Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Review: Cool As Hell

Yeah, yeah, I know. I was supposed to have this review up last week.  I’ve been busy on SOC’s current pet project though, so me getting a little behind will be worth it in time.  I promise.  Anyway, if you’ve been a Cellmate for a while, you know that James Balsamo and Acid Bath Productions have been associated with Son of Celluloid since damn near the beginning, and vice versa.  Hell, Hack Job was the third screener I ever received.  Earlier this month at Days of the Dead, I finally got to meet James Balsamo in person, and he hooked me up with a hot off the presses copy of his new flick Cool As Hell.  He also gave me an I Spill Your Guts shirt (which – spoiler alert – is still my favorite Acid Bath flick).  Admit it, you’re jealous.  The question is, does Cool As Hell live up to its name? 

Synopsis: “Rich wasn’t always a samurai sword wielding zombie slayer! He was your average comic book store employee, until he met a demon named Az. When Az came from Hell, he left the portal open and a soul hungry beast escaped. Rich and his roommate Benny used to have girl troubles, but that’s the least of their worries now. They have to stop the creature and the living dead that have crawled out of Hell. Who would have thought Rich would have to save the world just to get laid?”
The number one thing that struck me as I watched Cool As Hell was the acting.  It is leaps and bounds above his previous two flicks.  It’s got a lot of the same actors too.  I don’t know if they just found the right roles this time around or they grew as artists or what, but the leads are great.  Balsamo and Dan E. Danger, as Rich and Benny, are a damn good comic duo.  Balsamo, in particular, shows some spot on comic timing in his delivery.  Billy Walsh, who you might remember as Joe Bava in I Spill Your Guts, pulls off the perfect attitude and presence as Az.  Lauren Adamkiewicz shows off the chops to carry off a leading lady role.  Frank Mullen, who is also the lead singer for legendary death metal band Suffocation, is hilarious.  Every time he opens his mouth, the (seemingly improvised) string of profane rage that spews forth will have you rolling.  As good as the leads are, there is a time-honored tradition in comedies of someone in a small character role stealing the whole f’n show.  In Cool As Hell, that was Jackie Wolozin.  She’s only on screen for a little over four minutes, but for those four minutes she is supreme lord and commander of your eyeballs, ‘cause they ain’t going anywhere.  Here’s hoping she has a role in Acid Bath’s future flicks.
As with HJ and ISYG, the soundtrack is great.  Not only do The Bloodsucking Zombies From Outer Space contribute another theme song, but their music is used throughout the flick, which I personally loved.   Some of the best bands the metal and punk scenes have to offer are featured as well.  One of the criticisms that HJ and I Spill Your Guts sometimes drew was that the music, while great, sometimes didn’t mesh well with what was on screen, and sometimes actually worked against the scene.  That’s been remedied in this flick.  I was really impressed with how the music always set the appropriate mood and worked in tandem with the action this time,.  The music just bludgeoned it’s way through before.  Now it’s more of a surgical strike, making these great soundtracks, which have always been a major draw for these flicks, an even more potent weapon in Acid Bath’s cinematic arsenal.
The cinematography deserves special mention as well.  A couple of moments (what in the green hell was up with that first seizure inducing scene in the comic shop?) not withstanding, overall the film looks great.  Where the camera work really shines is in the actual camera movement.  Director of Photography Guy Marchais deserves a round of applause, because those tracking shots were fluid, visually engaging, and showed a pretty unique style.  It’s hard to put my finger on precisely what it was, but these shots were just plain cool looking. 
All of the usual Acid Bath touches that we’ve come to know and love are here.  As I mentioned, the soundtrack kicks ass.  The flick is full of Balsamo’s trademark “blink and you missed it” cameos from Tom Savini, Laurence Harvey, Andrew W.K., Tim Dax, Raven, Tommy Dreamer, David Naughton,  Carmine Capobianco, Tim Ritter, and the list goes on and on.  There are also a lot of musician cameos, including members of The Meatmen, God Forbid, Cannabis Corpse, Municipal Waste (who are hilarious), Black Tusk, etc.  There’s some fun low budget style gore.  And it wouldn’t be a Balsamo flick without the tits.  Bountiful tits.  Lots and lots of bare breasts.  I think one of the things I most like about the nudity in this flick is that it’s non discriminatory.  There are big boobs, smaller boobs, skinny girls, thick chicks, and everything in between.  I dig that.  Variety is the spice of life.
Along with those integral Acid Bath hallmarks, a couple of their same old issues rear their ugly heads too.  Part of Balsamo’s storytelling style is for the film to go off on sub-plot tangents, which is not a problem…unless those tangents go on too long.  There was one scene in particular involving Sal collecting money at a bar that seemed interminable. A little more liberal snipping in scenes like that would really help maintain the flick’s momentum.  Also, the sound needed help.  While the leveling issue isn’t even remotely as bad as in I Spill Your Guts, there are times when the conversation is too quiet or the music is too loud.  There were some outdoor scenes where the wind was obviously beating the living shit out of the mic.  A quick overdub would have done a world of good.  I’ve called both of this film’s predecessors on their sound issues too, but don’t think I’m picking on you James.  In my always humble but never wrong opinion, sound is currently the single most neglected piece of the filmmaking puzzle amongst indie horror filmmakers.
I’m not entirely sure what to say about the comedy aspects of the film.  I’ve said before that I’m extremely picky about my comedies.  Some of the stuff here was just too silly to work for me.  That’s a matter of personal taste though.  I think that fans of all kinds of comedy will find something here to dig.  I’m definitely more into dialogue and character driven comedy, and thankfully there’s some of that in here too.  Comedy is such a subjective thing that you really can’t judge it.  Not all of the gags were my cup of tea, but I’m sue they will be a lot of people’s.  The one thing that I can say for sure is that I would have liked to see some more horror in this horror-comedy.  All of the horrific stuff is in the very beginning and last 20 minutes.  What lies betwixt the samurai sword zombie slicing is more or less just a straight up comedy with a demon as a character.  If that counted, then Bedazzled and Oh God would be horror comedies too.  That’s not to say that it doesn’t work as a comedy, and the horror elements are well done, but I wish the macabre goodness was dispersed a little more evenly throughout the flick.

