Comic Review: Negan Lives! – One-Shot

Published: July 1st, 2020
Written by: Robert Kirkman
Art by: Charlie Adlard

Image Comics, 36 Pages

Review:

Even though The Walking Dead comic series ended a year ago, I always figured that we’d get comics in the future.

Hopefully, this one-shot isn’t the last but I don’t think it will be. I’m not sure what Robert Kirkman’s plan is, if there even is any, but I think that stories will continue to pop into his head every now and then.

This story takes place somewhere between the time where Negan left the comic series and its finale. It shows Negan living on his own where a girl stumbles into his homestead. Negan knows that its an obvious setup and is just kind of waiting for some bad guys to show up and try to take his shit.

They do and like everyone else, they don’t kill Negan and end up paying for it with their lives.

Being that this is just a one-shot, it’s a short, simple story that is kind of similar to the episodes of the show that focus on one character for an hour. It doesn’t really move anything forward or effect the larger comic series.

Still, it was a good read and it was cool peaking in on the Negan character once again.

I only hope that the ending is a hint at something more to come with Negan or The Walking Dead universe, as a whole.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Walking Dead comics.

Comic Review: Adam Post’s College of the Dead 2: Graduation Day

Published: June, 2020
Written by: Stefan Petrucha
Art by: Javier Aranda

Adam Post Media Group, 48 Pages

Review:

I just recently read and reviewed the first College of the Dead. I got both volumes at the same time, so I didn’t want to wait too long before jumping into this one.

To start, I like it better than the first. Also, this one is colored and the color work is pretty good. It gives the book a lot of life even though I kind of like black and white horror comics.

I felt more engaged by this story as well. It has some layers to it and it explores some things within the main character’s personal life while the zombie apocalypse is happening all around him.

I don’t want to get into too many plot details and spoil them, I’d rather people just pick this up and give it a shot, assuming you can still find copies.

My only real complaint about the book is one of the complaints I had about the first one.

Both of these volumes only tell the story in simple landscape panels. However, where the first book gave you two panels per page, this one gives you six. From page-to-page, it’s just dull to look at and the book should just be more dynamic, visually.

Maybe this is just the personal choice of the writer or the artist. Or maybe the artist is limited by what they can do and can only draw in this format. Regardless, I’d like to see them experiment more with the layout. And like with the previous book, there seems to be a lot of wasted space with the large margins.

In the end, though, this was an entertaining comic book that served up some solid escapism and that’s what I want my comics to be: an escape from the bullshit of the world outside.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor and other indie zombie comics of the modern era.

Comic Review: Adam Post’s College of the Dead

Published: 2019
Written by: Stefan Petrucha
Art by: Javier Aranda

Adam Post Media Group, 140 Pages

Review:

I backed this on Indiegogo a few months back and I was glad to finally get it in my hands, even if I wasn’t sure what to expect.

The story is about a zombie outbreak that sees some college students have to try and band together to fight off the invasion.

Overall, the story was fun and action packed.

It’s pretty straightforward, although it does have some twists that happen and the ending is pretty good and really ups the ante in regards to the overall story and where this could possibly go with a future tale.

Side note: I do have the sequel, as well, and will probably review it in the very near future.

This comic is pretty thick and it’s presented in black and white, so drawing comparisons to The Walking Dead is just natural. However, this doesn’t try to replicate that more famous franchise. It does its own thing, tells its own kind of story and from a narrative standpoint, it delivers.

My only real gripe is the format of the book, which just gives you two large landscape panels per page. Each panel is the same size and the book also has pretty large margins. Page after page, the layout is becomes boring and it takes away from the overall book, as it needed to be more dynamic in presentation.

Additionally, in regards to the art, there were some photographic images used for some of the backgrounds and other things like trees. I’m not sure if that was done for budgetary reasons or to get this out quicker. It’s nothing that breaks the book or looks all that out of place but it is something that I feel like I should mention.

Still, I enjoyed College of the Dead for the most part and I’m happy to read the followup and review that one as well.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: its sequel and other indie zombie comics of the modern era.

Film Review: Dead Heat (1988)

Release Date: May 6th, 1988
Directed by: Mark Goldblatt
Written by: Terry Black
Music by: Ernest Troost
Cast: Treat Williams, Joe Piscopo, Darren McGavin, Lindsay Frost, Vincent Price, Keye Luke, Robert Picardo, Professor Toru Tanaka, Shane Black

Helpren/Meltzer, New World Pictures, 86 Minutes

Review:

“[He shuts the porno mag the clerk’s being reading] Sorry to interrupt your erection.” – Det. Doug Bigelow

Dead Heat is greatly underappreciated. That’s probably because it bombed in the theater and then got brushed aside and barely even made a blip on the cable TV radar in the ’90s. By then it probably seemed really outdated and so cheesy that even late night movie shows didn’t really touch it.

