Posts Tagged ‘Adam Green’

burying-the-ex-5As a big fan of “Holliston”, I like to check out what else its creators, Adam Green and Joe Dante, are up to. After reviewing “Digging up the Marrow”, Green’s newest soiree, a couple months ago, I finally got around to renting Dante’s newest feature, “Burying the Ex”. The movie came out in June to very little fanfare. Critics and random web crawlers felt that it was a flop, just a dumb wannabe horror comedy lacking in fun, gore and scares. Even with the subpar reviews nagging at the back of my mind, I hoped that even though this movie wasn’t for everyone, I would still find it enjoyable. Fortunately, that was exactly the case. I’ll admit, this isn’t for everyone. It is very much a romantic comedy, just with some zombies and a hell of a lot of genre allusions. So, basically exactly what I figured it would be.

“Burying the Ex” is not your typical zombie movie. It is not your typical horror movie. And it is not your typical romantic comedy. However, if you are the kind of person that could possibly be interested in the intersection of those three, then this movie is highly recommended. The flick opens with Max, played by an excellent Anton Yelchin, dealing with his overbearing girlfriend Evelyn, played by the talented in oh-so-many ways Ashley Green. Max loves his girlfriend, but she has plenty of marks against her. When she is unexpectedly killed just before he plans to break up with her, Max turns into a wreck. Eventually he meets a new girl Olivia, played by Alexandra Daddario, who is everything he could ever ask for in a girl. Unfortunately, that is about the time that Evelyn comes back to life. See, she and Max made a vow to be together forever earlier in the movie, but because they said it unknowingly over a creepy devil-genie idol at the shop Max works at, it bound her even in death. Hey, there’s always gotta be a reason for zombies to show up. Now Evelyn wants her man back, Max wants his dead girlfriend to stay dead, and Olivia just wants to hang out with the new guy she likes. Sound like a fun love triangle?

What really makes this movie great is the set of characters that we see develop over the run time and the relationships between them. First we’ve got Max, who is the guy every horror movie fan can relate to. He’s kinda dorky, he works at a horror emporium (where is he required to tell his customers to ‘go to hell’ as they leave), but he’s really a good dude. And he has a super hot girlfriend. Evelyn, said girlfriend, is the kind of girl you could understand having a love/hate relationship with. On the one hand, she’s got the looks and sex drive to make anyone jealous; but on the other, she is a professional blogger, she is totally against artificial additives to foods, and she is a go-green Nazi. But… she’s really hot. Then we’ve got Olivia. She works at an ice cream shop with novelty genre and pop culture themed flavors. She’s totally obsessed with horror movies. She knows what “Fruit Brute” is. And she’s played by Alexandra Daddario. Do you suddenly see Max’s dilemma here? He’s got Evelyn, the safe choice, the known quantity, who has her faults but also her good aspects. But he’s also got the fun, attractive, new Olivia, who is so very like him and so seemingly perfect.

Okay, you see what I did there? I got really into the whole romantic comedy side of this movie and totally neglected the reason I’m reviewing it as a horror movie. I told you there were zombies, right? And you are still reading? Good. There is plenty of gore to go around. The zombie make up itself is pretty spectacular, nothing CGI or over the top here. Evelyn just looks like a dead person, none of the wild and unrealistic makeup some people like to put zombies in. When the violence comes, Dante does get pretty creative and we can smile at a lot of the gore we see.

Overall ‘Burying the Ex’ is a good flick, but it does have its disclaimers. It is not for the casual fan, you’ll need a pretty solid appreciation for the genre to enjoy it. It’s not for the gorehound, this one is just not bloody enough. And it’s definitely not going to induce nightmares, so if you’re looking for a good scare you should turn and run. What ‘Burying the Ex’ is is a cute romantic comedy for the horror fan. I know I’ll probably take some flak for that comment, but it’s the truth. It’s fun, it’s well written, it has just the right amount of gore and violence, and it’s just tailored enough to keep mainstream audiences out of sight. Take from that what you will.

Story: 7

Visuals: 6

Fun Factor: 8

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One review I read called “Digging up the Marrow” something to the effect of “Adam Green’s love letter to horror fans”. I don’t know if that was paraphrasing or just plagiarism, but the phrase really does do a good job of both hooking a potential viewer and explaining the movie. I’ve always stated that I like movies about movies, and this one is a movie about making a documentary. It’s shot as a documentary, but it makes no claims of truth; we know we’re watching a scripted, acted movie. What is endearing and interesting about “Digging up the Marrow” is that everything except the main plot is reality. It’s a weird gimmick and admittedly one that will likely appeal much more to fan’s of Adam Green’s work, but I’m one of those guys and this review will be biased. Deal with it.