Random Thought 1: I mentioned that great theme song earlier.  Well, here it is.  Go listen to it.  Then go to facebook and tell the Bloodsucking Zombies From Outer Space that they need to play in America.  Don’t leave me as the voice crying out in the wilderness here.  Damn I love this band. 

Random Thought 2: You know that beautiful moment where you’re laughing so hard that you can barely choke out “what the unholy f**k was that?”  Tim Dax’s cameo got that reaction from me.
Random Thought 3: The drinking game from Hack Job still applies.  Drink any time an actor (particularly the bands) looks like they’re barely maintaining a straight face.
Random Thought 4:  I just misspelled Hack Job, and spellcheck asked me if I meant Hand Job.  Interesting.

I’ve talked before about how Balsamo’s flicks exist on the video fringe and might not resonate with more mainstream oriented audiences.  Cool As Hell, however, is his most accessible flick.  Well, as accessible as a flick with demon sex and talking loogie named Boo-Gar (get it?) can be.  The flick definitely works as a comedy, there’s some nice splattery touches, and all of the things that make an Acid Bath flick fun are in full effect.
Balsamo takes a step towards more traditional filmmaking here, while keeping the other foot firmly stuck in the bizarro world of trash cinema.  So, invite your weirdo friends and your normal buddies too; chances are they’ll both think it’s Cool As Hell.  Seven Superbong tokes out of 10.  Nathan says check it out.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Giveaway: Hack Job and I Spill Your Guts

It's time for another giveaway.  I do so love spreading the horror wealth to you Cellmates.  I feel like a blood soaked demented Santa Claus or a mutant cannibalistic Bob Barker or something.  Anyway, this one comes to us courtesy of Wild Eye Releasing (get both of these flicks and check out all of the other indie horror goodness they've got to offer HERE), Acid Bath Productions, and James Balsamo.  Balsamo's new flick, Cool As Hell, hit store shelves everywhere yesterday, and I'll be reviewing it on Friday, but before you go pick up your copy you've got the chance to win DVD copies of his first two movies, Hack Job (REVIEW) and I Spill Your Guts (REVIEW).  That's more low budget gore, laughs, chills, monsters, wacky horror and metal cameos, great music, and gratuitous tits than you can shake a stick at.  So here's what you have to do...
This is a video of my chat with James at Days of the Dead Atlanta.  In this clip, we give you a secret password.  Watch the video, then come back.  Oh come on, it's only, like, 3 and a half minutes.  These are good flicks.  I gotta make you work for it a little bit.  Fun Fact - This was at the tail end of four days of heavy partying and no sleep, so I barely even remember doing this interview. 

