Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

Rise of the Dead | Experiment in Torture

By Steve Anderson
October 1st, 2005

Rise of the DeadRise of the Dead
**
DVD
Directed by William Wedig
Written by Joshua Crook, Jeffrey Crook, Kris Scotto Starring Erin Wilk, Stephen Seidel, Chris Ferry Produced by Matt Regney, Patrick Pope, Drew Oppelt, Barbara Burch
72 mins
R
2007

I had high hopes for "Rise of the Dead", I admit that freely, but when I started the DVD and discovered that it was not only a seventy two minute movie, but also had a menu consisting only of a shot of the box art, my high hopes began to burst like a housing bubble in lead mining country.

And yet, at least in the start, it managed to rise above its less than auspicious beginnings and really pique my interest. A sudden out-of-nowhere murder will do that. And it managed to keep building off that, and be interesting, if only for a while. Which makes what happened by the end of the movie all the worse.

Basically, "Rise of the Dead" isn't any kind of zombie flick at all. I was pretty pissed when I found out what was actually fuelling this teeny little zombie apocalypse--note the lack of caps on that one--and I think you'd be too if you'd sat through it. Now, I've got to do a plot synopsis on this, and it's actually downright impossible to do so without spoilering. I know, I've been at it for a couple days now and this is the best I managed to come up with: Some girl had a baby at a really young age and put it up for adoption. Granted, this is about the best move you can make in such a situation--really mature thinking on her part--and the baby thus begins a trek through a series of foster homes. At one point, he gets adopted into one home with some marital tension going on, and in a moment of carelessness, the baby gets his hands on a loaded handgun left out by the adoptive father.

You can fill in the blanks on what happens next--I really can't bring myself to type "the baby jams the muzzle in his mouth, pulls the trigger, and shoots himself in the head" without feeling like a total asshole.

This all leads up to the part where "Rise of the Dead" gets just plain old insane: the ghost of the baby returns to earth, possesses various people, and uses them like tools to kill everybody who was even vaguely connected with him.

Okay, read that paragraph again.

Now understand...I really did just say that a ghost baby is possessing people and using them to kill people.

This must be what it's like for people who smoke crack: murderous ghost babies round the clock, twenty four / seven.

Even the movie thinks this is insane. They're actually going to have a sequence of dialogue summing this point up about forty minutes in with this killer bit of dialogue from one of the local cops: "You believe that the ghost of your dead baby is possessing the people around you, in order so they can kill you?"

And this bit of lunacy fueling the plot isn't even the sole downside--the entire first half of "Rise of the Dead" fights its hardest to build interest but can't seem to help the inevitability of going flat. It's trying desperately to set itself up as an adoption drama the likes of which even Lifetime would shy away from and a murder mystery so thoroughly incomprehensible as to make even the legendary Sax Roemer shrug in bafflement. Oh, it has its high points, sure enough--almost every movie has some--but the average will still average out to be dull. Worse, by the time it actually starts to get exciting, that's when it starts to go absolutely bughouse nuts.

Oh, and you can forget about that frantic box art on the front and the back of the box. There will be no monster crowds of zombies shambling toward the camera desperate to get on with the munching. I'm not, frankly, a hundred percent sure just where they got that picture to put on the box because I don't recognize any scene like that in the movie. The ending, meanwhile, sort of sneaks up on you--which is no real surprise for a seventy minute movie--and that sneaking isn't pleasant as the ending turns out to be even more lunatic than the rest of the movie.

The special features include English and Spanish subtitles, cast and crew commentary, along with trailers for "Experiment in Torture", "Captivity", "The Abandoned", and "Holla".

All in all, man, this movie is utterly beyond any standard of sanity. It's an easy competitor with the most lunatic Japanese fare and fit only for those poor souls who like their movies bereft of reason.

 

Experiment in TortureExperiment in Torture
zero stars
DVD
Directed by Sean MacArthur
Written by Sara Angressani, B.C. Hickey, George McCutcheon, Sean MacArthur
Starring Brendan Connor, Jessica Montanez, Gina Martinez, Billie Prochazka
Produced by B.C. Hickey, George McCutcheon
80 mins
R
2007

Someone over at Lions Gate missed the memo "Captivity" originated. Someone, apparently, did not look at the monster bomb that was "Captivity" and notice, holy shit, torture porn doesn't make money any more! How can I tell? Because they released "Experiment in Torture". Basically, "Experiment in Torture" has a plotline like a pocket "Hostel", and that already is a bad, bad sign. Several strippers, promised a wad of cash, agree to go spend the weekend at the mountain retreat of a wealthy guy who likes to watch. I'd use the phrase "wealthy voyeur" but that comes RIGHT off the back of the box. Naturally--or I wouldn't have bothered insulting this movie by calling it a "Hostel" knockoff--this will result in hot chicks getting tortured for roughly an hour.

What amazes me is that it took FOUR monkeys pounding away at keyboards to type out this lump of shit. Seriously. A "Hostel" knockoff with strippers was entirely too damn complex for one of these chuckleheads to knock out, so it took FOUR WRITERS. The back of the box makes it clear--one did the story and it took THREE MORE to make it a screenplay.

My mind boggles. Am I watching the first movie ever written by monkeys at keyboards? Or am I watching a movie that required four people to make a low-budget torture-porn "Hostel" ripoff? Either way, it's not good.

And indeed, it's not good. Torture porn enthusiasts--all eight of you--will be waiting almost a half hour for the torture to actually kick in. The first half hour is mostly strippers at play and a tarot card reading that actually spells out the rest of the plot. The torture, meanwhile, is occasionally innovative and features blistering agents and similar stuff. Which is kind of interesting, but let's face it, kids...it's still just torture. It's even pretty low-budget. You can tell by the minimalist number of sets required to shoot this--most of it takes place in and around a lake house.

The ending--as though anyone actually gives a rat's ass about the ending of this piece of shit aside from the fact that the ending signifies it's finally, finally, over--is in the grandest Hobbesian tradition. It's nasty, short and brutish.

The special features include and trailers for "Night of the Living Dead 3D", "Fido", "Holla", "Dark Storm" and, ironically enough, "Captivity".

All in all, I can't believe someone wasted time, money and footage making this. It's godawful tripe of the worst kind, and I still can't believe it took four people to write the plot for it. Needless to say, I can't recommend it to anyone except those very, very few who still watch movies like "Hostel".

 

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Steve Andersen, much to his own chagrin, is a five-plus year veteran of the direct to video market. He has spent an alarming amount of time in video stores and seeks to provide the public with advance information on all the video releases that they may never have heard of...whether they want to hear of them or not. Steve appears in one way or another weekly, biweekly, or monthly on such fine entertainment-related ezines as Film Threat, Dream Forge, Reel Horror, Acid Logic, Chaotic Culture Magazine, Malicious Bitch webzine, and many others. Readers, agents, or editors can email Steve at thevideostoreguy@columnist.com




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