Gingerdead: The Adventures of Nella & Nello

Submitted for your approval is a short film co-written by, co-directed by, and co-starring one of my Facebook Friends, Chris Moore.

Moore and his partner in crime, Nina Scholl have served up Gingerdead: The Adventures of Nella & Nello, a bastardized version of Hansel and Gretel that takes place a few months after the events of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.   This 16 minute opus has everything: love, death, blood, cookies, and even a musical number - and more than that, it's hysterically funny!  Honestly after watching this one, I  declare the following: "I have seen the future of underground cinema, and its NAMES are Chris Moore and Nina Scholl!

Now sit back and enjoy as Bruno Zipes tells us why it's dangerous to be orally fixated...


Could Have Been a Contender: Strange Behavior

1981's Strange Behavior, is probably one of the most confounding horror films I have ever seen.

A combination of slasher, science fiction, 50's teen-horror, and murder mystery; Strange Behavior tries desperately to be all things to all people - and man oh man, it stumbles horribly despite its well meaning efforts.

Directed by Michael Laughlin, and starring a mixed cast that includes Michael Murphy, Louise Fletcher, Dey Young (from Rock and Roll High School) Fiona Lewis and Charles Lane; Strange Behavior tells the tale of a mad scientist who is seeking revenge on the people of a small mid-western town (said town is played by Avondale, New Zealand) by experimenting on the teens of the town and turning them into mindless killers.  Sounds like fun, right?  And for a while it is.  In fact the first twenty minutes, or so,  of the film are very intriguing.

  After the opening credits (scored by German ambient music makers, Tangerine Dream) sets a rather David Lynch mood a murder occurs, and it's seen only in shadows...
...from this we get a further Lynch-like look at where we are.  Gorgeous landscapes of the small town in brilliant sunlight set up the location until finally we are at the house of Officer John Brady (Murphy), and his son, Pete (Don Shor), who, apparently likes to walk around bare-assed in front of his dad...BTW, this is the only nude scene in the film!
Later on, we discover that bubble butt, I mean, Pete is a college student.  And like all college students, he needs a little money - so he joins his buddy and agrees to be tested by someone at the college's science department.  Also, as a college student, Pete likes to go to themed dance parties, and that's when Strange Behavior delivers its most delightfully silly moment: a new-wave costume party...complete with a choreographed dance scene set to Lou Christie's "Lightning Strikes."
...couple number one: Dork Boy and Pat Benatar! 
Couple number two: The Flintstone Sisters!  
Couple number three: Robin and Screaming Gal!
Couple number 4: Lily Munster and Bat Man!

Like they say, it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt ... and true to form someone does get hurt...actually a couple of people are in trouble because some goober is running around in a Tor Johnson mask with a big knife hacking up party guests on the front lawn!
Turns out that we see the killer remove his mask, and it's Pete's buddy - oh no! Could it be that the experiments being run on him at the school are causing this...strange behavior (see what I did, put the title of the film in, clever, eh?).  

Later on more killings occur - seems like one of the more zaftig teens has taken to slashing , and she's very proficient at it.  She likes to chop off hands and leave them around where parents can find them...

...and if that's not enough, she comes back to the scene of the crime to finish up her hand collection...
...this causes Inspector Donovan (Lane) to utter the immortal line, "Round up all the fat girls!"
While I wish I could tell you that things only get better, sadly they don't.  At this point, Strange Behavior just sort of stalls out and slowly (very slowly) runs out of gas... sure, sure the mad scientist's assistant (Shaw) gets to stick an enormous hypodermic needle into bubble butt's eye...
 ...ouch, that's gotta hurt...
...and sure, Louise Fletcher is quiet good as Brady's long suffering girlfriend (honestly, she's terrific in this film)...
...but none of this manages to coalesce or bring things to a satisfying ending.  By the time we've reached the "shocking conclusion", and the mad scientist  is revealed it all seems rather anti-climatic.  The pregnant pauses and lingering moments of facial reactions don't seem to help matters either. 
Nah, it's all just a big old blah by the film's happy ending, and the closing credits that just seem to happen.  And that's a shame, because Strange Behavior really could have been a contender. 

That said, turn up the speakers and enjoy the jerky movements, bad costumes, and general weirdness of my favorite scene from Strange Behavior!


