Shock-O-Rama Horror Collection:
If the economic collapse of Greece is bugging you, (I mean, what do you do when the progenitor of Western Civilization defaults on its loans?) simply turn to EI Cinema for this bargain-priced collection of cheesy shockers. Like, what's to complain? Four movies for the price of one, and Misty Mundae appears scantily clad (at best) in three of them! You see; that there is one of my new tricky psychological writing techniques there. Point being, if you enjoy cheesy horror, and more importantly, if you know that Mundae is a delightfully taut scream queen, then you're on the same page as me, and I can dispense with the think-think, while moving on to ... well ... Anyway, if you don't meet the two above criteria, see ya!
Schlockster Brett Piper's schlocky homage (that's a schlockmage, by the way) to schlock horror and sci-fi movies makes me want to shout "schlock-a-rock-a-ding-dong!" Well, kind-a, but what exactly does that mean anyway? It means Misty Mundae, AJ Kahn and other EI/ Alternative Cinema regulars populate this semi-anthology that ultimately feels like three movie ideas looking for their own feature presentations. Despite occasionally feeling a bit overlong, this seriously silly effort provides enough laughs, plenty of skin, and some comic gore for non-discriminating schlock fans.
Mundae stars in a pseudo-wraparound story as a beleaguered schlock-star with a yen to grow her career, that is until she's fired. Seizing the chance to rejuvenate, she rents a remote country home that's home to an undead wizard or something. If only she'd watched her own movies! Meanwhile her ex-producers begin auditioning new actresses, which gives them the opportunity to screen other (truncated) schlock movies, including one about aliens in a junkyard, and another about a suspicious sleep study clinic that specializes in sleazy sex and naked women.
Piper clearly knows which choir he's preaching to, larding his ideas with plenty of in-jokes, none more appealing than watching Mundae send herself up. She's self-aware but not self-serious. In fact, Piper hits enough marks - both smart and stupid - to make you wonder if he isn't aiming at the 'Low Art' label. His alien-infested junkyard features a plausible giant-junk-robot (yes) animated in vintage stop-motion animation style. That's one part of overall nice production design, but it doesn't hide the fact that our trapped heroes spend too much time yapping for a 25-minute snippet. Thankfully lots of nudity, a little gut ripping, kooky humor, and Mundae chopping up a zombie with a chainsaw appear to alleviate minor boredom. For another positive take on the movie, click here.
Matt Leblanc look-alike Rob Monkiewicz, Misty Mundae and Rachael Robbins headline this relatively restrained Brett Piper affair, about a sexually sadistic Art Photographer and his tormented minions. As the crew sets up for an intensive weeklong shoot in an abandoned insane asylum, hopes are high. Oddly, those hopes are only partially dashed, as director Piper trades the non-stop nudity and campy gore we hope to find in EI movies for things like a methodical build-up and character-driven tension. While it doesn't completely scratch your exploitation itch, Screaming Dead throws just enough skin and scare to pacify punters who might not have expected a movie with pretensions of normalcy.
Monkiewicz sturdily plays a stud sent along on the shoot to ensure the girls aren't abused, but the whole bunch of them end up taking it, not only from Joseph Farrell's haughty photographer, but also from the silly ghosts who eventually show up to ensure that at least the girls do some screaming. That said, Monkiewicz and Mundae turn in the best performances. Though rough around the edges, these two take much of the load for the others, particularly Farrell, who seems a bit stilted throughout. Meanwhile, location shooting adds plenty of welcome atmosphere to go with random, gratuitous cheesecake shots, such as a lengthy conversation between the photographer and one of his vixens, that takes place entirely while the girl is showering.
However, when supernatural action goes into high gear, things begin to slip. Not that I'm really complaining, but ghostly behavior exhibited is just corny - especially that of the lead specter, who comes off as a silly, demented circus master - which doesn't really follow suit with the more serious goings-on that form the lead up. Luckily a little splashy gore and some more WIP nudity concludes this moderately muted shocker. Or, this might also inform your take on this movie.
