They’re Pretending to Be Alive (Land of the Dead, 2005)

Land_of_the_Dead_posterIt took 20 years for Romero to decide on a new zombie film.  In this film?  Set well after the zombie apocalypse, we are introduced to a small city that has grown, fortified against the dead.  The culture is divided between the haves and the have-nots.  Those with riches live in comfort in a high-rise apartment complex.  Everyone else lives alone, where life is a day to day struggle.

In this world, there are those employed by the rich to go out and scavenge the land for supplies. Riley runs one such crew, under the employ of Kaufman.  They have all sorts of tricks to distract the dead, though it is still a very dangerous job.  One such expedition has an unexpected side effect.  a Zombie begins uniting zombies in a march towards the city.  It is unclear fully what causes this, but there is a rudimentary communication.

Meanwhile, Riley plots with his friends to get out of town and on their own.  His second in command, Cholo, wants to become one of the elites and is trying to get in with Kaufman.  Of course, Kaufman does not care about helping Cholo and uses his greed and ambition for his own benefit.

It is clear at this point, Romero has lost interest in the survivors.  He is done suggesting mankind might win, and any attempt to rebuild is clearly futile.  Land of the dead feels like it really is the end of the road for the franchise (it was not).  It is a fairly decent film with some fun characters and interesting ideas at play, but at the same time, it never quite achieves the levels of its predecessors.

Let’s Visit Texas Part 2 (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, 1986)

Don’t You, Forget About Me…

Cannon Films got the rights to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and immediately set to get Hooper to make a sequel.  Except, Hooper was not really interested in a sequel.  He agreed to be a producer, but only after they found they could not afford a director, did Hooper agree to direct.

While the studio expected a straight up horror film, Hooper had something else in mind.  A gory and dark comedy.  This is even evident in their poster, which mimics the Breakfast Club poster.

Two guys harass radio DJ Stretch (Caroline Williams), only to find themselves attacked and killed by Leatherface and his clan.  This is a pretty memorable scene, in part due to the obnoxious preppy guys and their demise.  Stretch starts to rebroadcast to solve the crime.


Meanwhile, the crime is also being investigate by Lefty (Dennis Hopper)…Lefty has been on the trail of the Sawyer family for over a decade, as they killed his nephew Franklin and nearly killed niece Sally.  Leatherface and Chop Top (a family member who was in Vietnam during the first film) show up to the radio station looking for Stretch.  She convinces Leatherface to let her live,  rushing off with Chop Top.  She follows them to their new home (they are hiding out in below what appears to be a the remains of a theme park).  Soon Lefty shows up as well.  This results in a big chainsaw fight between Lefty and the family.

The film’s final scene mimics the original film’s final moments, but reverses them.  The film also is where the cannibalism aspect comes in.  The family has an award winning chili recipe (hint, the special ingredient is people meat) that they take around Texas.

The cast here is a lot of fun.  Hopper is over the top as Lefty and his Chainsaw battle is downright hilarious.  William’s handles being both the terrified victim, yet also is smart enough to find ways to survive.  Bill Mosely is great as the absurd Chop Top, the weird hippie of the family.  Bill JohnsonThe make-up effects and set design are beautifully theatrical.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was not well received, but it’s become a cult classic, and deservedly so.  It is entertaining, even though it is not a scary film by any means.  Horror fans should not miss this clever skewering of Horror sequel tropes.

Science Gone Mad Part 1 (My Science Project, 1985)

My_Science_Project_Poster1985 was a big year for Teen Science Nerd films.  I will be reviewing the three films over the next three days.  Today, we start with director John Betuel’s My Science Project.  Betuel wrote the classic Sci-Fi film the Last Starfighter and he wrote this film, which would give one real hope.

The cast is a combination of well known (Dennis Hopper, Richard Masur and Barry Corbin) combined with “up and Comers” (Danielle Von Zerneck, John Stockwell and Fisher Stevens).  The plot is simple.  The film opens a few decades before the film actually takes place.  An alien ship is shot down.  The military opts to have everything destroyed.  Jump ahead to 1985 and we meet high school student Michael Harlan (who has gone on to direct films such as Blue Crush, Into the Blue and Turistas) and his buddy Vince (Played by Fake Indian Fisher Stevens).  His science teacher Bob, an aging hippie pining for the 60’s played appropriately by Dennis Hopper, is after him about his science project.  He needs to pass science class.  He is not scientifically inclined, rather more mechanical.  He is a car guy.  After his girlfriend and he break up over an article in Cosmo, he is asked out by nerd Ellie (Danielle von Zerneck).  Begged, really.

Michael takes her on a date, but it is really a cover so he can go through a military junkyard for a makeshift science project.  He finds a glowing orb that he takes with him.  Long story short, it is a battery that bends time and space.  It starts to suck power, reaching out for more and more powerful sources.

John, Ellie, Vince and additional nerd Sherman (Raphael Sbarge) try and stop the orb from ultimately destroying space and time as we know it.  The film is pretty messy, and it does not make a whole lot of sense.  Unlike the tightly scripted The Last Starfighter, My Science Project seems to be wandering around trying to figure out where it is going.  Dennis Hopper’s Bob is fairly entertaining, but he gets removed from the story about a third of the way in and does not reappear until the end of the story.

The film has big ideas, but nothing solid really materializes, making the film largely average and forgettable.


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