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Before I even begin with the plot, I just want to say that SAMMAZM (no, that’s not an old incantation to summon Pazuzu) found my alley and went right up it. Like, right up that alley, my friends. I think I need surgery to get it out.

As you may know, I am a fan of campy, schlocky goodness. I drink it down deep and enjoy the burn, like a fine whiskey. So, their movie, with its boyish wish-fulfillment fantasies featuring zombies, babes, and riding sky-high ollies while yelling, “Later, bitches” isn’t my cup of tea. It IS my tea. And, sure, we’ll get into some of the flaws and my brain roll juice, of course, but I was ecstatic to watch this and it did not disappoint.

The Plot:

So, this is actually two movies. It is, in large part, a documentary and also the final film. So, let’s take them both as separate beasts. 

The documentary is about real-life best friends, Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt. They have been very close friends since childhood, often doing what every aspiring film-maker does with their friends – making crappy movies in the backyard. However, their dream went bigger than just those movies and they dreamed big – they wanted to make their own teen zombie movie. So, with the help of Sam’s brother, Jesse, they set out to do just that, while also learning a plethora of lessons along the way.

The movie portion is a wild ride that is part Andy Sedaris, Charles Band and Velocipastor. The story goes: the Smith brothers are born on the same day, literally as “brothers from a different mother”. And all is okay-doke until Satan shows up to be a massive dick. After being told to “grow up”, the devil kills the mothers and plots his revenge against the brothers. 

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Twenty years later, these dudes ROCK (like, literally, they’re in a band). They fight off bullies, are members of underground martial arts gyms, and are gifted with bionic powers to survive Satan’s zombie, demon, and zombie-demon hordes. It is a kaleidoscope of fake blood, Pauly D, and slow-mo action scenes that are cooler than you will ever be (no matter what your mom says). 

Thoughts:

So many thoughts. So, so many. 

First off, I love the “making of” process alongside the movie. For many aspiring indie film-makers it really shows the process of making it all work (including begging people for money and free work). It’s exhausting. It’s time-consuming. It is a labor of love. It’s not easy. 

Pictured: somewhere between zombie, demon or zombie-demon

The dudes showed their dedication and commitment throughout the whole thing, even when things got tough and it would have been easier to just give up. I enjoyed the scenes when they would argue plot structure or nonsensical details that they wanted to be in their movie because it really is their movie. 

Their chemistry and writing is fun and engaging. These are two seriously funny dudes, especially when you get them in a room together. And I’ll be honest, I was on Sam’s wavelength and vibes for most of the movie. His wit and self-deprecating humor is on point and I’m hoping to see more scripts from him and Mattie in the future. 

Pictured: yessssssifeelthatsam

There are a few problematic areas, however. The first being the cuts in the actual movie, to explain certain scenes, were incredibly abrupt and took me out of the momentum. It happens three times and after the first part being all documentary, and at that point, I just really wanted to watch the whole damn movie without any interruptions. I think those should have been added prior, just like the rest of the documentary and that would have been a better flow.  

Also, I appreciated the “girl power” moment, but I would like more of that in their sequel…maybe a secret half-sister? I agreed with the director that there’s a fine line of wish-fulfillment and misogyny, and thankfully, they did pull back after consideration. To be honest, more time exploring their relationships would have been a great way to further engage the audience and to pad the time. We would get more of a sense of who these bionic warriors were and are, especially in relation to other people in their lives. 

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But on the other hand, one huge thing that thoroughly delighted me was the absolute paradigm shifts in the plot and how unaffected the characters were. There were times that they just didn’t give a fuuuuuck (pg-13 means I get one f-bomb, thanks). For example when Sam’s girlfriend was like, “I’ll break up with you if you don’t do what I say.” And his response was basically, “Yeah, okay. Whatever.” 

There were quite a few scenes like that where their utter dismissal of another character when there’s usually some kind of emotional bond was hilarious. Same with one of my favorite scenes with Mattie and a zombie, where she’s crawling towards him and he just tells her, “I hate you” and then walks back into the house.

