Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Corpses Are Forever (2003)

... aka: Nerve

Directed by:
Jose Prendes

Though far from being the worst film reviewed here, Corpses is certainly one of the most disappointing. What we have here is a movie that features a wonderful B horror cast all giving enjoyable performances in a film that's a completely frustrating, incoherent and over-stuffed mess. Director / writer / producer/star Jose Prendes, I've read, is a "trust fund baby" who sank a lot of his own inherited money into this project, so it's fitting in a way he's solely responsible for sinking the ship. What I didn't like is that people like Richard Lynch, Debbie Rochon, Brinke Stevens, Linnea Quigley and Don Calfa were on board with him. However, none of them have a thing to be embarrassed about; they all do their jobs well and earn this film a better rating that it otherwise would have gotten for their dedication, professionalism and talent. It is Prendes who curdles this proceedings with his amateurism both in front of and behind the camera. He truly is his own worst enemy. It's difficult to sum up the plot of this movie in comprehensible terms, but it's safe to say it tries to cram in everything but the kitchen sink.

Beginning in black and white, it starts with a confused, wounded man named Quint Barrow, played by Prendes, whose bizarrely awful attempt at a British (I think) accent must be heard to be believed. His voice-over narration goes on and on, his young son is missing and he thinks he's being trailed. After a few of these noir-ish scenes, the film suddenly switches to color and to one of the most poorly-choreographed fight scenes in recent history. Prendes now gets to play bad-ass and use some kindergarten kung-fu moves on some slow and incredibly non-threatening zombies. The color stock also denotes that we are now in the post-apocalyptic future, which is in a state of "permanent darkness" and over-run with the living dead (though after the first fight, the living dead don't make another appearance until near the end). Prendes is now an amnesiac government agent named Malcolm Grant and he drops the phony accent in favor of his real-life droopy-dog blandness and cue-card line delivery. Malcolm ends up at a secret government facility run by the sinister General Morton (Lynch), who is actually the devil in disguise. There's a truth serum administered by a friendly lady doctor (Stevens), a tough priest (Bill Perlach), a sexy back-stabber of a wife with her own agenda (Rochon), a young infected woman on the verge of becoming a zombie (Felissa Rose), lots of gung-ho soldiers and others that cross in and out of the senseless plot. More black-and-white flashbacks to the past feature Quigley (who is murdered, but returns in the present as some kind of giggly ghost) and Conrad Brooks.

This type of movie is pretty easy to defend by purists with one of those comments like "You just didn't get it." I can say, fine, maybe I didn't 'get all of it,' but what can be said about a movie that makes you not really care to? The material presented here is not over anyone's head and it is not enjoyable to try to wade through it all; this is just very bad writing that has no idea how to weave the multiple story threads together in any accessible or entertaining way. It is not enjoyably enigmatic like a David Lynch movie. He doesn't even approach the style and dream-like aesthetics of Lynch. There is just so much here to try to deal with that just about every plot device is given cursory treatment. Many ideas are introduced and not explored or just dropped altogether because there is no time to satisfyingly deal with them. It is not fun to try to piece together the half-assed elements of this film, it is just irritating.

Like I said earlier, watching the entertaining name value cast at work provides the best moments in this film. Richard Lynch injects a great deal of humor and professionalism to the film. Debbie is fine as the leather-clad femme fatale not to be trusted, though her role does not give her a lot to work with. Stevens, always better at these intellectual roles, is brainy and a bit quirky here. Linnea gets to play it both ways; serious and campy. Rose and Calfa (using the name "Lanc Fladoda") both have a scene apiece, and deliver. Brooks, eh... he's Brooks. I know I've been tough on Jose here; he does have a few good ideas and his direction is not entirely bad; there's a lot of energy and some style and creativity (a black-and-white scene with a glass of blood in color, a few elaborate trailing shots) present in this film. But next time he should find someone else to write the script (or at least co-author it with him) and definitely needs a new leading man; he is duller than David Schwimmer, has very little on-screen appeal and sucks the life right out of the scenes he is in... which is most of them.

Corpses started life as a short (called Nerve) before being expanded into a feature length film. Nerve featured Jose, Linnea and Conrad; the footage of which may have been incorporated directly into Corpses.


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