Life After Beth (2014)


Directed by: Jeff Baena

I like zombie films, and a part of me will always love films that feature bumbling over-zealous Security Guards  (after my five years spent in the industry); so in a way ‘Life After Beth’ was already on to a winner since it ticks those two boxes.

‘Life After Beth’ a rom-zom-com, to steal a phrase used in the promotion push for ‘Shaun of the Dead; featuring the mostly nearly always charming Aubrey Plaza and the solid acting chops of Dane DeHaan, who usually steals some sunshine from even the cloudiest of directed movies (***cough ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ cough coughMetallica Through the Never’***).

Plaza plays Beth Slocum, who is fatally bitten by a snake when out hiking. The early part of the movie centres upon Zach (Dehaan) who is grieving for Beth, who was his girlfriend. He spends a fair amount of time hanging around with Beth’s parents after the funeral. Then suddenly he is unable to contact them. The Slocum’s ignore his phone calls and don’t answer the door. Zach calls round one evening, and snoops about outside the Slocum residence. At the thirteen minute mark of the movie he sees Beth. She’s ‘alive’!

There’s been a plethora of zombie comedies, lord knows we’ve covered several of them on the site, what helps ‘Life After Beth’ stand out is that it perfectly captures this little indie viewpoint of life in the suburbs. Everything is sterile and safe for the characters, their lives are dulled so much that even a zombie outbreak struggles to induce hysteria. One by one more dead people begin returning, and hardly anybody raises an eyebrow. Like Zach’s Mum, half of the population are medicated and drowsily sleepwalking through their days.

The critical response to ‘Life After Beth’ has been lukewarm, and though Plaza and DeHaan deliver alongside a strong supporting cast, the second half of the movie curdles into a bloody average predictable mess. It reminds me a lot of how I felt about ‘Zombieland’ after the Bill Murray scene. As a viewer I’m hooked, laughing along, and then suddenly it hits me. Oh, I don’t think the director knows how to end this. I predict it’s going to end like this. Shit, I’m right, it has ended like this. When I can see the end a mile out, it’s a bad thing. I hate that. ‘life After Beth’ has a good premises and is full of good acting performances but it fails to deliver a satisfying finish.

‘Life After Beth’ is one of those movies where the director will probably  look back and think – I could’ve done better on that one.





Life After Death on IMDB



Spacebong Beach Babes (2010)


What’s the least amount of effort you can put in and still have the thing you made be called a movie? Join me as we find out!

Reviewing this normally will be pointless. If you’ve seen the title and want to watch it, I’m pretty sure nothing I say will make the slightest bit of difference, but let’s see if I can provide a few laughs for the sensible among you.

Three women have the big plan of going to the beach and getting high all day. One of them has to work, the other two have an audition, but they’re determined to get in maximum beach-stoner time. At the same time, some aliens who look exactly like buds of weed crash-land on earth in their bong-shaped spaceship.

The special effects are so far beyond incompetent that is has to be a joke. The spaceship is just a picture of a bong, crudely cut out of a magazine, stuck on a background of white dots on black, and the alien is literally a bud of weed with a couple of googly eyes stuck to it. But this incompetence isn’t limited to the special effects! The sound wasn’t recorded live, so you’ll have a conversation in a car that sounds like it was recorded in the director’s living room, only all three of the women were recorded at different times with different ambient sound behind them.


The interesting thing about this movie is some of the dialogue. Two of the three are at the beach, and start talking about the environment, and pollution tax, and so on. It’s a fairly indepth discussion about the need for corporations to be punished for their environmental disasters, read out awkwardly by two stoner women. There are other examples littered throughout.

This is barely a movie. Heck, it’s barely anything. If you really, really like smoking weed, and jokes about being stoned and how good weed is…if you’ve ever laughed at someone saying “duuuuuuuuude”…then you’re definitely the target audience for this. I remain a bit unsure about why this film was made, though. The opening graphic says it’s about encouraging people to vote in favour of marijuana legalisation, but I’m not sure this is the sort of film to sway the undecided, if you know what I mean. It’s not titillating either, as the women are both annoying and remain clothed. I’m stumped.

So, at least it’s available for free. If you’re bored with films that have plots, and acting, and effects, and a reason for existence, then this might be the film for you. I wish the good time that the people who made it surely had translated to the screen, is all.