I actually saw this on VHS around 1990 or so and thought it was pretty cool but it just never reemerged anywhere else until it popped up on streaming services within the last couple of years.

I was glad that it was most recently featured on Joe Bob Brigg’s The Last Drive-In, as it needs to be discovered and showcased for a new generation and for the old generation that might’ve missed it.

The film is written by Terry Black, the older brother of Shane.

Shane Black had already made waves after writing Lethal Weapon and The Monster Squad while also working on Predator and Night of the Creeps. Older brother kind of followed little brother here, as the story for Dead Heat is like a mash up of some of those other movies in how it features an action heavy buddy cop story with elements of horror and a bit of slapstick comedy.

That being said, the script was really creative and it provided a movie with a lot of really cool scenes and monster encounters: most notably the zombie animals that came to life despite being halfway butchered.

These scenes worked so well though because the special effects were solid. I mean, this was made by New World and thus, the production operated under Roger Corman economics. Despite that, the practical effects of the monsters looked great.

Additionally, some of the other effects were impressive too, such as the scene where Lindsay Frost decays into nothingness.

The film stars Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo as the two buddy cops but it also stars a great villain duo that features Darren McGavin and legendary Vincent Price. Everyone played well off of each other and all the core actors looked like they were having fun hamming it up and making this bonkers movie.

This is such a weird and unique picture that more people really should check it out. It’s amusing, enjoyable and deserving of more recognition than it initially received.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other goofy horror comedies of the ’80s like the first two Return of the Living Dead MoviesC.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud, TerrorVision, etc.

Film Review: One Cut of the Dead (2017)

Also known as: Kamera o Tomeru na!, lit. Don’t Stop the Camera! (original Japanese title)
Release Date: November 4th, 2017 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Shin’ichirô Ueda
Written by: Shin’ichirô Ueda
Music by: Nobuhiro Suzuki, Kailu Nagai
Cast: Takayuki Hamatsu, Mao, Harumi Syuhama, Yuzuki Akiyama, Kazuaki Ngaya

ENBU Seminar, Panpokopina, 96 Minutes

Review:

Well, it is impossible to really talk about this film without spoiling it. So if you don’t want it spoiled, you might not want to read any further.

For a couple of years now, just about everyone who has seen this movie has really talked it up to me. I’ve been told it’s clever, a game changer and that it’s just too cool to be missed. However, I’ve grown pretty tired of the zombie subgenre of horror, as well as modern horror comedy. If you can’t top The Return of the Living Dead, why even try?

Side note: No one will ever top The Return of the Living Dead because it is perfection. Also, filmmakers should try because maybe someone will prove me wrong.

Anyway, I finally saw this due to it being featured on Joe Bob Brigg’s The Last Drive-In. Joe Bob really seemed to love the film as well, so I figured that I since I’m already fully committed to whatever Joe Bob wants to throw at me, I’d give this movie a shot.

I guess I’m the only person on Earth that didn’t really like it. Granted, I can appreciate it and the work that went into it, specifically the first 37 minutes that were filmed in a single take. It did take them six tries to get the take right but it’s still a tremendous feat and I love it when filmmakers put a real effort into doing something special, even if they’re far from the first to attempt it.

My problem with the film is that it is never really clear what this is supposed to be. The plot structure is bizarre, which is fine, but it doesn’t gel in a way that makes it all come together for me.

The first 37 minutes are a horror movie within a horror movie. It follows its characters who are in an abandoned World War II facility where they are filming a zombie movie. However, real zombies show up and they have to fight to survive. It’s not a wholly original idea but what is in horror, these days?

This sequence ends with credits rolling and I guess some people left the theater thinking this was just a short film. What follows is the second act, which goes backwards in time to show how the production of the film started. This is all pretty boring and it slows things down quite a bit.

The third act of the film is a return to the location of the first act. Except, this time, we see the events play out from the production standpoint, showing how the opening of the film was shot and made. Then it all ends and I was left wondering what the hell I had just watched and what the point of it was.

From what I understand, the film was produced on a true micro-budget and it was made by film students as their final project. Frankly, that’s exactly what this feels like and looking at it through that lens, it is damn impressive, as it required a lot of technical skill and it looks really good for what it is.

However, that doesn’t mean that I can give it a free pass. Sure, I can respect what went into it and appreciate that stuff but ultimately, it just makes me want to see what the people behind this could do with the right resources behind them.

I don’t think I’d ever have the urge to watch it again but it’s still something I’d recommend to people that want to see what can be done with little to no resources in the modern era of filmmaking. Also, just because it doesn’t resonate with me, doesn’t mean it won’t resonate with others. As I’ve said, most people seem to like the film.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Japanese horror comedies and zombie comedies in general.