Pictured: Comedic Gold

But the real story is about love, and I mean the real story behind SAM AND MATTIE MAKE A ZOMBIE MOVIE. It’s about love of the family we make and the family we’re born into. It’s about taking chances and taking risks. And about working towards (maybe impossible) dreams with the acceptance that the journey is so much more important than the end. 

I really hope to see a sequel from these two and, even more so, I would love to see more scripts. These are incredibly funny writers with heart and cliché-breakers that are so refreshing in the horror genre. They manage to take the tropes of movies we all know and love, and then completely push them out of the way with a “later, bitches”. And we need more of that, especially in our camp movies, as camp never goes out of style and always needs fresh blood.

Brain Roll Juice:

Okay, I’m going to say the thing that stuck out to me and you can feel weird or hate me or whatever, but their movie, Spring Break Zombie Massacre, needed to be an R. That seemed like that was the vision of what these dudes wanted, but were strangely denied. In fact, multiple times during the documentary they were told, “No sex! No nudity!” And a part of me was like:

If these are adults, wanting to make a more adult movie…why not? In fact, sexuality and drinking was completely and utterly stripped away although they were college students portraying college students. Even a kiss seemed risque for this film and…that makes me a bit uncomfortable because it never explains why.

When our society is already squicked about sex in general, the conversation gets so much more complex because people with disabilities are sexual and desire intimacy (should be a ‘no duh’). They have sex lives and should have healthy sex lives. This fact doesn’t go away and isn’t erased just because people don’t want to talk about it. We need to advocate for their sexual health, awareness, and well-being; and, of course, listen to people with disabilities.

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As the National Down Syndrome Society states, “Creating an environment conducive to healthy sexual expression must be considered in designing educational, vocational, social, recreational and residential programs. Positive sexual awareness can only develop through personal empowerment, self-esteem, understanding of social relationships and personal interaction/communication skills.”

Building this personal empowerment and identity is crucial because if there isn’t any education and awareness, it can lead to being taken advantage of. In fact, people with intellectual disabilities are sexually assaulted at a rate seven times higher than those without disabilities. And the National Down Syndrome Society explains that, too. And telling two adults, without any clear reasons, that they can’t show some titties or an after-sex scene in their own movie doesn’t seem empowering.

But I want to be crystal clear that I am just on the outside looking in, so I don’t know everything in the background of that discussion or in their lives. Maybe it was for budgeting reasons. Maybe for distribution reasons. I don’t know (it was never said why).

However, I just wanted to bring into focus something that stuck out to me as a viewer and I will admit that I’m hoping the sequel thinks about this. It’s clear the dudes wanna show their characters being as badass as possible and they want to be swimming in V. I would something more substantial for a female cast member and exploring the relationship with them (maybe even a girl comes between the brothers and Mattie is the “but I’m just in it for the V” type and Sam’s like, “no, dude, you have to be in it for the love” – just spitballing here).

Plus, look how badass these dudes are

Regardless, I’m sure with the creative ingenuity of Sam and Mattie, the two ideas could meet and make for a movie that the fans and the directors both want. Tag me in your next kick-starter, my dudes; I’ll gladly fork over the cash. 

Bottomline:

If you love camp with a background into how films are made, but also something with some heart, you’ve found it, my dude.

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5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

And to that, I say:

When not ravaging through the wilds of Detroit with Jellybeans the Cat, J.M. Brannyk (a.k.a. Boxhuman) reviews mostly supernatural and slasher films from the 70's-90's and is dubiously HauntedMTL's Voice of Reason. Aside from writing, Brannyk dips into the podcasts, and is the composer of many of HauntedMTL's podcast themes.

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Movies n TV

Fallout, The Target

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Episode two of Amazon Prime’s Fallout was equal parts funny and bloody. This almost always leads to a good time.

The story

We begin this episode with the birth of some puppies that look like they’ve had a rough start to life. Each one is weighed, with the ones who fall short being incinerated.

One pup who is just below the correct weight gets a bit of a thumb on their scale. The scientist weighing them, Wilzig, writes down the proper weight. He later takes the puppy home to raise instead of putting them into what looks like an unforgiving training program.