The Fear Of Speed (2002)


If you want to make a really OTT film, hire a bunch of porno actors.

That is the message of this film, an early one from Jeff Centauri, who’s one of those people who can turn their hand to anything – he’s written, directed, acted, been a stunt co-ordinator, done motion capture for computer games, photographed and done special effects. The first thing that appears on screen is “A Jeff Centauri Madness”, which is a pretty good indicator of how things are going to go.

This film could, broadly, be called a low-budget parody of “The Fast And The Furious”, but that doesn’t do it justice at all. Dale DaBone, who surely has one of the all-time great adult actor names, is Max Spears, a mechanic with a love of street racing, and the main threads of the story are started at a street racer gathering. He’s got a beautiful girlfriend, Brittany (Noname Jane, one of the other great names), and a former friend turned rival, Rico, who’s also Brittany’s ex. Now, here’s where things get crazy, and you’ll either read the next paragraph and immediately try and track this down or abandon this review.

Rico beats Max and wins his car because of his nitro system, which is powered by…here goes…his father’s radioactive sperm. Turns out that papa Hornero Martino (Mike Horner, who cornered the market for a while with XXX parodies like “Not Bionic Woman And The Million Dollar Man XXX”) was brought up in a village with high radioactivity, and this has left his sperm with several supernatural properties – it’s the world’s most addictive drug, it’s a high explosive, and it can super-charge an engine. YES!!

He's happy because of his magic semen

He’s happy because of his magic semen

So, Max has to build an even better car to win the big Car Wars race, Rico has to try and sell his father’s sperm to drug dealers, and the two sides continue to clash. The other bit of story is the title, and it’s Brittany (whose surname in the movie is Sears, which is just bizarre with a boyfriend called Spears, even if they mention it at the end). She passes out if she’s in a car going above 30 mph, but when Max gets his leg taken out by one of Rico’s goons, her lightning-fast reflexes need to be put to use driving the car for him…if only she can figure out a way to get over her tachophobia.

That’s a pretty basic framework for what is a refreshingly insane film. First and foremost, in case you were thinking of popping this on with your grandma, there’s a lot of sex in here. Centauri has produced three versions of this – one with more explicit scenes, which remains unreleased; the version I saw, which is the unrated cut released on Amazon; and an R-rated version which was made when it got picked up for mainstream distribution. Honestly, the sex scenes are an odd bunch. The editing is strange, and all the scenes are “typical” softcore ones – there’s a couple that want to have sex but don’t want to get caught as they’re at work, for example. Rather than keep as fully clothed as possible and find somewhere off the beaten path, they get naked, lay themselves over some industrial equipment and have a nice leisurely session. Don’t worry, I appreciate questioning the logic of a sex scene in a film full of sex scenes is perhaps the weirdest thing I’ve ever done as a film reviewer. Also, more people get walked in on having sex in this than in perhaps any other movie, ever. (2)

“The Fear Of Speed” also copies one of my least favourite choices of the “Fast And Furious” films, the decision to focus more on the flicking of switches and the changing of gears than the actual movement of the cars. As a non-driver, perhaps this is what drivers enjoy about these films, and there’s a certain energy to them, I suppose. What it does that F&F didn’t do (at the time, anyway) is have a bunch of really good fight scenes. The film’s fight co-ordinator acts too, as Max’s sensei, who just sort of turns up halfway through the film to help Max out in a fight then sticks around til the end. The fighting in this film looks like it belongs in a much higher-budget movie, and credit to everyone who did their own stunts as it looks great.

I’ve barely even scratched the surface of this film and how much I enjoyed it. If you can get past the first few minutes, which looks like decent home movie footage of an illegal street race, I think you’ll have a good time with this one. You’ll see Max’s mechanic, Sparks, also play two other roles in the movie (“Undercover Gay Cop” and “Lazy Scientist”) for absolutely no reason; Mike Horner and Voodoo (his son Rico) do truly wonderfully terrible Hispanic accents; you’ll see one of the wildest stunts ever, a couple having sex on the bonnet of a fast-moving car; you’ll see a fight scene apparently set on a spaceship (there was a spaceship set in the studio the crew were filming in and they borrowed it) and you’ll marvel at the OTT performances of the cast, who are clearly enjoying the chance to shoot a normal film.

