Ozombie (2012)

I feel bad reviewing this film. It’s bait for sites such as ours, much like “Iron Sky” or “Jersey Shore Shark Attack”. Look at the wacky title! It’s going to be gory and funny, right? ozombie Osama Bin Laden is in his final compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and the Americans are closing in. For some reason, most of the inside of that house is what looks like the inside of a storage locker unit, with doors stretching off as far as the eye can see. I knew all that time watching “Storage Wars” wasn’t wasted. So, the soldiers are moving through the storage unit, when all the doors open up to reveal…zombies! Turns out ol’ Osama is using some evil chemicals to turn people into the living dead, and the last we see of him in this sequence, he’s injecting himself with his own chemicals as the door gets kicked in and he takes a hail of bullets.

We then get treated to a young American couple sunning themselves on “the Arabian Sea”, and as they frolic, the world’s favourite terrorist, freshly undead, emerges from his watery grave to claim his first victims. Then we cut to the people who’ll be our heroes, a wacky, multi-ethnic group of soldiers, far behind enemy lines, tasked with…you know what? Who cares. They’re there to kill zombies, and as they’re engaging in a bit of banter, a whole bunch of them come over a hill and we get a nice big fight.

This fight sums up nearly every problem the film has. First up, the soldiers are badly trained and incredibly unobservant. They allow zombies to get the jump on them almost constantly, with no sign of something as basic as watching each other’s backs, let alone anything an advanced squad of badass US soldiers would learn. There’s lots of stale banter, like someone who made this film saw a Tarantino film once, really enjoyed it, but didn’t take any valuable lessons away from it other than banter + violence = awesome. One of the soldiers dies during this fight, and there’s a long emotional scene as they say farewell to their friend, the sort of scene that you’d get just before the climactic sequence in a good film. You want your large emotional moments to have been hard-fought, not to appear ten minutes in with characters we barely know, let alone care about (there’s another, almost identical, scene at about the hour mark, if you really liked this one). There’s also some dubious politics on display here – Barack Obama is referred to as “Barack Bonaparte” as some sort of reference to his tyrant nature, and the idea of the US mission in Afghanistan being anything other than absolutely right and morally justified is never brought up.

There’s also a brother-sister team of people who are in Afghanistan for reasons so lame I can’t be bothered to type them out, who are the fuel that helps drive the movements of the characters in the last half of the film. Two siblings who couldn’t look less alike – the sister is Mediterranean in hue, the brother has ginger hair and under the dirt is probably pretty pale. Anyway. My wife asked me to print a joke from the film in full, to show the awful “banter” we had to put up with. “Confucius say man who farts in church must sit in his own pew”. I say joke, I mean “empty words that made me want to throttle the character who spoke them”.

Ozombie11 Anyway, thanks to their inability to perform basic military manoeuvres with any competence, the soldiers get gradually killed off as they close in on zombie Osama’s new hideout. Will they survive? Will they kill Bin Laden for the second time?

This film isn’t, in terms of these sorts of films, cheaply made. They’ve spent a decent amount of money on makeup and extras, the actors all can act, Eve Mauro and Danielle Chuchran deserve better, and there’s plenty of sets used. What it is, is a big nothing of a film. They came up with a title and a vague concept, and half-assed it to an extraordinary extent on absolutely everything else. At least exploitation / grindhouse cinema in the 70s was open about its reason for existence, but this makes a vague hand-wave in the direction of having a point to make while not being especially…anything, really.

Ozombie on IMDB
Buy Osombie [DVD]


Red Rock West (1993)


Nicolas Cage has been in a lot of films, a lot of rubbish films and a handful of good films. Among those good films is an early John Dahl feature called Red Rock West, a western-noir from 1993 that was somehow overlooked for a theatrical release in the US until a cinema owner tracked down the rights and screened it in his theatre a year later to great success.

Red Rock West was written by its director, John Dahl, and his brother Rick and was made in Arizona for a paltry budget of $7million. Columbia Tri-Star purchased the domestic distribution rights and, believing that the film ‘didn’t fall into any marketable categories’ (urgh), decided to release it straight to home video. Fortunately Bill Banning, the owner of the Roxie Cinema in San Francisco, wasn’t quite so patronising of his audiences and acquired a cut for his screens where it broke box office records and expanded to a further 8 cinemas in the city.