Now that you've got the password, follow these 3 easy steps to enter...
1. If you haven't already, go like the Son of Celluloid facebook page HERE
2. If you haven't already, go like the Acid Bath Productions facebook page HERE.
3. Send an email to fromhell13@aol.com with "Cool As Hell" as the subject.  Make sure it contains your name, your address, and the secret password.

The deadline is March 6th, so get cracking and win some cool flicks.  And always remember the Son of Celluloid battle cry...Support Independent Horror!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Winner Of The Sexiest Zombie Giveaway Is...

 It looks like Linnea's appeal to the Cellmates worked, because Trash won the "sexiest zombie in the Return of the Living Dead series" vote by a landslide!  Yes, she beat Mindy Clarke as Julie from part 3 by a vote of 14 to 5.  Congratulations Trash.  Personally, if I were voting I would have had to go with Mindy 'cause I'm into redheads and for the kink factor, but that's neither here nor there.  So, as per the rules of the giveaway, all of you who voted for Linnea had your names thrown into the cauldron (actually that's not true, I used random.org), and a name was chosen.  The winner of the More Brains documentary and the Lionsgate Zombie 6-pack is...

Mark Schemanske

One of my Atlanta horror homies got this one.  He's the one with the balloon and the camera.  I'm stoked that he won for two reasons.  Number one, he's a cool guy.  Number two, I don't have to pay shipping!  I can just give it to him next time I see him. Thanks to  everyone who entered.  If you didn't win this time, never fear, I'll be announcing Son of Celluloid's next horrific giveaway later this week.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Moon Is A Dead World Presents Viewer Vomit 8: Rites Of Spring

Over at The Moon Is A Dead World (which is a blog you really should be reading), my homie Ryne is presenting the eighth installment of this Viewer Vomit series.  What is Viewer Vomit you ask?  It's where he names a movie, invites all of the readers to review it, then presents the reviews together so you can see the differences of opinion.  For example, this time around the flick is Rites Of Spring, an indie slasher flick from 2011.  Personally, I thought it was deeply flawed and not too smart, but I had fun, so I dug it.  Hell, I like all of my friends, and some of them are also deeply flawed and not too smart.  Anyway, the general consensus over there seems to be that the flick is a steaming pile of crap.  Go check out all of the reviews and see just how differently a bunch of horror fans can see the same flick.  Just click on the Rites of Spring poster up there (or click HERE since picture links seem to confuse some of you) to be magically whisked away to the land of Viewer Vomit.  Trust me, it's the most fun of any vomit I've ever experienced.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Days of the Dead Atlanta 2013 Recap or The Greatest Birthday Party Ever

Another Days of the Dead Atlanta has come and gone.  The blood has been washed off, the autographs have been framed, the videos are being edited, the pictures have been posted, and the hangovers have been survived.  There were an insane amount of celebrities to meet, lots of cool stuff to shop for, and the fun and camaraderie of hanging out in a community of like-minded weirdos.  The DOTD crew put on another great show this year, and the Atlanta scene turned out in force, making this their highest attended event yet.  Despite the best efforts of the Sheraton staff, we (well, the hardcore ones that didn’t let the party police ruin our good time) threw down like animals.  Just like last year, it was an epic weekend of horror (and alcohol) fueled madness.  Just like last year, I had the time of my life.  And just like last year, my recollections are kinda fuzzy.   I don’t want to bore you with my complete itinerary, so I’ll just hit some of the highlights:

-Personally, the coolest thing about DOTD this year is that it happened to fall on my birthday weekend.  If you’re a horror freak (of course you are, you’re reading Son of Celluloid) and you ever get the chance to spend your birthday at a horror con, DO IT!  Spending the big 33 among my Atlanta horror friends, my new friends from all over, and the icons of the genre I love made for the best birthday of my life.  Leah, my sidekick, camerawoman, and other brain even threw me a surprise party.  I got to do a lot of things on my birthday I wouldn’t have anywhere else.  I mean, how does it get any better than doing an interview with Frankenhooker on your lap on your birthday?  You know what, don’t answer that.  You guys have dirty minds.

