Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Horror Film Review: Ditch Day Massacre (2013)

Ditch Day Massacre (2013)
Water Tree Media Inc  /  Ditch Movie Partners LLC

Director: Joe Hendrick
Writers: Daniel P. Coughlin, Ryan Coughlin
Starring: Bill Oberst, Jr., Katy Foley, Zach Silverman, Lynn Lowry

Review by Jed Bundy

Jenny chose the wrong day to "ditch" school ...

As the title and promotional poster suggest, Ditch pays homage to the teen slasher films of the 80s. Being a fan of the genre, I was immediately drawn to this film due to the word "massacre" in the title. In addition to being an avid watcher of slasher flicks, I generally enjoy the work of actor Bill Oberst, Jr., who plays the killer (Vick) in Ditch. While Ditch makes an attempt to be something more than a typical teen slasher, most viewers will likely remember the gratuitous nudity, sex scenes, underage drinking, and graphic violence, rather than the religious and political messages embedded in the film.

This is the setup ... film opens with teens partying at a residence in a typical suburban neighborhood, the camera quickly turns to one particular girl leaving the party, Jenny, played by Katy Foley, obviously intoxicated and getting in her car to presumably drive home. As she drives home, Jenny, while drunk, decides to text someone. This turns out to be a deadly combination for the family she crashes into. The audience is given a brief and distorted view of the scene of the accident. We see the father, Vick (Oberst) on the ground bleeding but breathing, leading us to believe that he will survive. His wife and daughter were not so lucky, as a flash of a newspaper headline describes the event as a hit and run with local police having no leads in the case.

Fast forward one year ... our main character, Jenny, has been really good this past year. No parties, no drinking, it seems as though she has learned her lesson, or perhaps not. Parents go away for the night, leaving Jenny, alone with boyfriend Mike, played by Zach Silverman. Jenny is quickly convinced to skip school and throw a small party, which will predictably include drinking alcohol, smoking a little weed and having lots of sex. As fans of the genre, we know what happens to teens that behave like this, right? Ditch succeeds as a nice throwback to the formulaic slashers of the 80s. Gratuitous nudity provides plenty of eye candy and the creative kills offer gore fans something to sink their teeth into as well.

A little about the killer ... Vick, while on the ground at the crash scene, the camera pans over to his watch, a cracked face, hands stopped, a moment frozen in time. Ditch serves as a revenge flick as well. It is at this moment we are given the motive for Vick's retaliation. 

One year later, as Jenny is making plans to ditch school, Vick is making plans of his own. He is obviously scarred from the loss of his wife and daughter. It is made clear that he has made a transition from devoted father and religious man to a man filled with rage and vengeance. He is physically working out as if he is training for the big fight. He is methodically gathering his belongings and studying them with great contemplation. We see a man completely broken and changed from a preventable event. As the camera follows Vick out to his car, his weapons of choice are made, mallet or hammer, an axe, and a bag of apples. As Vick starts the car and prepares for his day, we hear the radio DJ identify the station as 91.1 K ... I ... L ... L. This is a subtle clue that the massacre is about to begin. If the blood and guts don't gross you out, then maybe the revolting way the killer eats apples will!

Final thoughts ... Ditch is a solid effort in the horror genre. It contains all of the necessary elements to entertain horror fans. With standout performances by Bill Oberst, Jr. and Brad Potts as Mann, the main detective in the film, Ditch easily defines itself as a revenge and/or slasher movie with substance. 

Jed Bundy

Website: DitchDayMassacre.com 

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0N8eTigFAA

Leaked scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pe1frk84WJA

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2523426/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

(Many thanks to Megan Waters for providing me with the screener.)

(Provided by Producer Megan Waters)

Though there were no ghosts or paranormal activities called for in the script, the final shoot location, Vick’s layer was haunted by a real ghost  named Charlene.  According to the property owner “Charlene” is the reason he abandon living in the large villa.    On the first location scout with the creative team, Producer Megan Waters called out to the spirits and asked for permission to film in peace with a promise to return the house back to its original state.   That did not ease Charlene  the ghost as props, car keys, tools, gear, wardrobe and set decorations would go missing and then re appear.    On the final day, Charlene the ghost appeared to the producer as she was cleaning up.   Charlene look directly at the producer and then to the house; then disappeared.  It was a chilling moment.