Cage stars as Michael Williams, a drifter in desperate need of an income since being discharged from the Marines. He finds himself wandering into the town of Red Rock, Wyoming and inadvertently lands a job after answering to the name of ‘Lyle from Dallas’ when posed a question about his presence in town by the bar owner Wayne (J.T. Walsh). His eyes light up when he’s handed a wad of cash but then soon dim as he’s advised what the job entails; to kill his new employer’s wife (Lara Flynn Boyle).

By this point we’ve already twigged that Williams doesn’t have an ounce of bad in him (he decides against stealing money from an open till in an earlier scene) so it comes as no surprise that instead of killing the unknowing spouse, he warns her of the dastardly plot on her life and accepts a greater sum from her to reverse the deed. He then attempts to skip town knowing full well he isn’t going to kill anyone but is foiled and gets dragged deeper into the fray as the real Lyle from Dallas (Dennis Hopper) arrives to carry out the original plan and soon discovers Cage’s identity theft.

Even in this short synopsis I’ve omitted a few more twists and turns in the plot but only because there are so many and, believe me, they do work. Dahl’s writing and direction, albeit at a formative stage in his career, is assured and brimming with confidence; the story flows at a tidy pace and it looks good too considering the budget constraints.

Thematically Red Rock West often feels like a David Lynch film just without the abstract profundity, now this isn’t taking anything away from what Dahl has achieved, quite the opposite in fact as I found myself constantly comparing it favourably to Lynch’s canon; The labyrinthine plot, the country music soundtrack and the apple-pie protagonist are all found in Lynch’s body of work plus all three leads, Cage (Wild At Heart) , Hopper (Blue Velvet) and Flynn Boyle (Twin Peaks) have all worked with him.

Talking of the three leads, they perform their roles with a style befitting the tone and writing of the piece which adds an extra layer of plausibility while the microcosm around these characters is slowly imploding on them. Cage has rarely been better as a good guy, Hopper channels Frank Booth without the depravity and Flynn Boyle kept me guessing all the way with a subtle, charming yet world worn performance. It should also be mentioned that this film gave us the acting debut of Dwight Yoakam (credited as ‘Truck Driver’) and while he was on set he who wrote the closing credits tune just because he could.

It seems incredible that a film as good as this can be discarded so easily because of an off day in the marketing department, still we have to be thankful for people like Banning for getting it the recognition it deserves, however slight. If you’ve not seen the film then I strongly urge you to source a copy at the earliest opportunity as Red Rock West is a buried 90s gem that needs to be unearthed, shined clean and displayed as that thing of rare beauty; a good Nic Cage film.

– Greg Foster

Red Rock West on IMDB
Buy Red Rock West [DVD] [1993]

Interview with James Cullen Bressack

james cullen

We described ‘To Jennifer’ as “a film which covers obsession, voyeurism and ponders how modern life seems like it is seen through the lens of a smart phone”; it made a lot of sense to grab some of the precious time of director James Cullen Bressack and ask him a few questions about the movie and life in the biz.

ISCFC: Hello James, I thoroughly enjoyed ‘To Jennifer’ and felt that it was your strongest effort to date. How did the initial idea for the film first come about?

Thank you! I truly appreciate that. This is a tricky question to answer, because essentially the initial idea was the twist, and I don’t want to give that away, But what I will say is i wanted to make a film that was 90% a comedy, to lull an audience into security before having a big turn at the end. In my first film ‘MY PURE JOY’, I tried to splice in buddy comedy with horror and I feel like it didn’t work, so I wanted to try again and get it right this time.

What challenges faced you when shooting the film on an iPhone 5?

Honestly, the same challenges that you face while shooting with any other camera, although the Video doesn’t transfer from the iphone 5 to the computer as easily and it’s hard to open in final cut. Also occasionally the camera would flex and Maure on its own.

Are we all in danger of turning into voyeurs in the internet age?

I believe we are. I was just having a conversation about this yesterday, but my generation I think would find it near impossible to go an entire month without internet or cell phones. It would be like the dark ages! We have adapted and come accustomed to these appliances as a part of everyday life. I almost sometimes look at my phone, because it has google in it, as an extension of my brain, holding all the facts my mind can’t on its own.