- If DOTD last year was my deflowering in terms of celebrity interviews, then this year I became a full-fledged interview whore.  My goal was to beat my record from last year, which was 6.  I blew that away with 15 interviews.  Yes, 15.  With a guest list like that it was an interview smorgasbord.  The vast majority of the celebrities were friendly, very accommodating, and more than willing to talk.  I had a blast talking to everyone.  I know they’re just regular people, but if I ever get over being just a little star struck talking to people from my favorite movies, then it’s probably time to hang up my microphone.  Here’s one of my favorites; my interview with Patty Mullen, aka Frankenhooker.  Fun fact – I’d been drinking all day, so I’m well on my way to wasted in this video.

-One thing that struck me as I was prowling around doing my interviews was the lack of a line at Dick Miller’s table.  Actually, truth be told, it kinda pissed me off a little bit.  That’s DICK F’N MILLER.  Come on people.  The man is a legend.  Even if you’re not paying for an autograph or a picture, you get your ass over there and pay your damn respects.  Getting to chat with him for a minute about working with Boris Karloff was definitely one of the highlights of the weekend for me.

- Holy shit, Robert Mukes is HUGE!

- Probably the biggest laugh I had all weekend was when I got into an elevator with legendary actress and porn star Ginger Lynn Allen. I got in, pressed the button, and (without even thinking about the possible double entendre) said “going down.”  She very dramatically rolled her eyes and said "Aren't I always?" Everyone on the elevator laughed 'til we cried.  Then again, the look on Kane Hodder’s face when we told him that our roommate for the weekend’s goal in life is to suck him off was pretty damn funny too.  Am I sensing a blowjob humor trend here?

 - There was some killer cosplay going on.  I love it when people are not just wearing the costume, but doing the character, and there were some awesome ones.  There were a couple of Leatherfaces that had the mannerisms spot on, a killer Frankenstein’s Monster, a lot of zombies, a Silent Hill nurse that did that creepy walk down perfectly, a couple of Michael Myers’s that were genuinely creeping people out, Chambers of Horror’s resident psycho wreaking havoc in his tighty not-so-whiteys, a Julie from Return of the Living Dead 3 that disappeared before I could get a picture, and WAY too many others to name.  Do yourself a favor and go find some of the pics on Facebook.  The costume watchers were in heaven.

 -I could sit and listen to Clu Gulager talk for hours.  Someone book this guy on a spoken word tour NOW!

- I guess it’s a law of nature that I, the damn near unfreakoutable, have to get freaked out once per con.  Last year it was at the hands of a knife wielding Busey, this year it was at the hands of Mother Firefly and a serpent.  As many of you know, I am terrified of snakes.  Yeah, yeah, I know.  Go ahead and get all that laughing out of your system.  You done?  Good.  Anyway, I was interviewing Leslie Easterbrook when a lady walked by with a big carpet python.  Leslie told me that she doesn’t like snakes.  I told her that I don’t either.  The next thing I know, she said something about confronting our fears together and called the snake lady over to join in the interview.  For the next 10 minutes, Leslie talked to the snake lady as I tried my best not to freak out with a snake hissing in my ear.  I haven’t watched it yet, but I’m sure the video of “the snake incident” is hilarious.

-There were a lot of really talented artists in the dealer’s room working in a lot of cool mediums.  Expect an article highlighting the artists of DOTD in the near future.

- Speaking of the dealer’s room, I didn’t have a lot of spare cash (as usual), but I scored some pretty cool stuff…

This sweet skull print knife from Mutt Family Customs...

...these bad ass 80’s VHS distributor buttons from Customs From The Crypt...

