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Dead Season

Dead Season

USA, 2012
AKA: The Running Dead
Director: Adam Deyoe
Writer: Adam Deyoe, Joshua Klausner, Loren Semmens
Cast: Scott Peat, Marissa Merrill, James C. Burns, Corsica Wilson, Marc L. Fusco, Todd Pritchett, Grant Beijon, Kevin O. Matta, Anna Vawser, Greg Weisman, Leishla M. Perez Figeroa, Sean McDonald, Dave Wilhoit, Barbara Kerford, Carmen Gloria, Matt Aidan, Sue Braden, Jeanette Caldera, Randall Carver, Tom Caster, Louis Chalif, Phil Connery, Amy Coughlin, Scott Deckert, Erica Delgado, Adam Deyoe, Douglas J. Eboch, Mia Eden, David Eshelman, Nancye Ferguson, Dawn Ferris, Randy Francis, Mariella Fredo, Daisy Galvis, Daniel Gavin, Jordan Graham, Woodrow Wilson Hancock III, Benny Harris, Jostel Hason, Jeb Heil, Alexis Hernandez, Dan Hicks, Jessica Houghton, Ben Idom. Stefan Ionesco, Derek Jacobsen, Danny J. Lee, Joel Michaely, Christian Mooney, Teresa R. Parker, Ava Peat, Matt Peat, Tonya Peat, Sara Raftery, Jeyson L. Robles, Natalie Smyka, Mr. Snake, Rachel Tamayo, Evelyn Vaccaro, Evelyn Osorio Vaccaro, Amanda Wigley, Collin Wigley, James Zimbardi

Prior to the zombie apocalypse Elvis was working as an EMT in Pittsburgh. Now, a year later, he has buried his family and walked from Pittsburgh to Florida, where he is trying his best to survive anyway he can. At night he talks to Tweeter on the radio. He has never met her but he tells her of his plan to get away from the zombie infested main lands. A guy he used to work with is living at a marina in Miami and is helping people get away by supplying boats and travel plans for them. One night Tweeter and a kid she met two months ago turns up at Elvis’ place. They’re actually there to try to steal food from him, but as they don’t get away with it instead they form sort of an alliance and follows him towards the coast.

When they arrive at the marina, Leach (Dan Hicks of Evil Dead II and Darkman fame) first reacts in a funny way when he see Tweeter and the kid. They trade Elvis’ food supplies for a boat and directions to this supposedly zombie free island. He warns them that the fish isn’t edible due to radiation from earlier nuclear testing on the island. The only way from Leach’s place to the boat is through a warehouse full of zombies. By the look on Leach’s face when they leave, and by his reaction when he saw Tweeter and the kid, I got he impression that he knew what was awaiting them on the island, or didn’t believe they would make it to the boat alive. Either way he didn’t care to much as it was business as usual to him. And behold – Leach turns up again later in found footage on a certain island.

The kid doesn’t make it, but Elvis and Tweeter has to abandon the boat when it runs out of fuel not far from the beaches of the island. They swim ashore and set out to explore it. It doesn’t take long before they run into both zombies and a group of people living in a gated community. Elvis is more than welcome since their previous doctor is dead, but Tweeter isn’t so sure about the group. She stumbles upon some home movies, and among them there are tapes of medical experiments on humans infected by zombie bites but not yet dead. By keeping them alive and shutting of blood flow body parts can be amputated and meat “harvested” before they turn into zombies. Why let good meat go to waste?

My first impression of Dead Season was that it was yet another generic zombie film. It felt like a rip off of The Walking Dead, and they even referred to the zombies as “walkers”, but according to the filmmakers the script for Dead Season predates TWD and filming was mostly done when TWD premiered. Since The Walking Dead is based on comic books, those could still be an inspiration. I first found the film average. Not really bad, but not really good either. But then it somehow got to me and the story sucked me in. It’s obvious the filmmakers are zombi enthusiasts as there are a number of references to other films and zombie lore. First of all the zombie apocalypse starts in Pittsburgh, which of course, as everybody knows, is the zombie capitol of the world ever since Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and it’s sequels. We have human experiments and zombies on islands in both Romero’s Day of the Dead and in Fulci’s Zombi 2 and Zombi 3. There is also a zombie stowaway on a boat in Zombi 2. At the compound they are speaking width someone on a military base just outside London on the radio, and he tells them England is practically taken over by the dead and that they are now running. This is probably a reference to the 28 Days Later franchise.

The title for the British DVD release is The Running Dead. I’ve never been a fan of running zombies and I figure this is why it took me so long to get around to watch Dead Season. Ironically there are no running zombies in it until the last part of the film, and then we get an explanation to why these running zombies don’t behave like they used to do. I’ve read several reviews where people apparently missed this explanation and are confused to why some zombies are fast while the rest is not, but to me it was like “WOW, so that’s why!”. To me this explanation makes Dead Season build a bridge between two separate zombie lines and actually changing the rulebook. An speaking of rulebooks, the book Leach is reading when Elvis knocks on his door is The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks, author of World War Z.