You’ve stated in previous interviews that your all-time favorite film is ‘Oldboy’, what are your hopes for the upcoming remake?

I honestly am not planning on watching the remake, I am not a fan of the filmmaker or remakes and don’t want to ruin my favorite film for myself. If the reviews are AMAZING, I might reconsider.


We covered ‘Hate Crime’ last year, and complimented the acting performances. Was there any reluctance shown from the actors about dealing with the strong subject matter and the experience of acting out such shocking violence?

All of my actors that ended up in the film were VERY dedicated and fine with all of the content and violence; they understood the importance of the message that was being conveyed within the film and the symbolism of each act of violence. However, there were cast members that dropped out of the film in the early stages that had to be replaced, and there were people that stormed out of the audition rooms after reading the sides.

A great deal of your films cover the threat that is right on our doorstep; our friends, our neighbours, about how those people we know and trust can worryingly harbour the darkest secrets – when you read the news this a familiar and scary part of the societies in which we live in, but in cinema the local danger is sometimes ignored, particularly in the horror genre. Why do you think this is?

I feel like people don’t always like to be reminded how scary the world we live in today is, but as a horror filmmaker, it is my job to play on the fears of my audience. The world around us is scary. Horrible things happen every day. I don’t need to create monsters, when there are monsters that live just a few houses down from any given person. Even that thought, or paranoia, that’s what I like to play into when making a film – Reality. I also find it a lot of fun to dive into the mind of a monster and find out how the think, how they work. It really helps the process with my actors as well.

You are very hands on with the audition process. What are you looking for when it comes to picking leading males and scream queens?

I am very obsessive about who I work with as an actor or actress. Any of the actors I have worked with in the past will tell you I am an actor’s director. I spend days upon days, hours upon hours, discussing character, who this person is, how they feel when they wake up in the morning, what makes them tick, and everything that is off the page, not just on it. I also dive deep into the motivation of each and every word and action the character does. To do this I need to know I can spend that much time around an actor or actress, that I really connect with them on that mental level, and that they are able to put in the time and work for me that I will require. I also tend to do, what I am told is a Fincher-esque amount of takes per angle on set to help build performances as well.

Storytelling is something that is important to you as a director. Outside of cinema, what storytellers do you most admire?

I am a huge fan of Jack London, Edgar Allen Poe, Shakespeare, and Rampo.

What can we expect from ‘Pernicious’?

‘Pernicious’ is going to be my first Supernatural horror film. It is also my favorite script I have worked on thus far. The film also happens to be more commercial an effort then my films in the vein of ‘HATE CRIME’. It’s more tame, yet equally as frightening, just in a different way. I am excited to see what everyone think of it, because I will be pouring myself into it for 3 months straight in Thailand! It’s going to be an exciting and intense film, I guarantee it.

Summer is here, the time of the year traditionally set aside for the release of the big budget blockbuster. What would you say your favourite blockbuster was from the last few years?

The last Harry Potter movie. I was a big fan of the books. 🙂


Congo (1995)


A trip to the cinema as a child in the late ‘80s/early 90’s was, fortunately, a frequent event for me; I remember stocking up on sweets from the corner shop and hiding them in my jacket to evade the ridiculous cinema prices, queuing at the ticket booth which always took forever and that excited walk to the screen where whatever cinematic marvel was waiting to thrill and engage me. When you’re young, everything is brilliant; every film I saw was the best thing ever and I had an insatiable thirst for more. Then, in the summer of 1995, along came Congo which made me realise that films could be disappointing.

It had to happen sometime but how could a jungle romp about evil gorillas be the film to kick-start a young boy’s critical bent? The ingredients for success are there; experienced big-game hunters, greedy baddies and…errr…a talking ape. We can start here I guess, yes Congo has a talking monkey, not talking with its vocal chords mind but by being equipped with a tech glove that synthesises a voice for her. Thus we are then treated to such fantastic dialogue as “Amy good gorilla” and “bad gorillas, go away”. The film focusses muchly on the relationship between her and her owner/tutor/guardian & all round good egg, Dr. Elliott (Dylan Walsh) and sags heavily because of this.

