture; the disease unleashes the beast within.

Throughout print series like 'Family Values', 'Psychopath' to 'Badlands' and the webseries 'Wish You Were Here', the story of the Crossed has gone gangbusters. With the success of 'The Walking Dead' on AMC, it was only a matter of time until someone thought that 'Crossed' would be a good property to turn live-action. It's hard to imagine any major film studio or television network (even HBO) would air such vile and deplorable material. Thankfully, Mr. Christensen decided that too was the case, and has decided to put ownership squarely in the hands of the series creator, Garth Ennis.

Starting sometime this spring, Avatar will be holding a fundraiser to finance the epic undertaking that would be whole season written and directed by Ennis. This won't be Ennis's first foray into filmmaking, as he had created a film prequel to one of his other Avatar series, 'Stitched'. While I haven't been able to track down a physical copy yet, I am very interested in seeing how Ennis transitions from page to screen.

With the monumental task that is a whole web series, there will also be a coinciding comic that will take the story further. This is absolutely unprecedented as far as I'm concerned as I have not seen nor heard of a title that transitions between live-action series and comic book. The idea is so fantastic that I'm surprised that one of the heavy hitters like DC or Marvel hadn't thought of it first.

Avatar Press is the premiere stop for mature comics, and with the massive goal that they have set forth to allow for a cross media title is just amazing. With the increased interest in horror titles since 'The Walking Dead' hit it big, I'm sure that 'Crossed' will have a faithful fan base. Make no mistake though, this will push all boundaries of taste, decency and morals. You have been warned.

Crossed: Dead or Alive

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Death Kappa (2010)

The execution of a proper parody is a difficult thing to accomplish. You have to be able to break the fourth wall with your knowledge of the genre shortcomings, while continuing to push the original story ahead. Too many times, we are bombarded with nonsensical pop-culture references that are supposed to represent plot and character development. That's why well loved spoof movies are few and far between.

Kaiju films have been lampooned forever, and, as described above, few are any good. The interesting thing about 'Death Kappa' is that while it was made in Japan, it has all the features of an American edit of a classic Kaiju film. Bad dubbing, special effects and incoherent plot points are only some of the aspects of 'Death Kappa' that are hamming it up.

In Japanese folklore, a Kappa is a mischievous goblin creature who happens to eat cucumbers (hence, Kappa Roll), and loves Sumo wrestling. This is all described in the beginning of the film by an American man with a Japanese name and accent. It sets the comedic tone for the film right off the bat.

'Death Kappa' tells the story of a Japanese pop-star who just couldn't hack it in the busy world of Tokyo, and moves back to the country to be with her one remaining family member, her grandmother. While taking the train back to her home town, the film is interjected with shots of  her grandmother walking with a basket of cucumbers and a group of rambunctious teenagers drinking and driving. Suddenly, out of a cliche, the grandmother is hit by the group of teenagers who speed off, and knock the remains of a petrified Kappa into the ocean (note: the "ocean" was represented by a fish tank).

The Kappa springs to life and dances around with the pop-star and her friends. All the while, a menacing creature is lurking on the beaches killing all in its wake. As the Kappa becomes friendly and dances to the star's music, a menacing figure is lurking around the corner. Are these two connected? What will happen to the Kappa and his friends? Where are the giant monster fights?!

Out of the last two questions presented only one matters:  giant monster fights. The film took the route of parodying two styles of Kaiju films: the family friendly and the classic monster vs monster. What I find to be the issue with 'Death Kappa' is that we are essentially given two separate movies that have to be judged as one. 'Death Kappa' is broken down into three parts: Family Film, Mad Scientist Film and Giant Monster Film. Each one handled differently in terms of what material is being poked fun at, but the jokes are just too forced and stale. From poorly written dialogue to cheesy computer effects, we're trying so hard to follow the story that the jokes are just pelted at us like a monkey throwing its shit.

It feels like the filmmakers really did have an appreciation for the giant monster movies of yesteryear, but with the face paced editing, it made the film feel too modern. The dubbing was atrocious, and it felt too much like the wooden acting was intentional. Sometimes it works, but mostly when the films weren't trying to be funny. The plus sides of 'Death Kappa' though are the costume and set design, which felt very much like a Kaiju film. Solid sculpting works on the monster bodysuits was a fine piece of eye candy, while your brain suffered through the plot.

At the end of the day though 'Death Kappa' is going to be a love it or hate it type of experience. There are a few laughs here or there, but I honestly felt like I was suffering through a lot of it. By the time the monster actually did make an appearance I had already checked out. It's not going to be remembered for anything other than a throwaway parody.

'Death Kappa' is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Tokyo Shock.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Trash Bags


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