This stunt is amazing

This stunt is amazing

Finally, huge thanks to Jeff Centauri for answering my questions about the film. He seems like one of the good guys, so check out his website to keep abreast of what he’s up to now.

Rating: thumbs up

Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film (2006)


Remember, when you’re listening to the people in this documentary pontificate about the socially useful things that slasher films do, or their artistic merits, that they’re a bunch of worthless bottom-of-the-ladder Hollywood slimeballs who would make literally any sort of film if they thought it’d turn a quick profit. Also, that this doc is from 2006, but most of the modern franchises are at least mentioned (Saw, Paranormal Activity).

After a bit of a preamble, we’re right in with a discussion of “Halloween”, and the style of the film becomes immediately apparent. It’s a series of talking head interviews combined with footage from the films in question, onscreen information about box office takings, and a voiceover. But the style of the interviews is annoying and offputting – John Carpenter is filmed walking through a cemetery, as is Amy Holden Jones, and an exec from New Line Cinema is filmed walking through what looks like a back alley. I guess it’s an attempt to make it a bit visual? I don’t know.

Really, the film is in three sections. Firstly, it’s “Halloween” to 1983. Then it’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street” to the 90s; and finally, “Scream” and beyond. The first section is clearly the most interesting, because really most of the slasher films you know and remember are from that era- plenty of people are interviewed, my favourite being Tom Savini, the special effects mastermind who’s made a lot of terrible films at least look okay.

I don’t think you really need me to review this documentary on its technical merits – it’s cheaply made and you’re only really going to find it or track it down if you have at least a passing interest in the genre, so I can get into some of the more meaty stuff. For what it’s worth, I think they do a good job of breaking down the tropes of slasher films and recapping most of the history.


It’s the position the film takes on certain issues that’s the biggest problem. We see film reviewing legend Roger Ebert in the first few minutes, but it’s not in his role as one of the earliest champions of “Halloween”, when most other reviewers had dismissed it as garbage (in fact, they credit its early success with a positive review from elsewhere). It’s from his exceedingly negative TV review of “Silent Night, Deadly Night”, and the enormous furore that built up around it on its release, from parents who were upset that Christmas was ruined because their kids thought Santa was a serial killer. The really annoying thing is this film is absolutely right about the furore – parents should have talked to their kids about what fiction is, rather than going onto the street to demand censorship. I always thought Siskel and Ebert were wrong to be so offended, going as far as putting up the companies that had funded it on their show for people to complain to, even if it was a miserable, depressing slice of horror; but what they were absolutely right about was the genre’s treatment of women.

This film goes out of its way to tell us, over and over again, that these films did not treat women badly (the footage over the end credits is an uninterrupted stream of women at horror conventions telling us how empowering they are). Amy Holden Jones wrote and directed “Sorority House Massacre” in 1983, and she calls herself a feminist. But it’s the idea that because one feminist created one film where women have stronger roles, the entire genre, with its hundreds of killers murdering and sexually threatening women, should be given a free pass, that is ridiculous. That there’s a five minute section at the end of the average slasher film where the woman, who’s spent the whole movie screaming and running away while all her friends die, displays some competence and “kills” the slasher, does not excuse the genre. There have been plenty of studies done on it, but they’re handily summarized here. It’s not as simple as “well, the Final Girl is a thing in horror movies” and anyone trying to tell you it is has something to sell.

If you’re a big fan of the genre, you’ll be a bit puzzled by some of the choices they make. The film essentially starts with “Halloween”, even though you could make a decent case for “Black Christmas” both predating it and being important to the evolution of horror. They show the sequels to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” without mentioning the original too, which is a bit strange.

The enormous majority of slasher films are cheap, badly acted pieces of garbage and while this doc at least attempts to address this, by showing posters for the long-forgotten ones inbetween the sections on the more famous films, you could be forgiven for leaving this film with a skewed vision of what the slasher movie was. The increasing gore as we go along isn’t a statement about Reagan’s 80s, it’s because they were trying to one-up the awful film that was released the week before, or generate publicity by angering some Moral Majority group into protesting them (which finally happened with “Silent Night, Deadly Night”).


