October is, by far, my favourite month of the year: the weather is cool enough so that I’m not perspiring like a one-man rainforest, and I can legitimately make my significant other and cat watch a copious amount of horror in the name of Hallowe’en spirit.
Hallowe’en spirit, not unlike its yuletide brethren, is a little abstract, but relates to the many mores, traditions and attitudes associated with the season. This week’s frugal frights encompass two of my favourite elements of October: gaudy get-ups and stale ghost stories. Cheap and chintzy they may be, but they still sustain some silly scares.
BLOOD: A fantastically fake-looking scattering of splatter
BUDGET: No more than four digits
Bad-by-the-numbers, this lycanthopic thriller must have been following a filmmaking manual co-written by Lloyd Kaufman, James Nguyen the Polonia Brothers in order to make such a gloriously god-awful flick.
Immediately following the kitschy, hand-drawn opening credits, plenty of bright red blood spurts soak the screen as werewolves, clad in deluxe drugstore masks, ravage a small group of helpless humans. It turns out to be a dream – a classic trope of terrible tales.
With furry fiasco on hold, we’re introduced to our moaning hero Dave, who complains his way through his work day, continuing his whining as he attends a pot-fueled party.
Idiotic banter (two party-goers giggle over how badly a fellow female pothead “got raped” by another in a video game), political debate (a half-in-the-bag bonehead explains why communism is good, using points picked out of a fifth-grade history class), and in-depth conversation about how bad Dave’s job is, awkwardly fill the ho-hum happening. The werewolves finally show their furry faces when a few of the friends trek out to the nearest No Frills (a local Toronto grocery chain) for some late-night munchies. The streets are somehow overrun by hordes of these hairy things (some of which are undead); the gang, now trapped in No Frills, must fight their way out.
Terrible sound recording, a rudimentary score, poor acting and, of course, ludicrous costumes and makeup could make for a fun, so-bad-it’s-good adventure, but the film is weighed down by an unwelcome starkness manifested through Dave’s depression, some grim dialogue and the semi-deus ex machina slayer character who tediously holds forth on werewolf history.
A bit of a drag at 70 minutes, Zombie Werewolves Attack squanders its campy potential by inserting too much seriousness. This is a rare case where a movie would have benefited from being a bit more boisterous and a lot more brain dead. Perhaps it should have read Roger Corman’s manual instead.
BLOOD: You have to wait for the climax for the copious red stuff to come out of hiding
BUDGET: About $32,000
Even with a bland atmosphere, unoriginal subject matter and jilted performances, this hum-drum haunting still packs a phantom punch.
A rag-tag team of filmmakers, led by a less-charismatic Jon Hamm-type named Mitch (Patrick Hussion), impersonate ghost hunters and intrude on a family’s rural home to investigate the presence of the legendary Grey Man ghost, who is haunting the daughter, Katie Simms.
Like an artless Wes Anderson, writer/director Wayne Capps’ film composition is made up of straight-on medium shots, leaving the actors, whose talents are akin to the cast of an instructional video, solely responsible for carrying the plot, as each point is painstakingly explained by the characters.
It’s not until we are finally treated to an interview with the father that this slogging suspense yarn starts to pick up momentum. Guarded and apprehensive, Joseph Simms (Richard L. Fister) engagingly tells his side of the story, ringing up some actual sympathy and scares. Payton Morelli, as the young Katie Simms, also shows some acting chops, believably portraying a troubled child who’s creepily nonchalant about her spirit friend.
After a bogged-down first 45 minutes, the taut final twenty (the running time is just over an hour) are packed full of gravity-defying gals, unseen assailants pulling people into the abyss, and blood-soaked bodies that, despite their lack of originality, still gave me a good old thrill.
It’s standard fare for phantasmal films, but if you can sit through the first half, you’ll have a hoot with the last.
Documenting the Grey Man is available on DVD through the Alternative Cinema website and many major retailers. Zombie Werewolves Attack can be digitally rented throughYouTube or on DVD soon from Troma Entertainment.