The second of the two major storylines revolves around Laura Linney, a good-at-heart scientist working for an incredibly shady organisation, being sent to the Congo to find Bruce Campbell and recover a precious gem that powers a laser gun. I know this all sounds like lots of fun and I also know I had you at ‘Bruce Campbell’ (I had me at ‘Bruce Campbell’) but, cult heroes aside, this is more tedious than dull. Why a conscientious type like Linney would be working for a company whose boss holds profit dearer than his own son doesn’t really make sense, especially considering they are at loggerheads about the direction of their work at least twice in the opening 10 minutes alone. Surely he would’ve fired her or at least not let her get into any position of rank.

Anyway, thinking about those minor details is as boring as the film so let’s have a look at the cast. Congo was put into production hot on the heels of Jurassic Park (1993) to cash in on Michael Crichton’s name whose book this was also based and, like JP, Congo has an interesting ensemble but, unlike JP, it’s entirely wasted. I’ve already mentioned Walsh and Linney in their leading roles so the remaining principal cast is headed by the premier silver screen smoker Ernie Hudson, sporting a sloppy English accent which disappears whenever he physically moves, Tim Curry being Tim Curry, Grant Heslov who is nothing more than an annoyance, John Hawkes in his breakthrough role as ‘Bob’, the guy who screams then dies, Joe Pantoliano as their airport pick-up and Delroy Lindo who seems to be thoroughly enjoying himself as a corrupt African official. Well, enjoying himself enough to ask not to be credited and who can blame him?

There is a bit of peril here and there along their journey; African guerrillas shoot at their plane, they get attacked by a hippo while crossing a river (it looks as bad as it sounds), Tim Curry does his customary eastern European accent then they arrive at their destination, the lost city of Zinj. It turns out King Solomon hid all his diamonds in Zinj (which is in a volcano) and bred evil gorillas to protect his bounty from looters and Tim Curry, this they at least succeed in as their final hurrah is bashing his head in. I had long stopped caring by this point but, for completion purposes, Linney and Ernie Hudson find a dead body prop which is dressed in Bruce Campbell’s clothes from earlier and luckily it has the precious stone gripped in its hand and, even luckier, the laser gun is right there too.

While Linney is faffing about trying to work the laser gun, Ernie Hudson is running low on ammo and Walsh falls into the gorilla pit, cue Amy to come to his rescue by talking with her special glove and basically weirding out the other gorillas. Oddly enough the volcano then erupts and the monkeys fall into a sea of lava while the humans leg it and outrun the eruption which suspiciously hasn’t covered any distance outside Zinj even though it erupted, ash cloud and all. Linney then shoots the laser gun at her company’s satellite knowing full well her boss’s values so would presumably have to go into hiding for the rest of her life.

A large quarrel that fans of Jurassic Park had was that the gorillas were people in rubbish suits, they look cute and fluffy apart from their twisted faces and they’re quite small. As for Amy, urgh, just urgh. Apparently CGI at this point was fine for scales and lizards but hair would’ve looked cartoonish so instead of cartoon monkeys we get ugly care bears. The action scenes are atrocious too, it’s all awkward slow-mo and close-ups, during this there’s a shot that looks as if a gorilla is rubbing Ernie Hudson’s face.

Director Frank Marshall was better serving up B-movie fare like Arachnophobia (1990) and Alive (1993) as the action-adventure genre proved to be too big an ask and promptly buried his directing career. In the right hands Congo could’ve been a resurrection of the jungle adventure film but, like its other heavily flora backdropped contemporary, The Phantom (1996), it veered off the beaten track and plummeted to its death from the rickety rope bridge of critical failure.

– Greg Foster

Congo on IMDB
Buy Congo – Dvd [1995]

Evil Aliens (2005)

My friend James always gets me a pile of the worst films ever for my birthday. The sleaziest second-hand shops are trawled, the market stalls are scanned, and I get the benefit of that. So, I finally got round to watching the films he got me last year, and…I think this is one of them. It’s certainly in the same pile. Anyway.


Blood. Blood. Blood. BLOOD. And bits of sick.

Blood. Blood. Blood. BLOOD. And bits of sick.

This film is sort of bonkers. There’s a stone circle called “the Devil’s Teeth”, and a few people get abducted by aliens. No is-it-or-isn’t-it here, the aliens are here and they’re probing! So, one of those History Channel-style alien investigation shows finds out about this and decides to send a camera crew to this remote location to see what’s going on.

