Monday, April 6, 2015

Invasion of the Undead (2015)

Directed by:
Torey Haas

Pretty, unemployed, recent college grad Allison Hillstead (Marie Barker) moves into an inherited family mansion three miles out in the country. Right after she sets up a promising interview about an assistant manager position for later in the day, wouldn't you know it, but a zombie turns up in her bathroom to ruin her day. Wilderness scout Ashley (Josie Levy) shows up at her front door soon after with a possible solution to Allison's problem when she whips out a business card for Desmond & Jake, who run the town's premiere paranormal investigation / extermination service and promise to eliminate all manner of monster for a fee. Desmond (Greg Garrison), an immature, arrogant, skirt-chasing, smart ass clerk at a video store, and Jake (Dylan Schettina), a geeky, level-headed grocery stocker and the real brains behind / backbone of the operation, finally manage to sneak out of work long enough to go Allison's armed with an arsenal of special zombie killing tools. Guns? No. Grenades? Nope. Chainsaws? No sir, none of those either. How about ordinary table salt, which somehow counteracts the living dead's negative life force and shrivels them up like slugs. They're also in possession of an ancient trident that needs to be kept in its ceremonial wrappings in order to hold its own charge.

Jake soon determines they're not just dealing with run-of-the-mill zombies, but the undead servants of a primordial demon called Z'athax, aka “The Pale King,” who's been causing problems ever since the Dark Ages. Allison locates a diary belonging to her Great Great Uncle Drake (Andrew Puckett), a member of an organization called B.O.N.E.S., an acronym for the Brotherhood of Necromancers and Evil Sorcerers. During the early 1900s, the organization offered up their talents to the highest bidder and Allison's uncle's specialty was voodoo. Evil Uncle Drake planned on using his own son as a human sacrifice to open up a gateway to hell in an effort to gain limitless power, but his wife (Candace Mabry) managed to sneak the boy out of the house and ended up becoming a sacrifice herself. Now the home and nearby woods are not only haunted by red-eyed demon Drake (Nathan DeRussy) and his legion of demonically-possessed followers, but also some zombie slaves residing in the basement of the home.

This inaugural feature from MonsterBuster Entertainment is a very low-budget effort (17,000 dollars; part of which was raised via a IndieGoGo campaign) but shows plenty of promise and is surprisingly enjoyable as a whole. Though characters, some plot points and the very self-aware, meta attitude to whole thing are all overly-familiar these days, the unknown cast (particularly the male lead) is good enough to really sell the material and there's lots of surprisingly sharp and often amusing dialogue (“Alright everyone, look alive!”). Films centered around wisecracking protagonists who spout snappy witticisms nearly the entire time can quickly grow tiresome, but the characters here are grounded in reality just enough to keep them on the good side of annoying. Balance is achieved not only by the actors, but by the script, which has some heart and provides the lead characters with enough humanistic qualities to keep them feeling like real people worth rooting for.

The director is not only ambitious enough to create his own fantasy mythology behind the events (shown via flashback) instead of resting on over-worked living dead origins, but he also presents the story in a rather striking comic book style. Invasion is downright gaudy in regards to its color schemes and special effects but wonderfully, almost exquisitely, so. Once the supernatural events begin, the movie is awash in bold, somewhat trippy blue, red, green and purple lighting. This is also a rare instance where cheap digital effects actually work in the film's favor as it's already lighthearted and cartoon-like to begin with. The addition of some stop motion fx at the finale are also very welcome and add personality and charm. Not only that, but the whole thing looks pretty good, too, especially considering the shooting format and budget. The cinematography from Nick Lauinger and the lighting schemes are impressive and often highly imaginative.

Clear affection for genre films is evident throughout, but not in a way that's obtrusive to the film's own original story nor in a way that threatens to turn this into a throwback / homage film. Issues of Fangoria and Tales from the Crypt are seen and, during one amusing scene, the voodoo zombies (who can talk, reason and eventually are even won over by our heroes) do a complete 180 of expected zombie behavior by actually helping the protagonists board up the house to keep the other zombies out, all set to music clearly in tribute to Night of the Living Dead (1968). This may just be a low-budget B movie, but it's an enthusiastic and surprisingly fun one if you enjoy these kind of films and I hope it can find an appreciative audience.


