Posts Tagged With: Horror Comedies

“What A Time To Be Alive!” ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE Reviewed…

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BD. Second Sight. Region Free. 15

We’re not renowned for our Christmas spirit here at The House Of Freudstein. As a matter of fact, we’re irredeemable hard core Grinches. It would take more than some soppy Xmas flick to put a smile on our faces since that messy business with the Petersons… and as for the Boyles? Don’t even go there (“No Bob… not inside!”) Rom-coms? Musicals? All things uplifting? Fuck ’em… and we reserve a special place in our bloody basement for Johnny come lately zombie movies! Yeah, you can make money out of any old tat now by bunging a few living deadsters into it… but where were you people in 1981?

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The auspices were not remotely favourable, then, but bugger me backwards with a candy cane if John McPhail’s gory zombie rom-com musical Anna And The Apocalypse (2017) didn’t win our hearts when opening Nottingham’s Mayhem Film Festival in October 2018. Mr McPhail even attended to introduce it, slag off Netflix and tell us what stand up people we were for still turning out to watch films on the big screen. Flattery will get you everywhere, mate…

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Plot is pretty much wot it says on the tin: schoolgirl Anna (the incandescent Ella Hunt, above) and her school friends / adversaries / would be lovers make a song and dance about their relationship issues and express their commonplace hopes, dreams and fears against the back drop of an unfolding zombie virus meltdown. It’s a saga of human persistence against the odds or a statement of futility, depending on whether you’re the kind of person who considers your glass of egg nog half empty or half full. In fact, while you weren’t looking, somebody slipped something bitter sweet into your  Advocaat… consider that a public health Warnink.

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McPhail does a stand up job taking on a project that was intended for its wrtier, the late Ryan McHenry (to whom AATA is lovingly dedicated), being as it is an expansion of his original 2011 short Zombie Musical. It helped that McPhail got (no disrespect intended to the original participants) a much better OST (some real ear worms here from Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly) and cast. Special mention for Sarah Swire who plays Steph (the mislocated nerd who ultimately saves the day… or part of it, anyhows) and also choreographed the whole shebang. Paul Kaye essays one of those teachers most of us have suffered (if you never did, lucky you), the kind of guy who takes out the sour frustrations of his own miserable life on the kids he’s supposed to be nurturing and here finds an appropriate canvas on which to fully reveal his true hateful colours.

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The axing of Kaye’s duet with Mark Benton, plus the transformation of an an animated title sequence into an animated credits sequence largely account for the two different cuts of AATA, both of which are present and correct on this double disc set. You also get that original short. McPhail, co-writer Alan McDonald and composers Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly chip in with an audio commentary and there’s assorted “making of” / “behind the scenes” / “at the Edinburgh festival” (lummy, was Ms Hunt aware of just how wispy her outfit was before stepping out in this bit?) which is so “feel good” that it nearly tips over into the sort of wholesome tweeness that the film itself lampoons. Nearly, but not quite.

What a time, indeed, to be alive. Or what passes for it…

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Uh Oh, Chongo! It’s THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE Next…

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DVD. Warner. Region 2. 18.

Now there’s a title that will baffle all but the most fossilised of our readers… as for the rest of you, try and imagine, if you can, a time without wall-to-wall children’s TV, when the biggest thing on your mind coming home from school was the new episode of Scooby Doo. Saturday mornings, meanwhile, offered the dubious delights of The Banana Splits…

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One day in 1967, Hanna-Barbera executives brainstormed a new kids show to be based loosely around the Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In format. So far so good, but this was 1967 after all… who can guess what psychoactive substances had been slipped into the water cooler and what havoc they wrought on the neural networks of the participants as they fleshed out this promising premise to encompass a pop group comprising guys in furry mutant animal suits, apparently living in a basement that is besieged by little girls playing mariachi music and malevolent pre-teen go-go dancers? All sounds well dodgy now, but perhaps the tripping executives reasoned that such outré ingredients would distract from the utter lameness of the episodic cartoon series buried in the mix, the stiffest stuff ever to emerge under the esteemed H-B banner… I’m talking The Arabian Knights, The Three Musketeers and the justifiably short lived Micro Ventures (honourable mention though for the live action cliff-hanging effort Danger Island, starring a young Jean-Michael Vincent and featuring Kim Kahana as Chongo)… this  whole mess served up to the accompaniment of moronic bubble gum pop, corny sound effects and incessant canned laughter. Like it says in the song… lots of fun for everyone! So how come Scooby Doo remains an institution (regularly repeated / rebooted and now celebrating its first half Century) while The Banana Splits have ridden a Banana Bluggy to oblivion since the final episodes were shot in 1970? Perhaps Danishka Esterhazy’s 2019 feature can throw some light on what happened…

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… perhaps not. The Banana Splits Movie unfolds in a parallel universe where, according to writers Jed Elinoff and Scott Thomas (who quite possibly  imbibed from that same water cooler), The Banana Splits Adventure Hour (to give the show its full original title) continued its run successfully into the present day. Of course this has necessitated a few tweaks along the way. The program is now shot in South Africa (no reason why not, I guess) and the cartoons, Chongo and co, those mariachi moppets and The Sour Grapes Bunch (who at least get a name check) have been expunged from the format in favour of an audience participation game show. Most radically, The Splits themselves (joined here by a human co-presenter named Stevie) are now animatronic creations rather than guys in flea bitten furry costumes, hard wired to fulfil their primary directive “the show must go on”.