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Eventually, we see Wilzig put some blue glowing thing into his neck. When a soldier comes for him, Dog attacks the soldier, and the two escape.

Ella Purnell in Fallout.

We go from there to the wilderness, where Lucy is recovering from the last episode and enjoying a campfire at night. Wilzig and Dog come out of the shadows, saving Lucy from a bug monster. Wilzig tells Lucy she should go home. And if she’s not going to go home, she needs to evolve.

The next day Lucy finds her way to a town called Filly. As a Pennsylvanian, it hurts me to spell it that way. Lucy is entranced by this town, though clearly put off by the fact that no one is very nice here.

She eventually finds her way to a shop run by a delightful woman named Ma June. Ma doesn’t seem particularly interested in helping Lucy. Or, frankly, having Lucy in her shop.

Or in her town.

Eventually, Wilzig is tracked to this same shop, being tracked by The Ghoul. This is our final primary character. Lucy defends Wilzig, being aided at the last moment by Maximus.

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Maximus, by the way, has been having a terrible time. After finally becoming a squire he’s disappointed to find that his knight, Knight Titus, is a terrible person.

Fortunately, Maximus doesn’t have to put up with Titus for long. After Titus gets the bright idea to go hunting, he’s attacked by a mutated bear. Maximus freezes, unable to save him. Then, well, he decides not to save him.

It was Titus’s idea to go hunt the bear, after all.

What worked

Walton Goggins in Fallout.

The first thing I want to draw attention to is the shootout scene at Filly. This scene checked every box a fight scene should check. It was fun to watch, with great effects. But it also gave us insight into the characters. Lucy is a decent fighter and has a strong moral compass. The Ghoul is callus and desensitized to death. And Maximus continues to be, well, sort of bad at this whole fighting thing. But with enough moral fortitude that we have a hard time blaming him.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the dog. Who’s name, as far as I’ve been able to ascertain, is just Dog. Which is fine. He doesn’t need to have a name to be a very good boy. He’s sweet, loyal, and fearless.

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Also, puppies. Puppies are always great.

Finally, I’d like to shine a spotlight on Lucy’s reaction to the world at large. She is both amazed and terrified by everything. And while she certainly doesn’t want to be rude, she also doesn’t want to be taken advantage of. The best example of this is when she stops to ask for directions with a bright smile and a gun.

Once again, I don’t have anything bad to say about this episode. It was funny, dark, and fun to watch. I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the season. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Fallout, The End

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Launching with worldwide excitement, Fallout is based on the extremely popular game series of the same name. Fans of the series have waited with anticipation and trepidation to see if the Prime series would live up to the game.

Having now watched the first episode I can say that, so far, it’s successful.

The story

Our story begins with a children’s birthday party. A performer is there with his daughter, giving horse rides and taking pictures with the kids.

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As much as the adults try to focus on the party and the kids, it’s impossible to ignore the looming threat of war that’s on everyone’s mind.

Of course, it’s during this party that war comes, and the bombs drop.

We then cut to after the war and into one of the vaults established to protect humankind and the American Way. For future reference, this is Vault 33. We meet Lucy, our first main character, who’s petitioning to be married to a man from Vault 32 to ensure DNA diversity.

On the wedding night, though, Lucy and the rest of Vault 33 are met with a horrible surprise. The group they let in is not in fact from Vault 32, but is instead a team of raiders from the surface. The raiders kill a lot of the vault dwellers and kidnap Lucy’s father.

We are then introduced to our second main character, Maximus. He is in training to become a Knight in the Brotherhood of Steel. And, well, he’s not doing great.

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Things get worse when his best friend Dane becomes a squire before him. But when Dane is hurt, Maximus gets their spot.

Aaron Moten in Fallout.

We then go back to Lucy, who has decided to leave the vault and find her dad. Of course, the council of her vault doesn’t want her to go. So she is aided by her brother Norm and cousin Chet in a wild escape.

What worked

The first thing that deserves attention is the exceptional character work. Our three main characters are fleshed out and relatable right away. We feel sympathetic for The Ghoul before he’s even introduced as such. We love Lucy’s nativity and selflessness. And we love Maximus for his honesty and passion for his cause.