I don’t hate slasher movies, particularly. I unapologetically love all the “A Nightmare On Elm Street” movies, think the first two “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” films are both great, and at least enjoy plenty of others. But to pretend it was anything other than a bunch of scumbags trying to bleed teenagers of their money by any means necessary is disingenuous nonsense.

Maybe my favourite of all of them is “April Fools’ Day”. The doc mentions it, saying that because it’s mainly a comedy, advertising it as a slasher film was a pretty rotten trick – but to their credit they do produce a dissenting voice saying it was a work of genius. The strange thing is, by the time the film made it to the UK, they’d decided to change tack, as I never saw it billed as anything other than a comedy, and it remains a shining light among films lumped into the “slasher genre”. However, don’t watch this documentary before the film as it gives away the ending (as it does with quite a few others, oddly).

Ultimately, this is a documentary for fans. The footage of conventions isn’t an accident, and the smartest interviewee of all, “Sleepaway Camp” girl with something extra Angela, better known as actress Felissa Rose, gives a long speech about how wonderful the convention crowds are. That some could see them as an echo chamber enforcing all that’s worst about modern horror is, for some reason, never mentioned. Anyway, it’s absolutely worth watching if you’re a fan of the genre, but be prepared to fact-check pretty much everything that most of the interviewees say.

Rating: thumbs up

Halloween 2 (1981)


Well…mostly new

This film is the beginning of the end. As far as I can gather, it’s the first sequel to a slasher film – a few other “horror” franchises had sequels before this, but they weren’t slashers, and this sets the template. The killer is now effectively indestructible, unstoppable and his motives become more and more hazy, to the point where it becomes “Slasher Film 7 – Just Point Me At The Teenagers”.

It starts the second the first film ends. The police finally get onto the streets of Haddonfield in force, and take Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) to the hospital. Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasence, showing remarkable loyalty to this series) is sure that Myers is out there, and even carries on believing it when someone dressed identically to Myers is trapped between two cars and blown up. “Before they were famous” fans will enjoy seeing future SNL and “Wayne’s World” star Dana Carvey as one of the TV news crew people.

He's on the left

He’s on the left

The interesting things about this movie are things that its imitators didn’t do. A significant amount of this film is about the aftermath of the first one and how the characters deal with it, which is a thing most horror films don’t give a damn about. We see the father of one of the girls murdered in part 1, we see the people at the local hospital discussing the radio news reports, and we get a flavour of how a small town which has this happen would react. But it does also have an unstoppable mask-wearing force of evil, and he makes his way to the hospital, doing a few more killings along the way and stopping off at his former infant school to write “Samhain” in blood on a chalkboard.

We also appear to have the originator of the poorly lit hospital trope which I’ve railed against so many times. Initially, the hospital is brightly lit, and you’re like “finally, a horror film where I can see what’s going on” until about halfway through, when all the lights seem to be on a dimmer. Dammit! What we also have, that the first film had none of, is the fakeout scare – a cat jumping out of a rubbish bin, a boyfriend pretending to be a patient under a blanket, that sort of thing.

John Carpenter wrote the second one, even though one gets the sense he didn’t really want to, and couldn’t think of a sensible plot – hence the “twist”, which is never so much as hinted at in the film before it. Also, for all his great films, he’s made a lot more than his fair share of garbage, so maybe this is from the “minus” side of his resume. The director of part 2, Rick Rosenthal, has zero other credits worth a damn and has been a TV director for the last 20 years, but he does a decent enough job of aping Carpenter’s visual style from part 1 – it looks similar enough that if you compared a few scenes, you’d probably not be able to tell who did what.


You have to laugh. Myers makes his way through the hospital, thinking of interesting ways to kill people (drowning someone in a boiling hot tub is my favourite) and there’s never a bit of doubt that he’ll make it through everyone in his way up to Laurie and Dr. Loomis. It gets so silly towards the end that comedy must have been what they were going for – well, I hope, anyway. There’s one hilarious death where Myers has drained all the blood from one of his victims, and someone happens upon the scene later, slips in the blood, bangs their head and dies. Brilliant! It’s when you discover that Myers has slashed the tyres and damaged the engines of every single car in the parking lot that you think “okay, I don’t have to worry about taking this seriously now”.