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When spiteful Stevie breaks it to the ‘Nanas that an obnoxious new executive is cancelling the show, they go totally Westworld on his ass and those of all the other adults in the studio audience. The kids are chained to their seats and obliged to watch a procession of grown ups whom we’ve been egged on to dislike (of whom there are no shortage) being dispatched in inventive, Grand Guignol fashion. One guy has a lollipop rammed down his throat, another’s face is burned off with an improvised flamethrower, yet another is torn limb from limb on a wheel of fortune and the ol’ “saw the dude in half” routine takes a distinctly literal turn… fun for everyone, indeed!

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Needless to say, some partypooping do gooders ultimately put a stop to the Splits’ splatterfest but they’re murderous cyborgs so maybe, you know, they’ll be back. In the bonus featurette The Banana Splits: Behind The Horror various cast and crew members recall what a great laugh they had making the picture. Director Esterhazy does her best to convince us that it only expands on the inherent creepiness of the original characters. Really? Never mind, TBSM helped 90 minutes or so to pass in undemandingly enjoyable style and now that I’ve watched it I’ll put it right there on the shelf next to Zombeavers, so I’ll know where to find it in the extremely unlikely event that I’ll ever want to watch it again.

Whatever next? The Phantom Flan Flinger turns to serial killing? Or maybe…

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Yodelling In The Canyon Of Death… ATTACK OF THE LEDERHOSEN ZOMBIES Reviewed

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Attack Of The Lederhosen Zombies. 2016. Austria. Starring Gabriela Marcinkova, Laurie Kalvert, Margarete Tiesel, Oscar Dyekjaer Giese, Karl Fischer, Kari Rakkola. Special effects: Tissi Brandhofer, Nikolay Mayer. SFX Make Up and Creature Design: Chris “Creatures” Kunzman. DP: Xiaosu Han, Andreas Thalhammer. Written by Dominik Hartel, Armin Prediger. Produced by Markus Fischer. Directed by Dominik Hartel.

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Romero was right… the zombies have taken over. I remember spending a lot of time writing about these deadfucks back in the late ‘80s, when they were a… er, niche interest, as a result of which I then “enjoyed” a very modest life style. Here we are, a quarter of a Century later, zombies dominate Hollywood horror product and their TV box sets are required viewing for any self-respecting hipster… but I’ve still got little more than the pot I piss in. You’ve got to laugh or you’d cry…

… good job then, that zom-coms were invented. But who precisely did invent this genre? Peter Jackson? Sam Raimi’s probably got a more compelling claim…  but what about John Landis… and arguably Bruno Mattei might just have initiated the whole cadaverous comedy schtick in 198o with Zombie Creeping Flesh, blissfully unaware that this is what he was actually doing. It was probably with Edgar  Wright’s Shaun Of The Dead (2004) that the zom-com attained critical mass at the box office, spawning the subsequent slew of zombie boy scouts, zombie strippers, zombie nerds, zombie ravers, et al… it’s an overcrowded market place and one that I’ve tried to avoid, though Mrs F did persuade me to watch Jordan Rubin’s Zombeavers (2014) which admittedly cracked a smile or two on the finely chiseled Freudstein features. Generally speaking, I tend towards the view that zombies = horror and that comedy should left to the specialists… like Owen Smith! Having said that, Alan Byron of Screenbound Entertainment Group (formerly Odeon) has graciously allowed us a sneak preview of their November DVD / Blu-ray release Attack Of The Lederhosen Zombies…

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Feckless Ski boarding ace Steve (Calvert) blows a corporate event by boarding into the Tyrol, butt naked, to meet what turns out to be a nine year  old fan, terminating his sponsorship deal and seriously pissing off his long suffering girlfriend Branka (Marcinkova.) Surely things can only get better for Steve… in fact they take a distinct turn for the wurst when the local tourist board, their livelihood threatened by global warming, secretly trial a method of generating man-made snow, the by-products of when, when inhaled, turn anyone stupid enough to inhale them into ravenous zombies whose flesh eating rampage can only be stemmed by playing them music. Why any of this should be so is anybody’s guess but to distract us as the plot stretches credibility to point where it almost schnapps, we are treated to an endless succession of gory sight gags, mostly focussing on ever more inventive ways to insert skis, poles and other sporting parephenalia through bodily orifices… heads and limbs piling up in the snow as Paul Gallister’s pulsating score goes through its Goblin emulating paces… pity that Robocop remake already copped Hocus Pocus!

Attack Of The Lederhosen Zombies isn’t exactly the subtlest film you’ve ever seen  (that particular penny will probably drop when you see the film’s title being literally vomited onto the screen) but writers Hartel and Prediger manage to pack in a few post modern cracks along the way, e.g. the guy who rings his zombie-obsessed cousin for advice and is advised that it all depends on which kind of zombie film he’s in. “We’ve gotta go all Chuck Norris on their asses” insists his friend, only to be reprimanded: “Chuck Norris? How old are you, dude?” My funny bone was lightly tickled by the micro-spectacle of the zombie virus travelling through its victims’ circulatory systems to the tune of The Blue Danube Waltz… and of course the film makers also throw in a herd of animatronic undead reindeer.

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The main thrust of the action though is Steve and Branca’s struggle to resurrect their rocky romance (and suppress the resurrected apres-ski revellers) with the aid of feisty innkeeper Rita (Tiesel), who deploys a snow plough during the final confrontation, in which our snow cross’d lovers sharpen the edges of their skis and boards, all the better to decapitate zombies.

Dialogue is generally lame and the actors delivering it are pretty stiff, but what else did you expect? This is a thigh slapping zom-com that takes the piste for an agreeably chucklesome hour-and-a-half. Snow joke…

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