All gore special f/x were mechanical and done in the lens.  This was a goal  and vision of the creative team.   We all wanted to make it gush blood for real.  Everyone on the cast and crew were covered in the red concoction and pig guts at one point or another.  Even the set dog Leo (Orange fluffy 13 year old Chow), who liked to roll in puddles to cool off got past the hot set signs and rolled in fake blood!    Leo got into so much he had to get fully shaved down. This was a dark day on set.  The silver lining in his buzz cut revealed he had skin cancer and got treatment for it.   They never would have found the cancer if he had not rolled in the blood.

Though “Vick” liked his axe. He also employed other killing tools to get the job done.
In a very complicated kill scene the original intended tool would not work so at the last moment the scene was extended and a few more famous lines were adlib to make room for a chain saw to finish the job.   It was a gushing bloody finish to the scene and a big relief to the team.

The Ditch Party house is tucked away in quite Huntington Beach cul de sac.  The house belongs to the writers’ cousin.   We were so lucky to be given this shoot location.   The team and cast both lived and filmed in the house.   The local neighbors were  very supportive of the project even when the fake blood came up the street drains and flowed for 3 blocks.     The crew did respond quickly and mopped up the mess.

While shooting the fish tank scene the crew took bets on which fish would go for the bate first.   No one bet on the crabs we all had our money on the eel.   Lesson learned: Never underestimate the little guys.  The crabs got is first on all three takes!

Most challenging role to cast:  MAX
3 different actors were cast in this role
24 hours before principal photography the actor set to play Max dropped out.    Gabriel De Santi originally cast to play “Bill” was approached about the role and accepted.  De Santi got the humor of the role and really brought Max to life.    The role of Bill was then cast and magnificently performed by Kyle Morris.

10 gallons of fake blood was mixed up on set.  Husband and wife special F/X and make team, Josh and Serria Russell.  Kept their blood mix master recipe a secret.    Josh Russell is also a talent singer and songwriter.  His song “An open letter to Taylor Swift” is featured in the film.

The role of Trina is played by a real Suicide Girl.  Pandie Suicide

The film was shot in 16 days and 1 pick up day.

The final 4 days of production the full crew had to camp on a remote ranch property.  To keep the crew fed a fridge was brought into the middle of the wilderness and plugged into the RV hook  up.  It was pretty funny to see a bright white fridge in the middle of the bushes.  Cast and crew both posed with the appliance to commemorate the experience.

None of the actors in the beer chugging scene had ever shot gunned a beer.  The punctured beer cans sprayed everywhere and the cast busted up laughing.  The take was use because it’s authentic that these kids probably would not have known how to shot gun beer.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

70s Horror Film Review: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Director: Philip Kaufman

Review by The Horror Banana
In what can best be described as the most paranoia filled movie in the Sci-Fi genre, Invasion of the Body Snatchers may also be the best remake ever to be filmed. Of course, it has another Jeff Goldblum movie to compete with in The Fly. Maybe that’s the key to a good do-over.

To open, we see flowers spreading all over San Francisco, and we’re not exactly sure what’s going on. We meet Geoffrey and Elizabeth, and find out that Geoffrey is a big sports fan. Elizabeth has one of the flowers and hands it to him, and the next day, he’s acting like a whacko, taking a broken glass all the way to the curb to be picked up by the garbage men, without so much as acknowledging Elizabeth.

This troubles her, so she runs off to tell her friend Matthew Bennell, played by Donald Sutherland. And hey, who wouldn’t run to the open arms of Donald Sutherland, that charmer? She tells him that Geoffrey is acting weird, so the two of them go see Bennell’s psychiatrist Dr. Kibner. This is where we run into Jeff Goldblum’s character Jack, who starts rambling and ranting nonsensical jargon, as we might expect.  Kibner uses shock tactics to try to explain to Elizabeth that she’s making these feelings up as an excuse to leave Geoffrey. In fact, he’s telling lots of people this, as people not acting themselves seems to be a big problem.