Heard any good stories lately? : URBANIA

A troubled young man walks the streets of Greenwich Village on the last night of daylight savings time, seemingly in his own world.  Along the way he bumps into strangers and acquaintances who either offer advice or relay fantastic urban legends as fact.  Actually before Urbania's story begins in earnest we watch as a businessman goes home with a strange woman, makes love to her, passes out, and then wakes up in a bathtub full of ice only to discover that his kidney has been removed.
Based on the stage play, Urban Folk Tales, Urbania ( made in 2000)  follows a lonely young man named Charlie (Dan Futterman) on a nocturnal journey through the seedy streets of New York City's West Village.  It seems that Charlie is still coping with the fact that his lover Chris (Matt Keeslar) has abandoned him, and Charlie is desperately trying to come to grips with this fact.  So, with eyes wide shut, he stumbles about bumping into a cavalcade of characters who come complete with their own tall tales: there is the bartender whose appendage is so large it allegedly drove a wealthy woman to bequeath her life savings to him; the old lady who panics and shoves her wet poodle into a microwave oven to dry it off; the loud mouthed tourist who got more than she bargained for when she picked up her pictures from her last vacation  - and all of these vaguely familiar stories serve our hero well as he's constantly saying, "Distract me, man. Take me out of my own head for two minutes".  And it make sense, as Charlie's head seems crowded with all sorts of unsavory things.  Not only is he mourning the death of his relationship, he's also constantly seeing the phantom of a bloodied man asking for his help as well as having visions of some sort of violent occurance that might have happend in his past.
As the night wears on it becomes obvious that Charlie may have found someone to replace his lost love as he seems to be stalking a rather dangerous but handsome tattooed stranger that he keeps seeing out of the corner of his eye.  Again, through flashbacks, the viewer is made to think that the stranger and Charlie may have crossed paths before.  Whatever the case may be, Charlies seems to be obsessed with the stranger, following him around, standing a few feet from him while the guy is making out with a woman, and then, striking up a conversation with him in a bar.
Finally, Charlie seems to have the man of his obsessive dreams who is called Dean (Sam Ball) where he wants him; , that he seems to possess a more-than-passing-resemblance to his ex beau is not lost on the viewer.  But that's not it, not by a long a shot...and to spill any more at this point would be to ruin the punchline of a devastatingly mind numbing psychological thriller.
Bringing to mind such films as After Hours, Looking for Mr. Goodbar and Mulholland Dr, Urbania seems like the type of film Hitchcock might have made would that he were a gay man.  Many of Hitch's themes and touches (obsession, sexual guilt, grief, psychological scaring etc) are noticed throughout.   It's also interesting that Urbania is the rare film that presents a main character who is gay with out any of the cinematic trappings of a gay male - he's not a fashion plate, nor is he terribly witty, he does not serve as a comic foil, and in spite of everything, he's not as tragic as one might think - in fact he's a bit of a loose cannon whose obsession serves a much larger cause.  Dan Futterman's acting is what holds this exercise together and he's magnificent.  Sometimes pathetic, other times charming, often devious, and even menacing(!) - he also manages to throw in a bit of good old fashioned sex appeal when needed.  One might wonder why he never went on to bigger and better things after this film.
Finally, if you make it to the end of this film and don't feel relieved, saddened and horrified, you might want to check your humanity.  Urbania is a long, scary, funny, sexy, terrifying walk on the wild side - and one well worth the trip.


Zombie Redemption

There was a time when I found zombies the be-all-end-all of horror.  But that was some time ago, and as I mentioned on this very blog; lately zombies are dead to me.

And then, just last week, I stumbled upon Dead Set, a witty, creepy, British mini-series that finds contestants of Big Brother, the sole survivors of zombie infested England (and possibly the world).

Now, to be fair, I did not immediately fall in love with Dead Set.  As a matter of fact, I found the first episode to be so fucking hyper-kinetic, that I had a headache by the time it was over.  Shot and edited at a rapid-fire pace, there was not much time to  appreciate what was actually going on, and in what seemed a matter of minutes, hundreds of people become crazed flesh eaters,  society crashed, all communication went down, and the world was now the domain of the ghouls.  Also, the creatures in Dead Set were so fast, and so crazy, they seemed more like the infected in 28 Days Later.  Another thing that really bothered me was that whenever we saw a zombie, the camera seemed like it was set on vibrate - you know, that goddamn, shaky cam crap that once seemed so inventive; well, it's almost a cliche these days.

The magic in Dead Set did not manifest until the second episode when we meet a handful of other survivors and see how they try to escape the apocalypse that's befallen.  It is at this point that Dead Set goes from being a frenetic set piece to a dark, morbid tale that just becomes more inescapably horrific and hopeless until, by the final episode - all hope is gone.  Did I mention that amongst all of this despair, Dead Set manages to include a message about the evils of "reality television" as well as mass media in general?

Shortcomings aside, Dead Set was a satisfying, short, sweet affair (six, half hour episodes), if you have not already seen it, seek it out (IFC has been showing it, and it's also available on DVD). 
On Halloween night, AMC premiered the highly anticipated (and highly hyped) The Walking Dead

Seemingly the polar opposite of Dead Set, The Walking Dead's first episode was a slow paced almost cinematic affair that related the story of Georgia police officer who falls into a coma after being shot by  a couple of ne'er-do-wells.  Upon walking up, the cop discovers that something wicked his way came, and the world seems a much emptier place ... that is until he finds out that the world is  now overrun with flesh eating zombies. 

For the next hour and a half, I was mesmerized by the chilling tale unfolding before my eyes.  No caffeine infused crazies here, no seat-of-the-pants camera work, no ironic dialouge...just a unique story slowly creeping up on the viewer.  And when the zombies turn up, they are horrifying, shambling things (some of whom still seem to have an ounce of their human memories - one female ghoul shows up at her home to try and claim her still living son and husband).

What also impressed me was the story being told.  A long conversation between two of the main characters at the start of The Walking Dead, figures in on a plot twist that we witness about half way through the proceedings.

Granted, I've only seen the first episode of The Walking Dead, but if the rest of the series is as good as chapter one, then I think we are all in for a rare treat;  a zombie tale with something more behind it than special effects and gore.  Could this be the redemption that the zombie genre has needed for so long?  Stay tuned.