Saturday, December 17, 2011

Blu-ray Review: CHILLERAMA (2011)

LABEL: Image Entertainment
RATING: Unrated
DURATION: 120 mins
SUBTITLES: English, Spanish
VIDEO: 16:9 Widescreen (1.78:1)
DIRECTORS: Adam Rifkin, Joe Lynch, Tim Sullivan, Adam Green
CAST: Adam Rifkin, Sarah Mutch, Owen Benjamin, Richard Riehle, Joel David Moore, Ray Wise, Kane Hodder, Eric Roberts, Lin Shaye
TAGLINE: The Ultimate Midnight Movie!

I don't know about you but I just get pleased as punch whenever I hear about a new horror anthology coming down the pipeline. The omnibus fright format has always been a personal favorite of mine but they just don't seem as prevalent today as they were in the 70's and 80's - they've definitely fallen out favor. Perhaps it's just cause I was catching up with some of my favorites like Mario Bava's BLACK SABBATH (1963) and one of the many Amicus entries TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972) some decades years after their initial release, either way there's not exactly a glut of 'em these days no matter how you slice it up and the format seemed to have peaked in the early 80's with the one-two punch of CREEPSHOW (1982) and TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (1983). The nineties weren't exactly overflowing with anthologies either with the notable exceptions of FOUR ROOMS (1995) and PULP FICTION (1999) but in recent years there's been a resurgence with the Tarantino/Rodriguez feature GRINDHOUSE, TRICK R TREAT (2007) and effective, low-budget indies like THE DRIVE-IN HORRORSHOW (2009) and III SLICES OF LIFE (2010).

So, when word began to spread about this love letter to the schlocky drive-in films of the 60's and 70's from a handful of talented young directors I was pretty psyched and primed for some b-movie omnibus action. Beginning with the directors we have Adam Rifkin whose 70's stoner-comedy DETROIT ROCK CITY (1999) is a perennial favorite of mine, Joe Lynch who won me over with WRONG TURN 2 (2007), Adam Green who most recently nailed it with the winter-bound horror of FROZEN (2010) and lastly we have Tim Sullivan, director of 2001 MANIACS (2005).

The film CHILLERAMA is a series of vignettes that really sets out to celebrate the b-movie schlock cinema of yesteryear beginning with a wrap-a-round story called ZOM-B-MOVIE from director Joe Lynch that right away gets to the gritty with some distasteful necro-felatio which goes horribly awry, I would ask is there anyway necro-felatio could go well, I guess it's all a matter of perspective, right? The amorous grave robber leaves the cemetery injured to say the least with his naughty bits having been shredded by his graveyard girlfriend. Not something I would do myself but this guy actually limps his way back to his night job at the drive-in movie theatre where it's a special night, it's their last hurrah before the drive-in closes it's doors forever. To commemorate this sad occasion the aptly named drive-in proprietor Cecil Kaufman (Richard Riehle, OFFICE SPACE) is sending his beloved cinema out in style with a four film marathon of rare splatterfests projected on the big screen for a jam-packed crowd of gore-hounds and splatter-fiends.

The first feature is WADZILLA written, directed and starring Adam Rifkin (THE DARK BACKWARDS) and it's a truly tasteless send-up of the b-movie creature features of the 50's. Miles Munson (Rifkin) is a man afflicted with a low sperm count and when he seeks medical help for his condition he is prescribed an experimental drug called "spermupermine" by wacky wang-ologost Dr. Weems (Ray Wise, TWIN PEAKS). The testicular steroid has the unfortunate side effect of enlarging Mile's scrawny sperm when he is aroused - which is pretty often, there are babes galore in this film. These growing pains cause Miles great discomfort in the junk and the only way to alleviate the excruciating sensation is to beat-off and release the beast - and what a beast it is. The short is populated by gorgeous busty ladies and awful b-movie effects from none other than The Chiodo Brothers (KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE). There's appearances from Lin Shaye (INSIDIOUS) and Eric Roberts (SHARKTOPUS) as Gen. Bukaki and while Rifkin couldn't act his way outta a wet paper bag I found the flick to be a juvenile, raunchy exercise in trashiness with a sense of humor about it that brought to mind FRANKENHOOKER (1990) and ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES (1978) - fun stuff with a creamy climax that seemed to reference GHOSTBUSTERS (1984).