All those references made me reconsider and Dead Season went from average to above average. It was even better when re-watched.

My verdict: 6 out of 10.

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Horror Hospital

Horror Hospital

Noteworthy Films, UK, 1973
AKA: Computer Killers/Death Ward #13/Eastworld/Doctor Bloodbath
Director: Antony Balch
Writer: Antony Balch, Alan Watson
Cast: Michael Gough, Robin Askwith, Vanessa Shaw, Ellen Pollock, Dennis Price, Skip Martin, Kurt Christian, Barbara Wendy, Kenneth Benda, Martin Grace, Colin Skeaping, George Herbert, James Boris IV, Allan ‘The River’ Hudson, Simon Lust, Antony Balch, Ray Corbett, Richard Gordon, Alan Watson

Jason Jones was vocalist with a rock band. After being sacked he goes and see them perform and end up in a fight with their new transvestite singer. Fed up with everything he decides to have a holliday. He finds an ad for “Hairy Holidays, Fun and Sun for the under 30’s” and decides to go. The creepy travel agent comes on to him and want to take him to the Bahamas, but when he realizes it’s the “Hairy Holiday” Jason wants he gives him a special prize of 5 pounds for the whole week. He doesn’t even want to be paid in advance.

On the train Jason meet Judy. She is going to visit an aunt she has never met. Her aunt and her mother had an arguement before Judy was born and never spoke since. Aunt Harris used to run a brothel in Hamburg before the second world war. She hooked up with a strange finnish doctor and when the war broke out he took her with him to Helsinki. After the war she brought him with her back to England. Now, Judy’s mother has died and aunt Harris is her only relative. It turns out Jason and Judy is going to the same place, since Doctor Storm is the one running the “Hairy Holiday” health hotel.

There were supposed to be a car waiting by the station, but after waiting for some time they ask the stationmaster for directions and take off on foot. They are caught in the rain and take cover in an old ruin, Eventually they get picked up by two men on motorcycles working for Dr. Storm, and are delivered to a big mansion. They are let in by a dwarf and signed in by a woman who turns out to be Judy’s aunt. She is upset to see Judy. She had sent her a letter telling her specifically not to come visit, but Judy never got the letter. There is a shortage of rooms so Jason and Judy have to share one despite Judys objections. She doesn’t object when he join her in the shower later on though.

When shown to their room by the dwarf, Frederick, a man with a big scar on his forhead comes out of a room and in the room the bedsheets are drenched in blood. The dwarf says someone had a small accident and hopes they’ll be more lucky.

At dinner Jason and Judy sits down with the other guests, and tries to make conversation. All the others are dressed in white, quite pale and with big scars on their forheads. None of them answers or even looks at the newcomers. When aunt Harris sits down with them they ask her what is going on, but before they get any answers a girl named Millie, the only other person at the table without the scar, trows a tantrum and is hauled off by two motorcyclists in black leathers and white helmets. None of the others reacts to this, but Jason and Judy are shocked and goes back to their room. Dr. Storm, who is in a wheelchair, comes and see them. Judy sais she want to leave, but the house is locked down for the night and there is nowhere to go. Dr. Storm tells her to stay for the night and wait till morning. He claims she and Jason will be quite safe as long as they stay in their room an keep the door locked.

Aunt Harris and Fredrick are digging graves in the garden while Jason and Judy make love. Later on Jason sneaks out to see if he can find out what’s really going on in this weird manor. Judy gets tired of waiting and follows him. She finds a room with eight beds. It looks like the people in them are dead but they remove the covering over their heads and look at her. They all have scars. When Jason get back to the room Judy is gone. He sees some kind of disfiguered monster before he is knocked out from behind.

Next day Jason finally learns what is going on. Dr. Storm is luring young people to his place and operating on them in his lab. He has developed a technique of brain surgery which turn his victims into zombies. They feel nothing and have no will of their own but are controlled with a computer. Judy is being held in a cell with Millie. Preparations for Millies operation has begun and after her it’s Judy’s turn. Then Jasons’. Jason manages to escape but is being hunted by the motorcyclists. Will he get away from them and will he be able to save Judy before she is turned into a mindless zombie?

Horror Hospital might have been the definition of gore in 1973, but by todays standards it’s pretty innocent and tame. It’s still good for a few laughs, though. The story is over the top with a Rolls Royce used for decapitating escapees, a gym full of zombies, an army of bikers in black leather, brain surgery and nightly burials in the garden. It reminds me of The Rocky Horror Picture Show but without the music. If they did a remake today I’m sure it would be a blockbuster. Somebody call Hollywood!

My verdict: 8 out of 10.