Film Review: The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

Release Date: May 14th, 2019 (Cannes)
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch
Written by: Jim Jarmusch
Music by: SQÜRL
Cast: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Carol Kane, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits

Animal Kingdom, Film i Väst, Kill the Head, Focus Features, 104 Minutes

Review:

“That girl is half Mexican. I know because I love Mexicans.” – Officer Ronnie Peterson

Jim Jarmusch is really hit or miss for me.

Overall, I’d say this was a miss but it did keep my interest because one thing I usually like about Jarmsuch’s films are the characters and their conversations. However, while that is good and engaging the first time around, it doesn’t necessarily make a film worth revisiting.

The Dead Don’t Die is pretty much what one would expect from a Jarmusch film about zombies.

It’s weird, it’s quirky and there’s not much else there. In fact, the only real glue that holds this flimsy house of cards together is the cast and their interactions.

While Jarmusch can be labeled as weird, this film seems to embrace its weirdness a little too much. In this film, shit is weird just to be weird.

For instance, you have Tilda Swinton’s character who is a female Scottish samurai that you later find out is an alien when a UFO randomly appears to take her home in the middle of a zombie fight. Why? What’s the point? Why was she there? Jarmusch doesn’t care, so why should we?

You also have a moment at the end where the characters break the fourth wall for no reason other than creating a nonsensical plot twist in an effort to maximize on the weird. It actually broke the film for me and made it irreparable where, up to that point, I kind of accepted it in spite of its goofy faults.

Additionally, characters are introduced, relationships are established and not a whole lot comes out of any of it. There isn’t a satisfactory payoff and you’re just left scratching your head for a lot of it. I mean, you want to like characters and you kind of do but none of it matters because we’re all fucked and no one really has a plan, including the cops.

Is this supposed to be a critique on authority or society? I mean, haven’t we gotten that with just about every zombie movie ever made? From Jarmusch, a guy that has made some solid, critically acclaimed films, I guess I expected more than this. For the zombie subgenre of horror, I definitely wanted more than this, as zombies have been done to death, pun intended, and just being weird shouldn’t fly and shouldn’t get you a free pass.

I also feel like this awkward style of comedy dialogue is well past its expiration date.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other Jim Jarmusch films, as well as other zombie comedies.

Film Review: Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)

Also known as: Zombieland 2 (working title, unofficial title)
Release Date: October 9th, 2019 (Taiwan)
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Dave Callaham
Music by: David Sardy
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutch, Avan Jogia, Luke Wilson, Thomas Middleditch, Bill Murray (cameo), Al Roaker (cameo)

2.0 Entertainment, Columbia Pictures, Pariah, 99 Minutes

Review:

“[first lines] Welcome to Zombieland. Back for seconds? After all this time? Well, what can I say, but thank you. You have a lot of choices when it comes to zombie entertainment, and we appreciate you picking us.” – Columbus

Being that my fairly recent rewatch of the original film showed me that it didn’t age well, I wasn’t super gung ho to see its sequel, ten years later.

However, after being somewhat annoyed by the opening narration, which itself felt dated, I was at least pleasantly surprised to discover that I mostly liked this movie, even though it didn’t need to exist and didn’t do much to justify it being made.

I’ll admit, I liked all these characters from the first movie and it was cool checking in on them a decade later. You’re quickly filled in on what has happened in the time that’s passed but there isn’t really anything unexpected other than Little Rock being college aged and having the feeling that she needs to leave the nest and have her own experiences. This of course leads to the adventure in this film, as the other three set out to find her, after she takes off.

There are other new characters introduced and they’re all pretty decent, except for the douche from Berkeley but then again, you’re supposed to hate him.

At its core, this is really just more of the same with some weird subplot about a hippie commune full of pacifists that have somehow survived more than a decade into a zombie apocalypse, living in an unsafe high-rise with loud music, firework shows and no weapons. But hey, this is comedy, so whatever, right?

I liked the addition of Rosario Dawson and Zoey Deutch to the cast. I don’t like that they left Zoey behind with the dumb hippies though, as she’s probably just going to die.

Anyway, I’d probably say that this is fairly consistent with the first movie and rate it the same. It didn’t blow my socks off but it was a decent escape from the very real COVID-19 drama for 99 minutes.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the first Zombieland film and possibly the series, but I haven’t watched it yet.

Film Review: Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993)

Also known as: Battalion 3 (Japan), Mortal Zombie (Spain)
Release Date: June 5th, 1993 (Italy – Dylan Dog Horror Fest)
Directed by: Brian Yuzna
Written by: John Penney
Music by: Barry Goldberg
Cast: Melinda Clarke, J. Trevor Edmond, Kent McCord, Basil Wallace, Sarah Douglas, James T. Callahan

Bandai Visual Company, Ozla Productions, Trimark Pictures, 97 Minutes

Review:

“How could you… eat that man?” – Curt Reynolds

This is probably my least favorite Brian Yuzna movie. It’s also my least favorite of the Return of the Living Dead series of films. Well, at least the theatrical ones, as I never saw the made-for-TV sequels that came out more than a decade after this one.