The movie is set in real life Southern California in the present day (2014), where horror director Adam Green (played by himself) and his production company are working on several movie titles as well as the next season of their horror-sitcom, “Holliston”. Before the action starts, Green receives a letter from a man that claims that monsters really exist and he has proof. The movie you’re watching, now, is the documentary that Green films to bring these monsters to the public. It starts innocently enough, with a highly skeptical but highly hopeful Green meeting with a slightly unstable looking William Dekker (Wise). The investigation progresses and the crew goes deeper down the rabbit hole because Green really wants to find monsters. As he (and other casual interviews during the opening) explains, it is every horror fan’s dream that these monsters, the stuff of their dreams, really do exist. Wouldn’t that be a great world? It’s what these guys make movies about and what we spend our hard earned dollars to watch. And so the film continues, with Green slowly taking over Wise’s role as the believer trying to get the truth out. The role switch is interesting and leads to some very entertaining and exciting moments. What really keeps you interested is how much you agree with what Green does. Usually in a horror movie the main character makes some dumb, cliché move, but Green knows all the cliché’s and he’s not following them. He makes some questionable decisions that you want to yell at him for, but then you put yourself in his shoes and… you’d do the same damn thing. That’s what makes “Digging up the Marrow” fun, putting yourself in Green’s position and thinking how you’d act.

A lot of the movie’s charm comes from it’s stabs at the horror culture and it’s denizens. We get a boat load of cameos, everyone from Kane Hodder (what Green movie would be complete without him) to Mick Garris. There are references galore to “Holliston” and “Hatchet”, and who doesn’t love the “Shinpads” posters? Okay, I’m getting a bit fan boy on you. But the whole movie feels like you’re at a horror convention. Lots of real people just like you who are just huge fans and want nothing more than to see some monsters and have a good time. There are plenty of jokes at the culture as well, but the film is just as quick to remind us of it’s good intentions.

“Who did your special effects?” is an entertaining theme from the movie. Of course it’s an ensemble crew, but special attention needs to be given to Alex Pardee, the twisted and beautiful mind behind “Digging up the Marrow”’s ‘monsters’. A very talented artist, Pardee’s work can be marveled at through a simple Google search. The guy isn’t really into gore and his creatures aren’t necessarily the most visually scary, but they are downright creative and awesome to look at. Whether the backstories given in the movie by Dekker are Pardee’s own or the work of Green’s imagination, they bring even more credibility to what you are watching. The art design in this movie is just so damn cool.

So visually, yea, this is pretty fun. Picture quality is good for what it is, a documentary. Same goes for sound. I’m not sure how much of this was really shot on low budget equipment and with on-location sound setups, but the movie was supposed to feel like a documentary and it really shines in that department. In this section I usually throw in a bit about any attractive women in the movie so I’ll give a shout out to Adam’s (ex)wife Rileah Vanderbilt, but that’s really, really not what this movie is about. We’re 100% focused on seeing monsters in the shadows, and we’re fine with that.

To close, “Digging up the Marrow” was a very entertaining way to spend a Friday with a few beers. The movie was not really reviewed well so I didn’t have many preconceptions, just an interesting story and a writer-director I knew I liked. While Green is no Don Coscarelli or Wes Craven, he certainly has his place within the modern pantheon of horror. It’s yet to be seen if he even wants to do something full blown “horror”, but for the time being I’ll keep watching “Holliston” and entertaining myself with his other flicks.

Story: 7

Visuals: 7

Fun Factor: 8

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Its about that time in Virginia where the cool air finally sets in for good and you can start building your kindling pile right next to the fire pit. When evening rolls around, you know it’ll be sixty-five degrees, and you’ll sit out and watch the sunset, watching the shadows descend… Yes, it’s the beginning on autumn, and that means the beginning of Halloween season. In light of the weather, I was very excited to finally receive Adam Green’s “Hatchet” in the mail the other day, so I wasted no time in popping it into my DVD player. Once in, I did take the time to go crack open a beer, but don’t get me wrong, that was no waste. “Hatchet”, as I would soon find out, is not so much “Old School American Horror” enjoyed best in a dark study with a tumbler of whiskey, but more an homage to “Old School American Horror” enjoyed best with six or seven beers accompanying its 80 minute runtime.

