"28 WEEKS LATER"
When the sequel was released this summer, I was a bit cautious. It’s not often that a sequel to one of my favorite films in recent years turns out to be at least as good as the original. However, Danny Boyle as the producer (and sometimes second unit director) pulled it off. By tapping talented Spanish director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo to head this movie, he was able to deliver one of the most chilling, stunning and emotional horror films in recent years.
The story takes off 28 weeks after the dreaded rage virus has ravaged London. Now that the infected have all died off from starvation, the military is in the midst of repopulating the city. Don (Robert Carlyle) lost his wife in the aftermath and is welcoming the return of his children from abroad. But things cannot remain sunny forever in this grim film. Soon, the rage virus resurfaces, and the military must take drastic action to contain it once again.
Part of what makes both films work so well is that they aren’t shot with the sensibilities of a horror film. Rather, they’re shot like a combat movie or documentary. The films work together to put the viewer at ground zero of the action, and with superb writing and characterization, it really gives the viewer an emotional sense of actually being there.
The DVD comes with commentary for the feature as well as a couple deleted scenes. There are three featurettes that go behind different aspects of the film, including the make-up effects and the action. Finally, one of the more unique features of the disc are two comic panel adaptations of the graphic novel “28 Days Later: The Aftermath,” which is a great little book in itself.
"RISE: BLOOD HUNTER"
“Rise: Blood Hunter” has one of those enviable ensemble casts (including Lucy Liu, Michael Chiklis, Carla Gugino and Robert Forster) the likes of which you don’t see in a direct-to-DVD movie outside of a Uwe Boll film. However, unlike most Uwe Boll films, “Rise: Blood Hunter” is actually surprisingly good.
In fact, the only real sour point to the films – aside from a running time that is a bit too long – is James D’Arcy as the villain vampire. He’s got a little too much modern teen vampire angst for my tastes. However, it’s not him that you should watch this movie for. It’s Lucy Liu, who is undeniably sexy in the role of a reluctant vampire bent on revenge.
As an erotic thriller, “Rise: Blood Hunter” works. It also works as a decent modern vampire movie. It kicks off the shroud of Anne Rice while retaining the sensual qualities of the creatures. There’s a welcomed nude scene with Liu, which is always fun to watch, and not one with Michael Chiklis (which is a great relief).
“Rise: Blood Hunter” is far from perfect, but it’s better than most direct-to-video horror you’ll find out there. Heck, it’s better than some of the theatrical releases we’ve seen this year, like “Blood and Chocolate” and “Captivity.” Actually, I’m somewhat surprised that it didn’t receive a theatrical release.
Okay, enough chauvinism. Let’s talk about “Hallowed Ground.” This direct-to-DVD horror film targets the Halloween movie market. Using autumn imagery of scarecrows, corn fields and a small town in the Midwest, “Hallowed Ground” has the makings of a fun feature.
The story follows a young drifter (Alexander) who finds herself stranded in the tiny town of Hope, USA. However, as she meets some of the locals and learns the legends of the preacher’s ghost that haunts the cornfields, she learns that her role is bigger in the grand scheme of things. The religious fanatic townspeople soon turn on her so she can fulfill her role in bringing back the soul of the preacher, which now inhabits a freaky scarecrow.
“Hallowed Ground” is thin on story and quite predictable. However, it still works as far as small-budget Halloween horror flicks go. Jaimie Alexander is likeable enough as the lead, and she has a strong attitude and fights back enough that she is far from being a damsel in distress.
Still, one of the best things about this film is the alarmingly creepy scarecrow monster, which you’ll see on the cover box if you go to rent this. The film uses the seasonal imagery to its advantage, which is the name of the game for this kind of movie.
"THE INTRUDER: SPECIAL EDITION"
While Corman ended up producing more and directing less over the years, it was not uncommon for him to step behind the camera for his favorite films. In 1962, he directed a surprisingly intense drama called “The Intruder,” based on the book by Charles Beaumont. This film tackled the touchy subject of racial integration, and it was shot at the epicenter of the debate – the South.
William Shatner stars as Adam Cramer, a racist from out of town who is determined to stir up trouble with the locals after the law forces integration in the public schools. Most folks in town back Cramer, but there are a few voices of reason. However, Cramer is not flawless in his charisma, and soon he finds he has his own enemies to deal with.
“The Intruder” has gone down in history as a film addressing the issues of Civil Rights, but I feel that Hollywood should continually revisit the film for an example of how to tell a socially significant story without preaching. Sure, Corman’s handling of Cramer as a sleaze-bag is a bit heavy-handed at times, showing him committing rampant adultery and fornication (or at least showing as much as you could for a film in the early 60s), and Shatner’s overacting gets the best of him at times, but overall this is a sober treatment of a hot-button issue.
The DVD comes with scant special features, with only one retrospective featurette of the movie. However, hearing Shatner and Corman go head-to-head in separate interviews is worth checking this out.
"EAT MY DUST: SUPERCHARGED EDITION"
“Eat My Dust,” while wildly profitable for Corman, falls in that latter category. The film holds historical cinematic significance for catching the Ron Howard wave at the start of his “Happy Days” career and eventually being the gateway for him to start directing. (Part of the deal to get Howard in the film was for Corman to allow him to direct his own film, the similarly-themed “Grand Theft Auto.”)
But strip away all of this, and it’s just a dumb little car chase movie. Sure, for low-budget cinema, it’s pretty decent. It reminds me of the kind of films I saw on the late-night movie show in Toledo while I was going to college.
The film tells the story of a dorky son of a sheriff (Howard) who steals the car of a prize-winning stock car racer. He does this to impress a girl (Christopher Norris, who looks great through most of the film in her little hot pants), who is into going fast. The plot doesn’t do much rather than serve a means to the end of car chases and stunt gags.
For nostalgic cinema, it’s not bad. But if you really want to see a car-chase film, you’d be better off renting “Death Proof,” Quentin Tarantino’s homage to this genre.