What this film isn’t is particularly scary, because there’s no real tension to it – when someone is shot in the eyes twice but doesn’t stop coming, it’s tough to keep tension; but it does have quite a bit more gore. I’ll leave you with a quote from Splatter Movies, by John McCarty, written around the time. “[They] aim not to scare their audiences, necessarily, nor to drive them to the edge of their seats in suspense, but to mortify them with scenes of explicit gore. In splatter movies, mutilation is indeed the message, many times the only one.”

Rating: thumbs down

Halloween (1978)


Books have been written about this film – serious, scholarly works that go in depth into John Carpenter, every shot, the film’s view of society, all that sort of thing. The geniuses at Red Letter Media have just released a commentary for this, too (the thing that inspired me to rewatch it) which is full of trivia, comedy, and analysis. Chances are you’ve already seen it. So why should you read this?

I don’t know. It’s not like I’m the first – or the hundredth, or the thousandth – low-rent film blogger to have a go at this either. Unless you’re one of the three friends of mine who reads this site regularly, these words will disappear into the ether. But, you might be about to watch this film for the first time and your Google search is broken for the first ten pages. Who knows? Also, I’m going to be reviewing the entire series, and I don’t think there are too many sites who’ve made it as far as part 6, with Paul Rudd, or that one with Busta Rhymes in it, where the house was covered in webcams (part 8, a quick search tells me).

The first thing you’ll notice is how this doesn’t look anything like the legion of films which followed in its footsteps (not just the sequels, but the other slasher franchises). It’s full of long, slow shots, panning across empty suburbia. The music and the colours (which make it look like a cold Midwest Halloween, but was actually filmed in California, the autumn leaves being a prop) set up a feeling of dread better than “generic metal soundtrack X” and a few jumpcuts could ever hope to do. The main house used in the film wasn’t a prop, but a real dilapidated home they found and were able to film in.


The plot is simple. Young Michael Myers kills his elder sister on Halloween and is sent to an insane asylum. 15 years later he escapes, heads back to his old town and decides to kill babysitters, focusing on Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). There’s no explanation, no more backstory than is absolutely necessary, and no understanding. He’s just a force. Chasing him down is Dr Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance)…and that’s it.

Does anyone really care about backstory? Was Hannibal Lecter more frightening when we knew nothing about him, or after “Hannibal Rising” when we’d got his entire life story in boring, excruciating detail? Is Michael Myers more scary or less after we’ve been told all about his life both in the sequels and the 2007 “remake”? Prequels, backstory…it’s all bunk, to squeeze money out of characters that we like because we know nothing about them. “Halloween” works partly because of what it doesn’t tell us.

It’s difficult to have a personal reaction to such a famous film. Even if you’ve not seen it before, you’ll recognise plenty of the scenes from being lifted for other, lesser horror films or from the many parodies. But it provides moments that still can give you the chills. Seeing Michael across the street, just in the middle of a normal suburban day, no loud music or jump-scares, is still a great moment. It doesn’t follow “the rules”, either, for instance Michael is unmasked at one point, and it’s not a big deal – an absolute no-no in the prop fetishisation world of 80s and 90s horror. There’s barely any death, and what there is is incredibly tame. A few frames of nudity. There’s just atmosphere.


Really, you don’t need me to tell you about this film. It’s a classic, forever enshrined in the pantheon of great horror cinema. It’s not perfect (s-l-o-w pace, even when it doesn’t need to be, Dr Loomis spends half the film stood next to a bush) but the way it works, while the sequels get progressively stupider, is testament to its quality. We’ll be reviewing the series, and as I recall I quite enjoyed a few of the later ones.

Rating: thumbs up (obviously)

The Dead Hate The Living! (2000)


You’ve got to get excited about a film with an exclamation point in the title! It promises excitement, adventure, and really wild things! Additionally, this one promises the dead, hating the living!

I was completely fooled by the opening of this film – a stew of rubbish special effects, a doctor who appears to be a little too much into corpses, and a remarkably unpleasant sex scene where a reanimated corpse eats and then has sex with the doctor – because it’s a film within a film. Boo! Saying that, the genre of “horror films set on the set of horror films” is surprisingly large – off the top of my head, “Return To Horror High”, “Shadow Of The Vampire”, “Terror Firmer”, and “Mute Witness”, but there’s loads more.