After thoroughly enjoying “Holliston” and his segment in “Chillerama”, I was dying to see what director Adam Green could do on the big screen (or straight to DVD screen). In the same vein as the aforementioned short-format pieces, what Green really excels in is making a goofy film that actually has some class. In the same way that Alexandre Aja made a really enjoyable movie out of the mutant creature/teen scream genre with “Piranha 3D”, Green takes the classic template for a slasher flick and turns it into a respectable film. For the masses, we still get gratuitous nudity, tons of blood and interesting gore, and stereotypical character types that are easy to follow. Green, like Aja, takes it one step deeper by poking fun at the template even as he is working from it while at the same time developing a more interesting storyline and more dynamic characters than is the norm. The result is a well crafted piece that has mass appeal due to its inherently ‘slasher’ nature, as well as fan appeal from subtleties such as Tony Todd as a voodoo tour guide and the names of cast and crew on gravestones in the old New Orleans cemetery.

Contrary to the standard chum in slasher flicks (“Scream” being the exception), the cast of “Hatchet” is very solid, especially given its lowly origins. Joel Moore leads the ensemble, and after making a name for himself in comedies like “Grandma’s Boy” and “Dodgeball”, takes a darker and more dramatic role in “Hatchet”. He does the part justice, playing the bit slightly awkward but loveable at the same time. Tamara Feldman doesn’t give exactly the most brilliant of performances, but her role and character really help to cement us into the ‘slasher’ architecture. Genre fans will love cameos from Robert Englund, Tony Todd and Kane Hodder (who is actually a main player, not a cameo), but they each add to the movie in a tangible way as well. The actor that really made the movie for me, however, was Perry Shen, the little jerk tour guide that gets everyone into the mess to begin with. He really shows off his range by playing an Asian Louisiana native(?), a Chinese immigrant in Louisiana(?) and an Asian American from Detroit looking to make a few bucks(…?). The last one is actually quite believable, but the phases this guy goes through are quite entertaining. Also of note, Deon Richmond, of “Not Another Teen Movie” fame, has quite possibly the funniest expression ever to be caught on film as Ben (Moore) tries to initiate dialogue with Feldman’s character. He plays the “Black Guy” perfectly, and should be commended.

With slashers, it’s the visuals that make you the bucks, and the producers of “Hatchet” wanted the bucks. The movie starts with a montage of Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras, so within fifteen seconds we’ve seen twenty sets of boobs. Of course, if you’ve ever been to Mardi Gras, you know this is… unfortunately not true, but that is the magic of the movies, right? The oh-so-gratuitous nudity continues throughout the opening, with the gang meeting up with a fake ‘Girls Gone Wild’ type producer (another Piranha similarity? Oh man) with his team of “woo”-ing girls, ready to show off their Mardi Gras spirit at a moments notice. In the gore department, we get all sorts of fun stuff, focusing on axe wounds (duh!) and venturing out to things like lower jaws being ripped off and gator bites. Blood splatters everywhere, all the time.

“Hatchet” is a unique film in that it is both a slasher movie and a parody of slasher movies. “Scream” also does this very well, but does it in a serious tone. Green made a slasher movie, but took the time to make fun of it in the process. The guys who made “Scream” made a movie that made fun of slasher flicks, then took the time to turn it into a slasher flick. I don’t know if that point will make it across to anyone, but I hope it confuses you enough to get you intrigued. I would recommend “Hatchet” for anyone in the mood for “Old School American Horror”, but who has already made a dent in their six pack. Don’t take it seriously, just have fun with it. Adam Green officially has my back now, for what its worth.

Story: 6

Visuals: 6

Fun Factor: 7

Chillerama

Adam Green and Joe Lynch are having the best year in horror. Or ‘had’ may be more appropriate, but I digress. In 2011/2012, not only did the pair create and star in their own sitcom about aspiring horror writer/directors, they got the opportunity to make the quintessential embodiment of the horror film: The Anthology. Said anthology is the topic of this review, the delightfully inappropriate “Chillerama”. First of all, I am disappointed with myself that I had never even heard of this movie until I was reading a MoreHorror.com article about the best films of the year. At number two, I’d say they really got this one right. Second of all, I’m disappointed in the horror community at large for not making a bigger deal about this refreshing piece of schlock.

