Archive for May, 2010

LOST IN THE DESERT @ The Cinefamily: The Passion of the Dirkie

May 28, 2010

This last Saturday, I gathered together a group of movie-freaks to see a South African “children’s” film called LOST IN THE DESERT at The Cinefamily in West Hollywood. I already had seen it last year when it played there and it left quite an impression on me. It was shown again as part of the “Fucked Up Kid’s Movies” series they’ve been doing for the entire month of May, which also included the sleazy (yet charming) talking-monkey masterpiece CARNIVAL MAGIC, as well as the nightmarish, product placement laden, E.T. rip-off insanity of MAC AND ME. But when it comes to twisted films that were marketed for youngsters, LOST IN THE DESERT – A.K.A. DIRKIE (1969) takes the cake. It is the most sadistic children’s movie ever imagined.

“The most amazing adventure a boy ever lived through!” – tagline for LOST IN THE DESERT

Little eight year old Dirkie (DIRKIE UYS) has a really bad cough, so his doctor recommends that he leave the city for awhile and get some fresh air in the open country. His father, a famous songwriter (played by JAMIE UYS, the writer, director and actual dad of the actual kid) sends Dirkie and his pet dog off in a tiny commuter plane, piloted by the kid’s own uncle. Sounds safe, but unfortunately the uncle has a fatal heart attack while flying over the African desert and the plane goes down in the middle of it.

Dirkie and his cute little doggie survive, but find themselves trapped in the middle of a dangerous wilderness, all alone. Just about every horrible thing you can imagine befouls this poor kid and his pooch. First, he and the dog are menaced by a vicious hyena. In an attempt to frighten the beast off, Dirkie inadvertently sets fire to the plane wreckage he’s using for shelter and blows it up, along with the radio his father and the authorities have been using to pin-point his location! Next, the kid’s arm gets ripped open when he tries to get some water from a cavern! Then, the dog is attacked and injured by the dreaded hyena! If that wasn’t bad enough, a poisonous snake spits a wad of venom in Dirkie’s eyes, blinding him! This causes him to accidently step too closely to a scorpion and, yep you guessed it, it stings the poor little bastard! Christ on a cracker!

Meanwhile, back in the big city, Dirkie’s father is comforted by the authorities and his agent, who inform him that the odds of finding the boy are pretty slim and that he should “just try to forget he ever had a son and get back to work, earning money.”

Salvation comes to Dirkie in the form of a local African bushman and his son, who happen upon the kid and his dog while on walkabout. They treat the child’s wounds and nurse him back to health, but when Dirkie mistakenly thinks the bushman has cooked his dog and wants him to eat the canine too, the child insults the native and is promptly shunned and abandoned. Once again alone, Dirkie carries his wounded dog and a pocketful of dying puppies (that the dog just gave birth to), across the bleak desert landscape, searching for rescue. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but the kid finally gets reunited with his father again. However, the way the film concludes leaves speculation as to wether or not rescue has truly arrived.

LOST IN THE DESERT is a kid’s movie where the filmmakers try to make the audience think the cute dog has died not once, but on three separate occasions! This film has been nicknamed THE PASSION OF THE DIRKIE by those who’ve seen it, for the Christ-like way the child is battered throughout. I recommend it highly if you can find a bootleg of this rarity out there, somewhere.

This Saturday is Cinefamily’s conclusion to their “Fucked Up Kid’s Movies” program, and they’re showing a BUGSY MALONE-esque kid’s flick called HAWK JONES, which features children acting like adults in a cops and robbers style mystery. It features a big shootout between the little ones. I wouldn’t bring the kids! Nerd out!

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SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD is a case of wishful thinking.

May 15, 2010

SPOILERS AHEAD!

I want to preface this review by stating that I’ve been a GEORGE ROMERO fan for quite some time now. I consider his original zombie trilogy of NIGHT, DAWN and DAY OF THE DEAD to be the best that genre (which he invented) has to offer. I even enjoyed his fourth highly anticipated zombie sequel, LAND OF THE DEAD a lot. From the vintage UNIVERSAL logo to the dozens of Iraq war and George W. Bush metaphors, I thought LAND was a great return to form from the old master. His non-zombie movies are pretty damn good too! MARTIN, KNIGHTRIDERS, CREEPSHOW and MONKEY SHINES are all excellent films, that show there’s a lot more to the man than zombies. I can also truly appreciate the fact that he works almost completely outside the Hollywood system and usually makes all of his films independently. Unfortunately, it seems the only way he can get money to make a movie as of late, is if there’s a “OF THE DEAD” at the end of every title.