So Jack heads to a spa to get a mudbath, and his wife finds a podperson growing in the back. They tell Kibner about it, but it’s already gone. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem like they can trust anyone, as every agency they call tells them not to panic, or to cause a panic. Eventually, they even know who’s calling before they have a chance to say their names.

When it’s clear that Jack, his wife, Elizabeth and Bennell  are the only ones not changed, a race to stop the podpeople’s takeover begins.

So, this movie has some great effects. Watching the birthing scenes made me cringe, and the mere suggestion of being turned into something inhuman and having humanity stolen pushed this into something other than just sci-fi. The horror elements are all there, but the paranoia and creepy space alien atmosphere remains. There are lots of versions of this movie, but of the ones I’ve seen, this one takes the cake. Just wait until you see the final shot. It will leave you stunned.

Follow The Horror Banana on Twitter @HorrorBanana

Zombie Film Review: The Battery (2012)

The Battery (2012)
Director: Jeremy Gardner
Review by Dusty "D"

Description from IMDB:
The personalities of two former baseball players clash as they traverse the rural back roads of a post-plague New England teeming with the undead.

My thoughts:
More than anything, this movie really made me think about the differences in personality and how they would mesh in a zombie-infested world.  Ben – a realist – is clearly unhinged, but he seems to be adapting quite well.  He even appears to be enjoying himself.
Mickey – an optimist – seems defeated by it all.  I felt that it was only a matter of time before Mickey died, most likely as the result of just giving up.
I could identify more with Ben, but I doubt I would ever do a lot of things he does.

These differences in the characters also manifested itself with Annie.  They happen to hear Annie over their walkie-talkies.  She lives in some kind of zombie-free community with a group of others (named “The Orchard”).  It’s a concept that’s not unfamiliar to anyone who has seen many zombie movies.  But we never actually see it here.  We hear Annie say things like, “It’s not what you think it is.”  I really loved the idea of throwing a familiar zombie trope like that in here but never actually showing it. 
It’s Ben & Mickey’s responses to that information that tell us about their characters.  After Annie tells them to leave it alone, Mickey is still obsessed.  He can’t stop thinking about it.  It’s a haven for him.  A place to sleep without having to worry about being attacked.  Somewhere he can stop running.  However, Ben just stops thinking about it.  He’s happy with his life.  He doesn’t need a safe zone.  He’s fine right where he is.

Seriously though, Ben is probably a psychopath. I don’t like that I identify with him.

I didn’t really like either of the two characters.  But maybe that was the point.  After all, they didn’t really seem to like each other, either (unless they’re drunk, which I may need to try).  When Mickey is trying to convince Annie to let him join their community, he gives up Ben without much thought.  “We were ballplayers.  He was a starting catcher.  I was out in the bullpen.  We never hung out in the same circles.  I hardly even know him.”

Tale as old as time…

I suppose that’s what the real zombie apocalypse would be like.  We wouldn’t necessarily be traveling with our loved ones.  In a perfect world we would, but a zombie apocalypse doesn’t happen in a perfect world.  In the event of a real zombie apocalypse, we would be stuck with whoever we happened to be with at the time of the outbreak, and, eventually, whoever survived from that group.  That means you have a better chance of trying to survive with your annoying coworker rather than your loved ones.  The good news is that it would be easier to kill one of your co-survivors once they become infected.  The bad news is that you may want to off yourself before it gets to that point.

I’m torn as to whether I really liked this movie or not.  There were parts I really liked, but there were also a ton of extremely slow moments.  For instance, we watch them brush their teeth for a full minute.  While I understand that it’s a big deal for them (they probably haven’t brushed their teeth in a long time), I didn’t necessarily feel the need to watch the entire teeth-brushing process. 

That’s a problem that’s indicative of the entire movie.  It tends to linger on shots for too long.  And most of them are boring, run-of-the-mill shots in the first place.  Looking out the window while driving.  Sitting around in chairs.  There’s really not much going on throughout a lot of this movie, yet the camera lingers too long on most of it.  I’m not begging for action, but I tend to get tired of watching scene after scene where nothing happens, yet having the camera linger on each of the scenes.
While I understand this is most likely what it would be like to live in a zombie apocalypse (a little bit of action, but not a ton going on the majority of the time), that doesn’t mean I want to watch it.  When the apocalypse comes, I’ll deal with the minutiae of my own life.  I don’t necessarily need to live through someone else’s.