The film this bears the most resemblance to, at least initially, is Troma’s modern classic “Terror Firmer”, released the year before. The crew is an independent, low-budget one, and damn proud of it, breaking into an abandoned hospital to make what appears to be soft-core zombie porn. It’s a family affair – a brother (the director) and two sisters (star of the first scene, and snooty older sister who is paying for everything); the special effects guy is the brother’s best friend from school. Their conversations throw  references to other horror films around casually, too, although none of them seem to have a clue about the zombies that end up attacking them.

This film hinges on a decision which is a long way beyond stupid, and I need to break it down. While filming, they discover the mad scientist’s lair we were shown in a video flashback at the beginning, a Rob Zombie crossed with Christoph Waltz lookalike who’s managed to create zombies…then stuck himself in a large, ornate, upright coffin. So, an unspecified time later, they find his corpse, and, after a bit of debate, decide to use it in the film. This, of course, activates the coffin, which not only brings Christoph Zombie back to life, but opens a portal to a zombie dimension.


Let’s look at the possibilities. First up, you can phone the police, and then local TV. They turn up and you say “we’re independent filmmakers, but even we don’t want to disrespect a corpse. By the way, follow us on Twitter for information on when the film comes out”, then the local TV station will probably do a follow-up when the film comes out – you might even get some national publicity.

Or, do you use the corpse in your film? Even ignoring that the family of the dead person would sue you, I’m pretty sure messing with a corpse is illegal in some way, so your film would be evidence of a crime and would be impounded, rendering all the time and money you’d spent on it pointless. Or you can choose not to tell people about the corpse, which means he’s just a prop and your garbage zombie film gets ignored like all the other garbage zombie films.

That’s the biggest problem, I’d say, but there are others. The first 45 minutes of the film is unbearably slow, and you end up just watching people make a film. This seems to be a recurring problem with Full Moon (see reviews passim), and the sad thing is that being students of horror such as they are, they really ought to have a better idea how the great horrors are paced. The first 15 minutes of the film have you believing that the more timid of the two sisters is going to be the star, but she just sort of wanders off about halfway through, barely to be seen again, and the central relationship feels like it was written by a single teenager who thinks that’s how adult relationships go. Perhaps most annoyingly of all, when the main bad guy is directing his minions, he says “Kill them all…slowly”. Literally every single person who gets killed from that point is offed quickly. Your cool-sounding lines need to be backed up!


As the best possible review line about this film has already been taken (“the living hate The Dead Hate The Living”, which I’ll never be able to top) I’d best think of something positive to say. The sad thing is, this film has a heck of a lot to like about it! The central friendship is believable and well done, and the actual zombies, when they turn up, look great. The last half hour of the film is full of excitement too, and there’s a lot of good Full Moon comedy, but it’s too little, too late.

Rating: thumbs down

The release of ‘Zombie Hood’










BrinkVision releases the U.K. horror ZOMBIE HOOD in North America on VOD and Limited Edition DVD on October 21st! ZOMBIE HOOD has been called impressive, gory, odd-humored, and fun. The film is fragmented into parts, introducing characters skillfully into the chaos that is the post-apocalyse battleover of England. Zombie Hood is exciting indie horror showcasing a band of survivors against the ferocious threat of the undead. ZOMBIE HOOD releases October 21st on VOD and Limited Edition DVD.





The initial infection begins after the virus spreads through a nightclub and is quickly transmitted throughout the city. After a night of disturbances across the whole United Kingdom, the police and emergency services lose control of the situation, with hospitals overrun and the dead coming back to life to attack and devour the living. With the cities now the domain of the undead, the survivors flee the built up areas and take refuge in the countryside and small villages. Zombie Hood follows the story of a small group of survivors who are thrown together in the outskirts of Nottingham. Like Robin Hood and his merry men, the rag tag band look to Sherwood Forest for sanctuary, but soon find out that even the countryside isn’t a safe haven. With food and supplies in short demand, the group find themselves arguing over their plans for survival, which isn’t helped by Sam, a wayward teenager with a confused and dangerous personality.