I went into the advanced screening of his latest zombie movie SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD with an awesome amount of trepidation. I utterly hated DIARY OF THE DEAD. I thought it was a useless reason to make a movie and added nothing to the series or the genre in general. It didn’t even seem like it was made by the same guy. I’m happy to report that I found SURVIVAL to be a big improvement over DIARY. But, it’s still not that great of a movie.

SURVIVAL is not a mock-doc like DIARY was. It has a straight narrative like his previous films. It is however a “sequel” in the way that it follows a minor character from DIARY in their own storyline, during the same zombie outbreak. Sarge “Nicotine” Crocket (ALAN VAN SPRANG) is leading a small band of armed national guardsmen through the zombie-apocalypse of Philadelphia. They come across a message posted on the internet by an old guy named Pat O’Flynn (KENNETH WELSH), who is offering boat rides to a nearby island. Turns out it’s an ambush, but the bushwhackers are no match for the guard and Sarge and company take their boat. The old guy from the internet manages to get on board too and convinces Sarge to help him take back the island he’s from. Turns out that he’s been exiled from the island because of a difference in opinion with another resident named Seamus Muldoon (RICHARD FITZPATRICK), over what to do with the dead. O’Flynn prescribes to the notion of shooting them all in the head. Muldoon wants to keep the zombies around and train them how to do chores and eat animal flesh. So far, he hasn’t had much success and before you can say “Monroeville Mall”, everyone’s up to their armpits in zombies.

SURVIVAL has a strong BIG COUNTRY vibe and plays like a western at times. The social commentary that ROMERO’S going for in this one (according to him), concerns the huge split we’re seeing right now between the Left and the Right in our country. The two feuding Irishmen represent both sides refusing to listen to each other and work out the problem that faces them both. This is the part of SURVIVAL that I like the most and it echos the “man is his own worst enemy” thread from the other DEAD movies.

I didn’t like the “more of the same shit” feeling I got from the rest of the movie. There’s a lot of things about SURVIVAL that remind me of a cheap, less scary version of DAWN OF THE DEAD, only on an island instead of a mall.

I also thought the acting was pretty sub-standard throughout and I didn’t really like any of the characters I was supposed to like. The main guy Sarge is pretty poorly performed and most of the Irish accents sound awful (especially KATHLEEN MUNROE’S).

But, the worst thing about SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD is the dead! They’re fucking boring and not in the least bit frightening. Also, as with the case of DIARY, the gore scenes are mostly CGI and it’s BAD FUCKING CGI! There are two really creative zombie kills that are ruined by the use of CGI and made to look almost BUGS BUNNY style cartoonish! Shitty!

After the movie was over, GEORGE ROMERO came out to do a Q & A with the sold-out  crowd at the L.A. Film School. He talked about how if SURVIVAL is successful, he wants to make two more DEAD movies that also follow minor characters who were introduced in DIARY. If he does, I’ll hope for the best. He said that basically he’s been ripped off financially for all the old DEAD movies (especially NIGHT which is public domain) and I think that’s one of the reasons he decided to reboot a new series of DEAD movies that are separate from the others. It makes sense, but I wish this new series was a lot better.

ROMERO said he’s also working on a zombie NOVEL! He didn’t elaborate any further than that, but said that he wanted to tell an even bigger “OF THE DEAD” type story that’s in the vein of MAX BROOK’S ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE. I’m looking forward to that.

There was also a lot of talk about the original script for DAY OF THE DEAD and the more I hear about what that film could have been like, the more I want to read it, because it sounds fucking EPIC! That draft never got made, because at the time it would of cost way too much money. It featured a fully trained and armed ZOMBIE ARMY that are used by the military guys to fight the other zombies! They were “rewarded” with “fleshy” snacks. The source of these snacks was to be a group of prostitutes, who are “used” by the soldiers to create a BABY FARM! The babies are the zombie snacks! How totally FUCKED UP is that? That idea was meant to be a comment of sorts on the abortion issue. WOW! Someone should have made THAT instead of the DAY remake they did a few years back. Oh well.

At one point, ROMERO talked about an original idea he had for a new horror movie. I won’t tell you what the idea was, but I will say it sounded very interesting. This is what I think is so sad about the man; he still has a lot of awesome ideas, but he just can’t get them financed unless there’s a bunch of zombies eating people in it. I hope he gets to make it someday and finally give the DEAD their much deserved rest. Nerd out!

TROMA 35th ANNIVERSARY @ THE NEW BEV!