I also have some major problems with the end, but I don’t really want to get into spoilers here.  If I do end up getting into that, I’ll do it in a future post.  I’ve been wanting to get my “What Comes Next” series off the ground, anyway.

That’s not to say it was a completely boring movie.  There were a lot of slow moments, but there were also some really great scenes.  There is a fantastic scene in an apple orchard.  There’s no dialogue (a song plays the entire time), but it’s perfect.  Everything I would want in the event of a zombie apocalypse.  Running wild.  Having fun.  Doing anything you want to do, because there’s no one around to tell you that you can’t.  After watching these two guys bicker for the last hour, it’s good to see them having some fun and smashing the hell out of some rotten apples with a bat.  It’s an amazing scene.  And the music is terrific.
I was also a huge fan of the scene where they get drunk in their car.  Because apparently having fun during a zombie apocalypse is something that is appealing to me.

The more I think about it, the more I think I really like this.  It’s not perfect, but there’s far more good than bad here.  If you can get past the lingering camera shots, you’ll find there’s a lot to like here.  It’s something different, and I like that.  And the soundtrack is dynamite. 

For my final thought, I’ll turn to a quote by Ben:
“Don’t you think we got enough to worry about without having to worry about each other?”  The central question of every zombie movie, going back to Night of the Living Dead: who should we fear the most, zombies or humans?

Rating: 4/5

The Battery is currently available on VOD through iTunes, Amazon, Vudu and others.  Check the website.

Here’s the trailer:

Here are some extra posters that I enjoyed:

Read more reviews like this one at 

Dusty "D" Evely's Zombie Club Blog

Also, Follow "D" on Twitter @norman_myers

Monday, June 24, 2013

Indie Horror Review: MOLD! (2012)

Mold! (2012)
Director: Neil Meschino
Wild Eye Releasing 2013

Review by Mack B. 

MOLD! has a distinct 1950s sci-fi feel to it.  It's basically a locked room sci-fi thriller that takes place at U.S. military research facility, suitably located in the middle of the desert.  It's set during the mid-1980s Reagan era.  The military is trying to one up the communists and this newly developed strain of weaponized mold may just be the ticket.  Gathered together are the congressman who sponsored the project, the colonel who oversees the experiment, and all of the scientists who have been working on the project.  This strain of mold has been designed to destroy the Columbian coca fields, striking a killing blow in the drug war with the cartels.

This virulent mold is kept in a very clean and controlled environment within the lab.  Needless to say, the mold gets out and begins to spread at alarming rates.  Helpless to combat the spread, the scientists retreat to a securable room.  The colonel's aide has turned into a mold covered mutant hell bent on the killing the scientists.  It turns out that part of the troubles are due to a CIA plot to weaponize the deadly mold.  

The film is able to keep things interesting despite the locked room setting by revealing relationships among the staff and allowing the actors to ham it up in spectacular fashion.  Edward X. Young does a remarkable job of chewing the scenery in this fun flick.  The desert location of the lab lends itself to the paranoia and isolation that MOLD! develops so well.  Adding to the camp factor is a large amount of grue and gore and a plot that allows for the female scientist to spend a good part of the movie running around in her lingerie.  While this movie is a fun and campy experience, it is also dark and a tad nihilistic.  The dark humor hits all the right notes, especially in the way it establishes a McCarthy era feel.  

MOLD! is still making the festival rounds and has a fairly extensive website where you can also order the film if you are not lucky enough to catch it on the festival circuit.  You can find images reviews and more at the official MOLD! site. (Update: the MOLD website is down but they have a Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/252444378108651/)

Follow Mack on Twitter @3SHorror
Check out more of Mack B's reviews at www.ssshorrorreviews.net

80s Horror Film Review: Jaws: The Revenge (1987)

Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
Director:Joseph Sargent

Review by The Horror Banana

I know it’s a widely accepted fact that no one likes the “Jaws” sequels. And I think a lot of that is stemming from the fact that the original was so classic, so completely engrossing, that nothing could or should try to touch it. Or it could be that the shark growls a lot in the sequels.
Most people absolutely rip this movie to shreds because of the crazy notion that a shark hunts people specifically because of their lineage. Now, if you read the book, a voodoo shaman curses the Brody's, and that's why the shark hunts them. In fact the book, written by Hank Searls, is a lot darker, and even though it was adapted from the screenplay, it really does stand above the film.
But this isn't the book.
We start out with Sean Brody checking in at the police station. Which has me turning on the movie immediately, as I hate any movie that’s entire premise could be avoided by a phone call. He’s told about a piece of driftwood that needs moved, and no one else is available to movie it. Now, had he made a call to check in, he wouldn’t have been there when the call about the driftwood came in. Oh well. As we all know well by this fourth episode, Amity means “Shark”. And Sean gets his arm bitten off by a pre-attack bleeding shark, who promptly flash-cut attacks him and kills him. Ellen Brody is distraught, but when her remaining son Michael comes to visit for the funeral, her emotions are all over the place, She laughs at the funeral, then cries later on. I thought the wide range of grieving emotion from Ellen was fantastic, but people reviewing this movie tend to think it’s just craziness.
·         The family decides to go to Mike’s home in the Bahamas, so the shark follows the plane from Rhode Island and is waiting for them there. Here's a couple thoughts I had about this. Number one, what if it's not the same shark? Number two, how would a shark that was in Amity, Rhode Island in the middle of winter be able to survive in the Bahamas? I think there's a slight temperature difference! I just accept that the shark that attacked Sean is waiting for the Brody's to come home and make Jaws 5. Anyway, the family hangs out with Mike’s coworker Jake, and also, Michael Caine shows up as this pilot named Hoagie, who's Ellen's new love interest since Chief Brody is now dead. (She thinks the shark killed him too, even though he had a heart attack.) So it turns out while Ellen is having nightmares about the shark, Mike is searching for conk shells, and eventually,  the shark passes by Jake and goes up for Mike on the boat. They decide to tag it and follow it, and this works for a very brief period. However, it then becomes apparent that Jake's equipment is garbage, because sometimes the shark is there and there's no sound, other times the shark isn't there and there is a sound...it's weird. 

There's also a few scenes that are out of place due to poor editing and overseas changes made to the film. For instance, Jake and Mike are on the front porch in one scene and Jake mentions that they can't figure out where the shark has gone and can't track it. Problem is, they haven't seen the shark yet at this point in the movie! So Mike gets attacked by the shark and gets away, then skips his wife's art ceremony to conquer his fears and go back in the water. While he's busy doing that, the shark goes after his daughter Thea, who's riding a banana boat. It instead gets some other girl and eats her in front of a bunch of hysterical islanders. 

This makes Ellen go bonkers, and she steals Jake's boat to confront the shark. Mike, Jake and Hoagie fly a plane out to Ellen and crash it into the water. The shark attacks Hoagie while he’s still on the plane, but he gets away and even remarks what bad breath the shark has.  So Jake and Mike decide that the best course of action is to stick a radio transmitter into the shark's mouth, and transmit waves using a remote to drive it insane and possibly kill it. Jake goes out on the end of the boat without a rope and falls into the shark's mouth however, and depending on which version you watch either dies or lives. 

And then, all the work they did on this movie, all the logic, the character development, the whole shabang, gets completely thrashed in the worst ending to a major motion picture of all time. Mike begins to use the remote to shock the shark, who begins to growl and roar like a lion. Ellen begins having flashbacks to the end of the original Jaws, even though she was nowhere near during those scenes. The shark keeps leaping out of the water and standing on its tail, and then they ram it with the boat. Now, depending on which ending you see, the shark either gets harpooned while standing what has to be 100 feet in the air on its tail, or the end of the boat hits the shark...and...it...explodes. What the hell? It never explains why, they just accept it. The most egregious part of this explosion is that it’s clearly a model shark in a bathtub. And the footage is repeated at least three times.

So what we have is a decent bunch of pieces to what potentially could have been an okay story, but edited in such a way that it’s almost intolerable. If you can find the less offensively bad ending with the shark being harpooned, definitely take some time to watch it. It’s not that bad.
Follow The Horror Banana on Twitter @HorrorBanana