While these characters are their own people, they also exhibit the three responses we might expect to see in a post-apocalyptic world. We have the hopeful optimist who doesn’t understand how bad things are. We have the aspiring hero who wants to make the world better by force. And we have the self-serving individual who’s given up on the rest of humanity and is only focused on surviving.

Another thing I enjoyed about this episode was the balance of humor and gore. Because there was certainly enough blood and guts for even the most hardcore horror lover. We had a violent sabotage, a brawl with raiders, and even several nuclear bombs.

But there were a lot of funny moments as well. Usually from Lucy. Her overall goodwill and fearless gumption are absolutely hilarious, especially given the horrors she’s facing. It never ceases to amuse me.

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Ella Purnell in Fallout

Both of these aspects are done perfectly. The jokes land and the bloody scenes pull no punches. It was delightful.

All in all, this was an exciting start to a much-anticipated series. Here’s hoping they’re able to stick the landing.

For more tv shows based on video games, check out my review of Witcher. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Movies n TV

American Horror Story Delicate, Ave Hestia

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Episode seven of American Horror Story Delicate was a classic AHS flashback episode. If you were excited to see what Preecher had to say to Anna at the end of the last episode, I’m sorry to say that you will not get that satisfaction. However, we did learn all sorts of other fascinating things about the strange coven hunting Anna. And, we learned all sorts of things we didn’t know about Dex’s first wife, Adeline.

The story

We begin our story with a woman giving birth alone in a barn. When it becomes clear that she’s not going to be able to deliver vaginally, she pulls out a knife and cuts her stomach open to pull out her children.

For whatever reason, this is when the coven of witches decides to make themselves known.

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Ashlie Atkinson in American Horror Story.

We then cut to 2013, when Dex was still married to Adeline. In true Dex fashion, he’s surprised her with a puppy.

While that sounds great in theory, dogs are something a couple should talk about, not gift each other with as a surprise. An adult would know that. A trust fund boy like Dex does not.

Adeline owns a vegan restaurant called Ave Hestia. Love that name. She seems to be living a great life. She has a career she’s passionate about, friends who love her, and a husband she seems kind of fond of.

Maybe that’s why she didn’t want a puppy. She already had one.

Of course, things aren’t as good as they appear. We soon find out that Adeline was one of those babies we saw at the start of the episode. The other baby was Sonia, the painter.

Annabelle Dexter-Jones in American Horror Story.

And yes, both of these characters are played by Annabelle Dexter-Jones.

Adeline has stepped away from their family, and whatever dark things they do. But the family isn’t happy with her decision. And if she isn’t going to come back willingly, they’re going to make her.

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What worked

To start with, I loved the character, Adeline. She is fierce, she is fearless, and relentless. I feel like this would have been a far different story if Adeline had been our main character. It was astounding to see her interact with the same people Anna has, and get a completely different response. It’s clear now, how much everyone around Anna resents her for simply not being Adeline.

I also appreciated that there was just a shocking amount of blood in this episode. From the start when Adeline and Sonia are born, to the climactic end of Adeline, this episode is just drenched in blood.

Finally, I’m fascinated by the changes in this season from the book it’s based on. Because absolutely none of this was in the book. Compared to this, the book is heartwarming.

The book is kind of heartwarming even without the comparison.

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But I love the fact that, even with just two episodes left in the season, I have no idea what’s going to happen. I do not know what Anna is carrying. I do not know if she’s going to survive this. I do not know what these people want with her.

But I can’t wait to find out.

What didn’t work

All that being said, it is a bit frustrating to have no forward momentum in this episode. This was all backstory, and it felt like there wasn’t enough backstory to fill a full forty minutes. Because of that, it dragged. There were a lot of scenes that just didn’t need to be as long as they were. It felt like they could have cut that down considerably, and had some time to check in with our main characters at either the start or the end of the episode.

There are only two episodes left in the season, and I can honestly say I have no idea what’s going to happen. But so far the story has been dark, bloody, and provocative. So I hope they can manage to end it on a high note.

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If you’re a fan of my work, please check out my latest story, Nova, on Paper Beats World. New chapters launch every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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