Bacterium's monster homage rides the blobby back of the title creature to some serious fun. With a plot so boilerplate that even the movie's characters scoff at its banality, details are instantly forgettable. Folks are stuck in an isolated wilderness outpost (per the DVD description, since my grasp of the plot has faded like the morning mist). A military bio-weapon - a slimy little microbe - escapes, quickly focusing on two things; eating and reproducing. Apparently drugs and rock-and-roll are not to the bacterium's liking. What it does like, however, is oozing, sliming around, and dissolving people.
You'll need nothing more from this blithe, old-fashioned monster movie. Hysteria is cranked up to some type of pitch, fever, I'd reckon, by the workmanlike but wholly enthusiastic cast. Delirious, tormented dream sequences betray a scientist's guilt while sending viewers into assorted acid flashbacks, and director Piper's creature takes center stage, just as it should be.
How many times have you ponied up for one of myriad contemporary monster features only to be disappointed by a dopey looking CGI creature that only stomps around for the last ten minutes of the movie? Piper fully understands that's the wrong approach, deploying his beastie with abandon. And this is the type of awesome monster action that will have you coming back for repeat viewings. Animated in such a way that you'll be wondering just how Piper did it, the bacterium slithers, oozes, creeps, mutates and throbs delightfully. The creature isn't clunky like bad stop-motion animation, or crappy like low-rent CGI, it's just darn cool.
It doesn't matter that the storyline is a little simple or derivative, (with nods to Contamination, Dawn Of The Dead, The Blob and The Crazies, among others) or that characterizations are easy and thin, Bacterium puts its money where its devouring orifice is. Faces melt, (some in ultra-silly fashion) chests explode, and the 21st Century's rightful replacement for The Green Slime is here. Bacterium, thy name is fun.
Piper knocks out another cheapie yuck-fest with Bite Me!, and the yucks are both literal and figurative. Packed with silly, off-kilter jokes and nifty alien spiders traveling in a crate of weed, Bite will have you laughing at broad performances and gagging as the spiders bloat like mosquitoes as they gorge on blood. If you aren't looking for anything remotely serious - and you're liberally lubed-up, I'd recommend - Bite Me! will more-than entertain you.
The ever-popular Misty Mundae and the rest of Piper's standard motley crew do their best to make you feel at home. Clothes are dropped frequently, while all of the actors seem so comfortable with each other that you can't begrudge their loose performances. It's no secret that Piper works quickly, with low budgets, so even if he wanted to squeeze more sincerity from his cast he simply couldn't. And of course it wouldn't really be necessary, what with the subject matter at hand. Nonetheless, one suspects that given the time, Piper and crew could concoct a movie that might be taken seriously, for whatever that's worth.
Yet, why would you make a serious movie, when you can make one full of stripper humor, among other things. Piper even drags out a Scooby Doo plot device - in addition to avoiding blood-sucking alien spiders, it seems imperative for our heroes to 'save the strip club' that an evil developer is desperate to sell out from under its shyster owner. But really, once you've witnessed a seriously lazy stripper who falls asleep at the pole, you'll not only be ashamed at yourself for laughing, you'll also be ready to look for the next Brett Piper exploitation quickie.
Eventually, Mundae gets fed up with the spiders - spiders brought to life by Pipers wonderful lunch-bucket stop-motion animation. Donning Rambo-style battle togs, Mundae goes on a rampage, ushering in even more fun. But if you've made it this far into Bite Me!, you already know what type of movie you like, and you'll realize that this is just one of those movies. Silly, sexy, crammed with dorky monster thrills and enough good humor to choke Jonathan Winters, (if you're old enough to remember Winters selling ice cream, slap me five) Bite Me! is lowbrow fun that really satisfies. Read here for another take.
I suppose I owe Piper and friends this much: Each film in this collection displays true love for genre cinema, and each is directed with style and flair, making the most of miniscule budgets. Sure, these movies aren't really scary, and the actors appear to be having a little too much fun (and not burning enough takes) to be getting paid, but those things are essentially beside the point. Lovers of this stuff want cheap, smart laughs, cheesy gore, great monsters and much, much nudity. Piper delivers in spades, and he doesn't insult you in the process. If you know what you're getting into, (and you don't own too many of these movies already) this collection comes recommended.