Overall, the movie is an endearing piece of classic horror cinema. From the black and white “Diary of Anne Frankenstein” to the pseudo-musical “I Was a Teenage Werebear”, “Chillerama” is a tour de force of all things goofball and all things horror. The whole concept revolves around the last showing at an old drive in theatre. A couple of horror movie aficionados head out to final show to catch a set of four classic drive in movies. There As “Chillerama” is an anthology of 4 (or five, depending on how you count it) films, I am going to break it down by segment for the rest of the review.

Adam Rifkin starts off our night by writing, directing and starring in the overly taboo “Wadzilla”. Easily my least favorite of the sequence, its semi porno-style storyline still manages to set the tone for what is to come. In the vein of the old 1950’s cautionary sci-fi flicks, a man having some trouble with his “little swimmers” decides to take an experimental drug to alleviate the problem. He is back up on his horse in no time, however the drug seems to work a little too well, as those things tend to do. Every time he becomes aroused, his future children grow to a massive size. Ray Wise has a great cameo as the prescribing doctor, and Adam Rifkin is hilarious in his role of clenching his crotch in agony every time he sees an attractive woman. The short concludes with a Godzilla style battle of the Army against a giant sperm that, among other things, attempts to make it’s way up the Statue of Liberty’s skirt. Thinly veiled innuendo is thrown around at will, and the 50’s style direction makes for a very entertaining bit of celluloid. As I said, definitely not my favorite, but after the first 25 minutes you know exactly what you are into with “Chillerama”. Take the time to pause, head to the snack bar, load up your Coke with whisky from your flask and get ready for the rest of the show.

The second segment is titled “I Was a Teenage Werebear”, and I can’t stress enough how appropriate that title is. Mocking the ‘60s and ‘70s musical flicks like “Grease” and “Beach Party”, “Werebear” is the story of the new boy in school trying to fit in wherever he can. The songs are cheesy and creative and the whole segment does a great job of emulating the style of the old high school movies, it just hits the wrong note in terms of content. Sure, gay high school guys that turn into big, gay, werewolf biker guys is funny on the surface, but I could have done without so much guy on guy action. Where I felt I should have been laughing about Werebears, I found my self cringing at overly graphic homosexuality. Tim Sullivan did a great job with the visual style of the piece, but I was too turned off by the story to actually appreciate it. But don’t turn it off here, no matter how offended you are. As these guys usually do, the producers have saved the best for last in the selection from Adam Green and the piece de resistance by Joe Lynch.

From its opening credits, “The Diary of Anne Frankenstein” promises to please. A black and white musical piece about Hitler finding the key to creating life in a Jewish girl’s diary, even it doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s campy atmosphere and outlandish use of the German language makes for a very entertaining piece of cinema. Adam Green comes across as the experienced story teller of the bunch, with every element in the segment working towards his ultimate goal. The fourth wall has been completely torn down, and occasionally other walls as well. Not only do film frames skip to the annoyance of the actors, but the players break through set walls and fall into previous scenes. It all comes across as goofy and low budget, which is exactly what a short monster movie with a Jewish Frankenstein monster should be. The actors aren’t quite as important as in the other segments, just because we already know the characters (Hitler, Anne Frank, Nazis and Frankenstein’s Monster). Overall this was a fun little bit from Adam Green. It’s not the greatest short in the world, but it’s fun and totally makes sense as the third segment of “Chillerama”.

The background story of “Chillerama” is set at the last showing at an aging drive in theatre. Between segments, we get little clips of this background action, Toby trying to ask out Mayna, Ryan trying to ask out the candy counter girl, etc. We also get glimpses of a zombie take over happening, all starting from a very disturbed graveyard encounter. After “Diary”, the fourth film on the plate for the moviegoers is “Deathication”, a lost print from an experimental director made to make you $h*t yourself. As an audience, we catch bits and pieces of this foreign piece of crap (pun intended) before the zombies start to overrun the theatre and all hell breaks loose. Since we’ve seen a bit more of these characters through the course of the movie, we really care about what is happening in this segment. The relationships between the two main guys and their respective love interests are kind of cute in a young love sort of way, and we really want the older brother to get his face ripped off. Cecil, the owner of the theatre, has been toying with offing himself throughout, and we really don’t want that to happen. In all, a great little story to bookend and fill in the gaps around the goofy little shorts. To make this segment even more appealing to us movie buffs (because who doesn’t like a movie about the movies), we get an ingenious reeling off of classic movie lines while zombie brains are sprayed across the screen. I can’t think of a better way to end a movie.

Story: 7

Visuals: 6

Fun Factor: 8