I was expecting to have to write a lot about this film, but it turns out I’ve done a pretty good job of summing it up with that one paragraph. Well, the humans are going to have to fight the aliens, of course, and they’re going to do it with a tongue firmly in a cheek.

Emily Booth, who I remember from the truly appalling Live TV drama series “Threesome” and, I suppose much more famously, as the face of the Horror Channel on satellite, is in this, and acquits herself pretty well. I wish she’d stuck to acting, to be honest, as she could have been pretty big with the right agent. The rest of the cast are alien-fodder and therefore are not worth either of our time.

Hold on, I’ve remembered why I own this! My mate from work says his mate is in this film. Well, friend of a friend, you can feel proud that the one film you were in was actually pretty decent. There’s a fine sense of humour running through this, I wouldn’t say it was the best horror-comedy ever made but we Brits can make em better than just about anyone else.

The director of this also made “Razor Blade Smile”, that one about the female vampire. I remember absolutely nothing about it, apart from the fact I watched it. And that it was really bad. Still, everyone has an off day, and he also made “Doghouse” (which people seem to like) and https://iscfc.net/2012/09/20/video-nasties-moral-panic-censorship-and-videotape/ – which I reviewed late last year for this site.

Evil Aliens on IMDB
Buy Evil Aliens [DVD]

The Crow Road (1996, TV)

It was a sad day at my house when the news of Iain Banks’ death came out. A brilliant author, and a really decent fella, who almost ruined my second year at Uni – I discovered him and spent most of a term reading everything he’d written up to that point, rather than course-books. I had very fond memories of the 1996 TV mini-series based on “The Crow Road”, so I decided to watch it again, introducing my wife to it in the process.


“The Crow Road” is three stories in one – the gradual coming-of-age of Prentice McHoan, and his struggles with love and a family of oddballs; a murder-mystery about the death of Prentice’s Uncle Rory seven years previously; and flashbacks to Rory’s life, framed as Prentice discovering his Uncle’s papers and piecing together his sort-of autobiography. They intertwine, and the way they don’t exactly come together but inform and enrich your understanding of the other strands of the story is one of the great things about both the book and the show.

I’m getting ahead of the show, though. Joe McFadden, who slipped into early-evening family drama roles after this, it seems, plays Prentice, a student at Glasgow University who is brought back to his family’s home village of Gallanach thanks to the death of his grandmother. He’s fallen out with his father, the sternly socialist and atheist Kenneth, played absolutely brilliantly by Bill Paterson. Prentice at the start of the story sort-of believes in God, and this tension between the two drives some clever and philosophical discussions between the two of them and other characters; Kenneth’s brother Hamish is in a Christian sect with only one member (himself) and their brother-in-law Fergus is the Laird of the local castle. Their sister, married to Fergus, died in a car crash years previously, before the disappearance of Uncle Rory. Prentice becomes interested in Rory’s life after being given some papers by Rory’s ex Janice.

That seems like a lot of information to take in, but the show does it beautifully. There’s a flashback inside a flashback in the first ten minutes of the show, and all the performances are note-perfect, with two unfortunate exception. Verity, the object of his desires in the first few episodes, never gives any indication why she so bewitches Prentice and is a bit of a non-character, as things go (she’s really there to drive a wedge between Prentice and his brother Lewis, a successful standup played by Dougray Scott before Hollywood came calling). And then there’s his best friend Ashley, played by Valerie Edmond. I had such an enormous crush on her when I first watched this – she’s beautiful, funny, independent, passionate, and clever (okay, I still have quite a large crush on her). The problem is, she’s really struggling to act in some of the scenes. It feels like she’s reading dialogue from a book rather than acting it, and while it’s not that bad, and may have been a deliberate choice – a naturalistic performance to counterpoint the high emotions on show from the rest of the cast – it’s weirdly out of place.


If my gushing wasn’t obvious, I love this show. A lot of the heavy lifting was done by the book, one of those times when you’re the perfect age to discover a book for the first time. I was about the same age and doing the same thing as Prentice when I first read this – although my family have fewer murderous secrets, and I don’t live in beautifully picturesque Scotland. When I first watched it, my sympathies were more with him than with his Dad, but as I age and capitalism gets worse and worse for the daily lives of us all, Kenneth becomes more sympathetic. Normally, I’d be upset that merely ageing could change my mind on something, but this show is rich enough that it supports both the teenage me and the late-30s me.