May 4, 2010

On April 22nd 2010, The New Beverly Cinema hosted a 35th anniversary celebration for the indie movie mavericks TROMA and their legendary CEO and founder LLOYD KAUFMAN was in attendance! TROMA has always held a special place in my movie-nerd heart and there was no way I could pass on an opportunity to see THE TOXIC AVENGER again on the big screen. I was but a mere pup working at a video store in the Chicago suburbs, when I was first introduced to Toxie and the crazy citizens of Tromaville, New Jersey. I brought THE TOXIC AVENGER home one night after work and popped it into my parent’s VCR for a look. I was utterly floored by the combination of over the top humor, social satire and graphic violence. I made it a point to see every TROMA movie they had at my store. I watched CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH (my second favorite after TOXIC AVENGER), SURF NAZIS MUST DIE, SGT. KABUKIMAN NYPD, TROMA WAR, TROMEO AND JULIET, etc. I always found a gross charm to their movies, and under the big tits and cheap ass gore, a subtle subversiveness.

In typical TROMA fashion, LLOYD KAUFMAN and his sideshow of crazy characters were on hand before and during the movies. LLOYD filmed the line of TROMA fans with his own camera and greeted everyone in sight, along with COUNT SMOKULA on his accordion, TOXIE and a cavalcade of scantily clad starlets and weirdoes.

Great poster!

Toxie in person!

LLOYD KAUFMAN films the line.

Count Smokula!

Once inside, LLOYD KAUFMAN, TOXIE, and COUNT SMOKULA were joined on stage by POULTRYGEIST co-star RON JEREMY. The former porn star played the harmonica in a weird duet with COUNT SMOKULA on his accordion, while costumed freaks and hot girls danced around. The shit was surreal.

Pandemonium!

LLOYD KAUFMAN films ME!

TOXIE, RON JEREMY and COUNT SMOKULA entertain the crowd. All we need is one more horseman and we got ourselves an apocalypse, folks!

Random TROMA weirdoes.

A TROMA girl selling DVD's.

After a crazy musical number and an incoherent speech from LLOYD, the show began. There was a trailer reel of all TROMA titles that included: SUGAR COOKIES, MOTHER’S DAY, ZOMBIE ISLAND MASSACRE, CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH, SURF NAZIS MUST DIE, TROMA’S WAR, TROMEO AND JULIET and CITIZEN TOXIE: THE TOXIC AVENGER IV. Then, we were treated to a special director’s cut of THE TOXIC AVENGER, which included a deleted scene involving the Mayor on a golf course and two of the longest 80’s montages ever edited. It was EPIC watching this movie with an audience full of TROMA fanatics. I remembered watching THE TOXIC AVENGER as a midnight movie at Chicago’s Music Box Theatre way back in the day. It’s truly a movie to watch with others. The style of TOXIC is all over the place and I think that’s a huge part of its success. Part gross out comedy, part comic book movie, part revenge flick and part horror movie. It’s got it all and I love it. Even though they’re talking about doing a TOXIC AVENGER remake, I guarantee you will never again see a scene where a little boy get his head crushed under the tire of a speeding car and it’s all played for laughs, ever again. Pity.

There was a chaotic Q and A afterwards. The only real newsworthy item was that there will eventually be another TROMA TEAM produced TOXIC AVENGER movie, hopefully. I was going to leave due to exhaustion from the previous evenings indulgence, but decided to stay and check out a little of TROMA’S newest film, POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD. I’m sooooooo glad I did!

Bad things happen when a new military-themed fast food restaurant called American Chicken Bunker opens up in Tromaville. For starters, it’s built over a cursed Indian burial sight. Then, it’s protested by a feminist-led animal rights group called C.L.A.M. To make matters worse, new employee Arbie’s girlfriend Wendy has gone off to college and become a militant lesbian. And oh yeah, all the food gets contaminated and everyone who eats it turns into a giant man-eating chicken-zombie. It’s up to Arbie and Wendy, along with fellow employees-Denny, Carl Jr., Humus (a young woman of Arab decent) and their boss General Lee Roy (a white cracker stereotype), to put aside their differences and save the day.

POULTRYGEIST is gross, insulting, obnoxious, homophobic, racist, sexist and hilarious fun! Every ethnic group is raked over the coals. The comedy ranges from juvenile, to gross, to brilliant. On occasion, it suddenly becomes a musical and the characters break into these wonderfully funny song and dance numbers. I was shocked and blown away by how much fun I had and I stayed for the whole damn thing. LLOYD KAUFMAN directed this movie beautifully and I gotta say, it’s definitely a true TROMA film in every sense of the word. If you like their particular brand of independent insanity, I suggest you check it out. You won’t be disappointed. Nerd out!