Die teuflischen Schwestern (1977)

... aka: Aberraciones sexuales de una rubia caliente (Sexual Aberrations of a Hot Blonde)
... aka: Deux soeurs vicieuses (Two Vicious Sisters)
... aka: Devilish Sisters, The
... aka: Frenesie erotiche di una ninfomane (Erotic Frenzy of a Nymphomaniac)
... aka: Satanic Sisters
... aka: Sexy Sisters

Directed by:
Jesus Franco

Sexually-aggressive Edna (Pamela Stanford) picks up a guy named Joe (Kurt Meinicke) in a club and takes him back to her oceanfront villa. There, things take an admittedly strange turn as she has her maid Sarah (Esther Moser) disrobe both on them on the living room sofa. But before things can get too hot and heavy, Edna excuses herself to the bedroom so she can have a word with her sister Millie (Karine Gambier). Millie turns out to be a "dangerous nymphomaniac" who must be chained up to her bed in a room that doubles as a jail cell (!) where she writhes in agony until she can get some. Edna then calls to her male visitor into the room and offers him up the "fantastic surprise" of her sister's body to use any way he wants. However, Millie has first instructed Edna to "...stay and watch us, the way you always do!" As Millie and the male visitor go to town, Edna hides behind a beaded curtain and takes care of herself with a candle (!?) No, this isn't going to be your everyday run-of-the-mill sex film, folks.

Millie hasn't left her room in six long months, has traumatic flashbacks to her childhood when she used to hide and watch all of her sister's kinky sexual proclivities and is one drugs that are supposed to help temper her schizophrenic delusions. In an effort to pacify her, the live-in nurse Maria (Marianne Graf) gives her a vibrator and tries to do other *a-hem* nice things for her, while Edna doesn't help matters any by going into town, picking up a white-haired male gigolo (who also happens to be the same guy who raped Millie as a child!) and letting him have his way with her as long as he doesn't "leave any bruises." Edna seeks advice from world-renowned psychotherapist Dr. Milton Arcos, who recommends Millie be denied stimulants of any kind (including sex) if she's ever to make a recovery. However, there's the possibility some people don't actually want her to get better because there's a 12 million dollar inheritance the troubled girl is set to collect on her 21st birthday. Well, granted she's of sound mind when the time comes...

Though this sounds - and pretty much is - pretty twisted, there's something oddly charming about this one that I can't quite put my finger on. I think a lot of that has to do with the goofy English-language dub-over done by a group of cheeky people who obviously had a hard time stifling laughter saying things like "What a terrific tool!" And then there's the head-scratching exchange, "Have you ever seen how the fish make love?" "No." "Neither have I, but I can imagine how they would do it. If I were a male fish and you were a female I would want to make love to you." The story itself really isn't too bad and is surprisingly coherent by the director's standards, though it leads up to a finale that falls completely flat. But hey, not many people are going to watch this for the story anyway, are they? The good news is that the entire cast - female and male alike - spend the majority of their scenes sans clothing and engaging in near X-rated sex and most of them look pretty good doing it.

Aside from the ladies, there are two male exploitation regulars of note on hand. The first is Jack Taylor as Millie's physician Dr. Charles Barnes, who gets to shove a thermometer up Millie's ass in his very first scene and basically lounge around in bed in the nude with several of the other ladies in all his scenes thereafter. The second is Eric Falk (best known as the kung fu biker rapist 'Stileto' in the sleaze gem MAD FOXES) as one of the sleazy studs hired to service Millie. Being part of Franco's late 70s series for Swiss producer Erwin C. Dietrich, the photography, music and overall production values are decent for this kind of film. Even the villa interior has a cool decor, with blown-up black-and-white photos of cats gracing all the walls.

The uncut Anchor Bay DVD is packaged as Sexy Sisters (the same title used by original VHS distributor Private Screenings, who were the first to offer up the film to American viewers [in a heavily cut version]) but the on-screen title calls it Satanic Sisters. Under any name, this is a decent Eurotrash flick. The German company Ascot Elite offers it on both DVD and Blu-ray, with English options.

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