Up next is director Tim Sullivan's I WAS A TEENAGE WEREBEAR, a weird mash-up of BEACH BLANKET BINGO (1965) and TEEN WOLF (1985) zapped with a walloping dose of homo-eroticism and fun musical numbers. A clean-cut preppie named Ricky (gay porn star Sean Paul Lockhart) finds his life altered when he's bit on the ass during a sexually charged wrestling match with a leather daddy werebear. Not my cup o' tea but still slightly amusing. This is the first film I've seen from Tim Sullivan and while I can't say it did much for me it did have some fun musical numbers, but honestly it was just a bit too goofy and gay for me. I'm also a bit biased as I generally kinda sorta hate musicals, so that didn't help either. Lin Shay also appears in this segment as Nurse Maleva in a fun homage to THE WOLFMAN (1941) while director Tim Sullivan appears as Coach Tuffman. Some fun moments but overall this was the runt of the litter for me.

In Adam Green's demented Nazi-ploitation comedy THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANKENSTEIN actor Joel David Moore (SPIRAL) makes a turn as Adolf Hitler who sets out to create the perfect Jew-killing machine using the secrets of the family of Anne Frankenstein. Unfortunately he assembles his Arian masterpiece with the body parts of Jews and as can be expected his Golem-esque creation rises up against him with bloody results. This segment looks pretty fucking awesome, a spot on period piece shot in black and white, great production value and set design made this the best looking bit o' the bunch. Kane Hodder (FRIDAY THE 13th VII) appears as the creature Meshugannah and he really puts the "Bear Jew" from INGLORIOUS BASTERDS to shame in the Nazi killing department. The actors in the film seem to be speaking German fluently aside from Moore who wings it with some marble-mouthed nonsense. It's pretty funny stuff with Hodder delivering more than a fair share of cock n' balls destruction to some deserving Nazis, giving them a pounding that leaves them screaming "Shalom!". Pretty absurd stuff, it peters out towards the end having overstayed it's welcome just slightly but there's definitely some fun to be had here for sure.  

The not quite final segment is DEATHICATION, a short interlude of people shitting themselves to death, it's mighty pointless but quickly passes on into the true final vignette, the continuation of the wrap-a-round film ZOM-B-MOVIE. You may recall that the drive-in projectionist lost his junk following an unfortunate graveyard fellatio incident and returned to the drive-in at the start of the film but his blue neon infected wound has leaked the worst kind of cross-contamination possible into the concession stands popcorn unleashing a zombie horde upon the cinema. Luckily, the cinema's suicidal owner/horror host Cecil Kaufman, the awesome Richard Riehle, not only has great taste in bad cinema but a gigantic stash o' guns and an endless array of famous one-liners with which to combat the undead throngs.

So, does this trashy collection of bad b-movies work? Yes and no, these are bad films made to be seen as such, trashy love letters to an era of awfulness awesomeness and to that end I would say it's successful. Whether you enjoy it or not really depends on your stomach for schlock shittiness, for me it mostly hit all the wrong notes just the right way.

- Directors' Video Commentary
- Wadzilla Deleted Scenes and Trailer (6:04)
- The Making of The Diary of Anne Frankenstein
- I Was A Teenage Werebear Behind the Scenes (21:59), Deleted Scenes (14:27), and Trailer
- Zom-B-Movie Deleted Scenes (4:02)
- Famous Monsters Directors' Interviews (5:41)
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Trailers: CHILLERAMA (2:13), WADZILLA (2:39), I WAS A TEENAGE WEREBEAR (2:01)

VERDICT: I found it hard not to appreciate the zest with which these young directors tore into making such schlocky, awful films and in the end it really won me over despite some dud humor and flat gags throughout that are part and parcel of the films it's pays tribute to. Make no mistake, they're undoubtedly quite terrible films one and all, trashy, raunchy and distasteful on almost every level and I guess that's what I love about 'em - there's something so cool about a bad film. Now I know there's gonna be some haters who just can't stomach the schlock but count me in, it's bone-headed, offensive, dumb and pretty stupid entertainment. 3.5 outta 5