As a kid, I loved the Return of the Living Dead series and still do. But for whatever reason, the box art for this movie’s VHS tape never did anything for me. Plus, friends of mine told me it sucked and that it didn’t have any humor in it, which is what made the previous two installments so excellent.

Back in 1993 or so, I wasn’t really keen on who Brian Yuzna was, even though I was really into Re-Animator. It probably wouldn’t have mattered whether or not I knew there was an association, as this is just a crappy film regardless of it being made by a really talented horror filmmaker, who is great at utilizing real, practical special effects.

The plot does introduce an interesting take on zombies, in that an infected person that puts themselves in immense pain can stave off the hunger for human brains and flesh. However, it’s really just used to make the zombie chick star of the film look super badass and hot. She’s still undead though, which is gross. Plus, she’s covered in sharp, stabby shit that would just hurt if you wanted to fool around with her.

It is the star that is the best thing in the film, though, as Melinda Clarke was absolutely gorgeous and even if I disliked this movie, I was crushing on her hard when I first saw this in my teen years.

I also really like that Sarah Douglas is in this, as I’ve dug the hell out of her since first seeing her in the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies.

The problem with this picture for me, is that it looks terrible. In spite of Yuzna being a horror effects maestro, I mostly hate the look of the zombies and the film in general. The sets are cheap and terrible and the special effects look half-assed, if I’m being completely honest. And I say that because I’ve seen much superior looking monsters in Yuzna’s films that predate this.

Also, from a visual standpoint, the film is just overly bronze and orange. I’m not sure if it was a camera filter or the way the film was lit but it looks awful and makes the film visually drab. It also doesn’t help the creature effects.

Man, I just don’t like this movie; it’s hard to look at, audibly shrill and it wrecks the spirit of this film series by trying to be overly serious and edgy while wasting an interesting and fresh concept for zombie cinema.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other Brian Yuzna films, most of which are better.

Film Review: Return of the Living Dead, Part II (1988)

Release Date: January 8th, 1988 (premiere)
Directed by: Ken Wiederhorn
Written by: Ken Wiederhorn
Music by: J. Peter Robinson
Cast: Michael Kentworthy, Marsha Dietlein, Dana Ashbrook, James Karen, Thom Matthews, Phil Bruns, Suzanne Snyder, Thor Van Lingen, Jason Hogan, Mitch Pileggi

Greenfox Productions, Lorimar Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

“I feel like we’ve been here before. You… Me… Them!” – Joey

I think that this movie gets unfairly shitted on, simply because it is not the pinnacle of perfection that its predecessor was. That being said, this is still a damn enjoyable zombie comedy and seeing James Karen and Thom Matthews return, as new but similar characters, was pretty awesome.

While this film took some minor missteps that kept it from being as iconic as the first movie, it’s still one of the more fun horror pictures of the ’80s.

This picks up shortly after the events of the first film, as we see the zombie-creating Trioxin accidentally released on a new town. Zombies rise from the grave, infest the town and try to eat all the brains they can possibly stomach.

We follow a group of survivors, as they try to find a way out of town but ultimately get trapped by a military blockade and thus, have to fight the undead in an effort to survive the night. Of course, many of them don’t survive. However, unlike the first film, which had a much better ending, some characters do make it out unscathed.

Apart from the fairly optimistic ending, the film made a few other mistakes.

First of all, this just isn’t punk rock enough. That’s the element that really made the first picture so fucking cool. The characters were punk rock dipshits and it was fun seeing them try to make it out alive but ultimately, fail.

Secondly, the film’s score is really generic and weak compared to the tunes of the first movie, which just ties it back to the film not being punk rock enough.

Thirdly, the setting isn’t as gritty and interesting. The film takes place in a suburban neighborhood that is still under construction. It reminds me a lot of the neighborhoods from E.T. and Poltergeist but it’s unfinished, which just means that it was probably cheap and easy to shoot there at night.

Fourthly, the film doesn’t feature Linnea Quigley as Trash. I need my Trash! Or just Linnea Quigley. She could’ve played another role.

In the end, the characters were all good and the story was decent enough. I thought that the big finale was actually well done, other than the town not getting nuked. It should’ve been nuked.

If you are a fan of the original and you haven’t seen this, it’s definitely worth a watch. Don’t expect the same level of greatness but it’s still a good compliment to the first flick that builds off of it nicely.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the first Return of the Living Dead, as well as other zombie comedies.