...and this killer stack of DVDs.  Some screeners, some birthday presents, some bootlegs, all awesome.

- There were so many other moments like the stripper in the window (she will forever live on in our hearts), Eerie Von covering Bill Withers, taking Neal and Annabelle to The Vortex, Hollis giving me the best compliment ever (“It takes two people to debate a movie with you!”), meeting Butch Patrick (I LOVED the Munsters as a kid), getting to meet a bunch of people I had only talked to online previously, and all of the other little things that make the DOTD ATL experience so special.

Now, in the interest of fairness and honesty, I do have to  at least give a cursory mention to a couple of dark clouds hanging over the weekend.  First of all, the nighttime security/management staff of The Sheraton straight up sucked.  I don’t know what they were expecting, but apparently it wasn’t a party.  We were getting shushed in the halls (yes, they were shushing grown ass men and women like kindergarten teachers at naptime) at 11pm.  There were cops checking IDs and making people throw away bottles of NON-alcoholic beverages at the main Saturday night party.  They ran people out of the party rooms when they thought it was past our bedtimes.  They tried to herd us to the less populated areas of the hotel.  They tried to enforce a “no alcohol except in cups with lids” rule.  In other words, they did everything they could to squash our horror hootenanny.  The Fun Nazis failed, however, ‘cause my flask and I raged all night.  That was all the hotel’s fault though, not DOTD’s. 
There was only one area where I think DOTD didn’t top themselves from last year (in fact, they took a big step backwards); and that was events.  Don’t get me wrong, there were 4 cool panels, the Chambers of Horror party, and the tattoo and costume contests, but where were the indy horror screenings?  Last year a plethora of flicks were either premiered or showcased, including screenings of some classics introduced by cast members.  This year we got the Best of the Buried Alive Film Festival, and that’s it.  Good stuff to be sure, but the horror faithful in Atlanta have already seen those.  One of the reasons I fell in love with this con last year was their dedication to promoting  independent horror.  There were less screenings, less filmmakers in the dealer’s room, and less emphasis on indie horror all around this time.  Those things are major draws for me.  Aside from the screenings, I heard talk of other events (bands, MCW, etc) that didn’t pan out due to the goddamn hotel again.  Not DOTD’s fault, but the fact is that ATL is a city spoiled by “that other con,” meaning that we are accustomed to there being 15 things to do at any given moment.  We’re hard to impress.  Sadly, I heard more than a couple of people saying that it felt more like an autograph show than a con.  Here’s hoping the entertainment side of things gets stepped up next year.  I’m sure a change of venue would help immensely.
Over all, I had a f**kin’ blast.  It was the best birthday ever, more people already knew about Son of Celluloid than I ever expected, I made some killer contacts, I got a chainsaw signed by Gunnar Hanson, I outwitted the party poopers at the Sheraton, left a couple of surprises in the room (devilish laugh), and a killer time was had by all.  Expect to see interviews, reviews, and giveaways stemming from that mad weekend in the weeks and months ahead.  I gotta thank Leah again for all of her hard work, Adolfo and the gang for throwing a bloody good party, and everyone from the guests to the vendors to the attendees for being cool as hell.  Now if I can just find a way to get to LA in April…

Monday, February 11, 2013

Linnea Quigley Has A Message For The Cellmates!

It seems that the Sexiest Zombie Of All Time giveaway managed to slip under many of your radars.  Not to worry.  I've extended the contest deadline until February 18th, so you still have plenty of time to get in on this.  Up for grabs is a copy of the awesome documentary More Brains: A Return To The Living Dead and a Zombie 6 Pack from Lionsgate (Return of the Living Dead 3, Bride of Re-Animator, Beyond Re-Animator, ROTLD: Necropolis, ROTLD: Rave To The Grave, Night of the Living Dead 3D).  All you have to do is go to the original giveaway post HERE and vote for who you think is the hotter brain muncher, Trash from part 1 or Julie from part 3.  I know, it's a tough choice, but legendary scream queen Linnea Quigley wants your vote and is ignoring those "no campaigning at the polls" rules.  No word from Mindy Clarke yet.

Linnea's Message For The Cellmates:
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