Debate was inspired, and the four hours of the show flew by. I hope it’ll be as well regarded in another 20 years, as it deserves to be. One of the genuine classics of 1990s TV. Oh, and Iain Banks thought it was better than the book in lots of places, and given  he didn’t shower any of the other adaptations of his with the same praise, I think it’s safe to say he liked this one.

The Crow Road on IMDB
Buy The Crow Road [DVD]
Read The Crow Road

Coldblooded (1995)


Our mini-mid-90s thon ends with this, one of those oddball, self-consciously cool comedy thrillers which major studios seemed to be falling over themselves to make at the time, thanks to “Pulp Fiction”, “Clerks”, “Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead” and the Weinsteins bringing the best of indie cinema to the mainstream. If you lived through the era, chances are you’ll have seen a ton of those films, with their wisecracking murderers, pop culture referencing dialogue and “cool” little quirks, but I lived through that era and had never heard of this one. So, what’s it like?

Jason Priestley, at the height of his “Beverly Hills 90210” TV stardom, is Cosmo, a mob bookie whose life is sitting by a phone to take bets, going home to his room in the basement of an old people’s home (told you it was quirky) and sleeping with Honey (Janeane Garofalo), a hooker with a heart. Well, not really a heart. “Affectless” is the best way to describe him, as he seems curiously un-human. He comes across as a bit…simple?…at times, but it’s more to do with his almost complete withdrawal from the world.

For some reason, his main boss, played by Robert Loggia in a role he’s probably done a thousand times before, promotes him to trainee hitman. Cosmo doesn’t seem thrilled by this, but his affectless personality means he puts up barely any resistance, and his mentor Steve (Peter Riegert) recognises a talent in the making – he’s a great shot and after a very small amount of worry over his first killing, adapts perfectly to the lifestyle and begins, sort of, to enjoy it.

Interspersed with his trips to yoga (which must be miracle work, given how much it helps him with his killing anxiety) and his budding romance with his instructor, played by Kimberley Williams-Paisley, he’s out and about killing people for his mob boss, and the “main” plot of the film rumbles along. Anyone who’s seen one of these films before knows there’s going to be double-crosses, unusual job requests and betrayals.

The director of this film is Wallace Wolodarsky, better known to most as one of the original producers and writers for The Simpsons. He’s worked on and off since then, including scripts for “The Rocker” and “Monsters vs. Aliens”, but aside from this and whoops-we-need-to-dress-as-women-to-go-to-college movie “Sorority Boys”, he’s not directed much, and nothing at all in the last decade. Which is a shame, because this film is, while not necessarily amazing, certainly the film of a director with something interesting to say.

I think there’s a good reason this film has remained under the radar, though. Priestley’s performance is very odd – he varies from a blank slate to educationally subnormal to some sort of autism to lovesick…I can sort of see what he’s going for, but I don’t think he nails it. It’s certainly an interesting choice for director and actor, but I can’t help but feel a few tweaks would have worked wonders. Garofalo, who looks set to have some sort of pivotal role, just departs halfway through, as if edited out. But Peter Riegert, as the grizzled veteran, is note-perfect, as is Loggia (but that’s no surprise).

There’s lots of lovely but unobtrusive camerawork in this, and the flat boring expanse of Anytown, USA is well captured, as are the curiously empty homes of Cosmo and Steve. Care has been taken making this film, but it just doesn’t seem like it’s much of anything. Cosmo’s arc is really shallow and there’s a feeling of unreality over all the proceedings that takes you too far out of it, like you expect everyone to wink to the camera after they’ve been murdered. I can’t help but feel I’m doing a poor job of explaining to you why this film is a fascinating failure, but it’s like somewhere down deep in the workings of the film, a little cog doesn’t quite fit, making everything else skewed.

I’d definitely recommend it though. It deserves talking of in the same conversation as those other 90s films, and while it’s not perfect, neither were they (for self-consciously trying to start its own cult, it’s several steps below “Things To Do In Denver…”, for example).

I couldn't find any screengrabs, so have this GIS for "cold blooded"

I couldn’t find any screengrabs, so have this GIS for “cold blooded”