OARs rule the roost (as well they should) in this collection. Screaming Dead and Bite Me! come in fullscreen, 1.33:1 ratio, and both appear adequate, as do the other two features. For all features, details aren't great, but sharp enough, colors are fairly good, and transfers are decent, but not exceptional. Shock-O-Rama and Bacterium come in their OAR, 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen.
Each film comes with Dolby Digital Stereo in English. Source audio limitations, mainly room sound that's either echoey or too quiet, are occasionally apparent, but overall the sound is adequate, as you come to expect these types of production inadequacies from low budget work.
Shock-O-Rama touts a few little extras. First off is a 15-minute Interview with director Piper, (and others) who is very forthcoming, realistic and pragmatic. Piper gives you the real lowdown on his low-budget world. Too bad the audio on this extra is also way low; you'll certainly need to pump up the volume for this. Nine minutes of Behind The Scenes stuff also includes both legitimate 'Bloopers' and simple BTS goofing. It's fun stuff but brief. The New York Screen Premier included a cameraperson who managed at least 6 minutes of footage of various participants being both goofy and frank. Lastly, a 5-minute Q&A with Piper fills in many other details about his work that you may have wondered about.
Inside Screaming Dead represents your standard (more or less) EPK, and at only 7-minutes long, this collection of interviews outlining what the movie's about is fairly forgettable. Things get better quickly with Misty Mundae: From Skin to Scream, a 16-minute interview with the titular subject that reveals Mundae to be sassy, down-to-earth, and deserving of as much success as she can get her hands on. And yes, I am an avowed Mundae fan. Inside the Asylum, at 15-minutes, really amps up the extras ante with a unique combination of BTS stuff and history of the actual asylum location used in the movie. Interviews with a former patient and caretaker represent an intellectual coup as they reveal the horrific truth behind the horror movie. Plus, the featurette is produced by Joey Smack and others from the Factory 2000 crew, which only adds a nifty depth to the entire EI universe. Inside the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors throws down 7-minutes of history on Fango's event, at which Screaming Dead premiered, as well as footage, interviews and reactions to the screening. A 5-minute auto-navigated Photo Gallery runs the gamut of BTS, publicity and screen stills, and seems to repeat a few pictures at the end. Eye On Cinema is a 90-second newsreel spoof regarding the movie's premier, and a page of Fandom stuff includes links to more Shock-O-Rama Trailers, weblinks and more.
Bacterium comes with a great, revealing 22-minute Making Of featurette that supplies plenty of good dish. Also included are: a few minutes of Bloopers and Shock-O-Rama Trailers and a Commentary Track with director Brett Piper and producer Michael Raso, plus a moderator. The commentary is entertaining and funny, while Piper is dry, low-key and forthcoming. However, some of the track is way-too-quiet, and one subject keeps banging his mic - very annoying - plus, there's a huge lag between the commentary audio and movie image.
Bite Me! comes with plenty of extras, some of which will seem a bit familiar to those who've plowed through all four movies at a clip. A 14-minute Behind The Scenes featurette contains what you'd expect in the way of interviews and BTS footage, plus plenty more self-deprecating revelations about the business of low-budget filmmaking. "Making Movies" is a 15-minute interview sequence with Misty Mundae, who comes off as a bit cavalier while she dishes on herself and smokes. A two-minute Camera Test highlights three alternate actresses doing a scene from the movie. How To Crash A Car In Two Minutes takes six minutes to actually deliver the lesson. Furthermore, footage from the Rue Morgue World Premier of Bite Me!, a CKY Music Video and more is included!
Finally, 6 - 7-page Liner Notes for all films but Bacterium, plus a Poster Order Form, come in this standard-sized keepcase with a flipper insert.
At about 25 bucks, this collection of four EI Independent movies, from the Shock-O-Rama label represents a real deal for schlock-horror fans. Each movie included appears to be the same as its single-disc release incarnation, so if you don't already own any of these, and you know who Misty Mundae is, and you like the idea a giant blobs ripping people's faces off, then this is the bargain collection for you! Director Brett Piper delivers highly entertaining films within his constraints, and his stable of performers (mostly consistent in three of four pictures in this set) bring enthusiasm and familiarity to each event. If you like it cheesy, sleazy and easy on the eyes, the Shock-O-Rama Horror Collection is the way to go. But is it highly Recommended? Those of you who've read this entire review probably already know.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com