Dead Air (2009)

If the Lifetime cable channel decided to make a zombie movie, it would be this low-budget attempt at grafting Danny Boyle’s post-apocalyptic zombie film 28 Days Later (2002) with Oliver Stone’s Talk Radio (1998).

“Hey, wait a minute . . . dude, I know this movie . . . but Dead Air? Is this an alternate title for the Canadian horror film Pontypool (2008)?

Nope.

This is L.A., baby. Not the boondocks of Pontypool, Ontario.

That film—and if you’re into radio station zombies, it is clearly the better film (and not by much, to be honest)—starred Steven McHattie (Crown and Anchor, Watchmen). This one reteams Bill Moseley and Patricia Tallman from Tom Savini’s 1990 Night of the Living Dead remake—which was used as a major selling point to sucker us into renting this dead bore. (They’re a bickering divorced couple who still work together as a host and producer team.)

As with Pontypool, a Los Angeles late-night talk show host, Logan Burnhardt (Bill Moseley), and his production team are trapped inside a radio station during a zombie outbreak—this one instigated by a terrorist attack of “dirty bombs” ignited at major sporting events across the United States. Burnhardt’s crew stays on the air and takes calls and feeds information to listeners as the chaos unfolds. Then the terrorist responsible for the L.A bomb hijacks Burnhardt’s show to feed false information to the listeners and “stoke the fires of hatred.”

Yawn.

Lost somewhere in the dead boredom is a “message” about mob mentality and xenophobia, but by that point in the film, you just don’t care about the political propaganda Dead Air is selling. There’s no suspense or thrills. No threat of terror. No fear of violence. Not even a soupçon of horror. The “zombies” are nothing more than a bunch of flailing, petulant children from Central Casting, utterly devoid of violence and gore, with a splash of stage blood on their kissers sent on their way to run and growl. They’re actually not even zombies; they’re just human versions of rabid dogs prone to violence from the bomb’s toxins.

Yawn.

And the equipment in that radio studio! Logan Burnhardt is supposedly the #1 syndicated late-night talk host in the nation broadcasting from Los Angeles, the #2 rated media market in the country—and the studio is equipped with a recording studio audio mixing board as an on-air board? A reel-to-reel deck set on a counter top? This is 2009! All radio stations—especially in the major markets—converted to digital platforms and ditched analog recording over 15 years ago.

Ugh! Argh!

Seriously. The awesome Bill friggin’ Moseley—the Eric Roberts of horror—is in this and he can’t sell this zom-romp. And Moseley’s the man who sold us on Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) and Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out (1989). And Bill’s the lone reason we pushed the PPV “buy” button on Devil’s Junction: Handy Dandy’s Revenge and 3 From Hell.

But it’s cool, Bill. We know it’s not your fault and we still love you.

Dead Air isn’t incompetent. It’s not awful in a George Romero Italian-green grease paint rip-off zombie kind of way. All of the various film disciplines have checked off all the right boxes. But that’s just it. It’s just “box checking” and everything is flat. It just lays there—and zombies can’t rest. They can never rest. They need to be on the move. But, one must consider that $500,000 budget the film was up against—and you can only do so much with a half million. So the question is: Will your passion for Bill’s work or your passion for cheesy, b-horror films from the video fringe give this a pass. But it’s Bill, right? You can check it out for free on You Tube.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.

Duplicity (2009)

Tony Gilroy has written some pretty interesting films, including The Cutting EdgeDolores ClaiborneThe Devil’s AdvocateArmageddon, the Jason Bourne films, Michael Clayton (which he also directed) and Star Wars: Rogue One.

Duplicity is all about the relationship between M16 agent Ray Koval (Clive Owen) and CIA agent Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts), whose first meeting ended with her drugging him and stealing classified documents.

Years later, Ray and Claire spend several days together at a posh hotel and discuss leaving their government jobs for work in corporate espionage, specifically cosmetics and personal hygiene. Throughout the movie, the couple remains wary of one another since they’re both experts in deception.

The film moves back and forth through time, often showing the same conversation multiple ways, all to share motivations that weren’t known the first time you heard the same dialogue.

Beyond Roberts and Owen, Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton), Paul Giamatti, Christopher Denham (Argo) and Happy Anderson (BrightMindhunter) all appear.

If you like twists and turns, as well as inter-company intrigue, this is the movie for you.

You can buy the new blu ray re-release of this movie from Mill Creek Entertainment.

DISCLAIMER: This movie was sent to us by Mill Creek.

Strange Nature: WolvesBayne (2009)

Russell Bayne (Jeremy London, T.S. Quint from Mallrats), is bit­ten by a werewolf and finds himself in the middle of a supernatural war between vampires, werewolves and the human hunters who want to stop them. So, you know, Underworld. There are some magic amulets that are needed to stop a vampire named Lilith from rising to power and lots and lots of exposition.

Wolvesbayne premiered on October 18, 2009 as part of SyFy’s 31 Nights of Halloween.

This comes directly from ex-members of The Asylum under their new name Bullet Films. If you’ve seen an Asylum movie, you know exactly what to expect.

Christy Carlson Romano appears as Alex Layton. She was on Even Stevens and was the voice of Kim Possible. Mark Dacascos, the American Iron Chef chairman and one of the many reasons why Brotherhood of the Wolf is so good appears as Von Griem. Then there’s Yancy Butler, who was on the Witchblade TV series, who shows up as Lilith, plus scream queen Stephanie Honore (The Final Destination and the never released Spring Break ’83).

This is another film — the Savage Nature and Hosues of Hell Mill Creek sets are fill of them — involving Griff Furst and Leigh Scott. Good for them getting sold to SyFy and then keeping them relevant on digital platforms and re-released on DVD.

Mill Creek Entertainment’s Savage Nature set has this movie and three other films all about the evil side of Mother Nature. You also get a code for all four films on their MovieSPREE service. Want to see it for yourself? Then grab a copy right here.

You can also watch this on Tubi and Amazon Prime.

DISCLAIMER: This movie was sent to us by Mill Creek Entertainment.

Houses of Hell: The Dunwich Horror (2009)

An adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror, this movie is all about Wilbur Whateley (Jeffery Combs, Re-Animator, The Frighteners) as he tries to find the Necronomicon, an ancient, diabolical manuscript that will help him open a doorway to a dimension inhabited by unspeakable creatures known as the Old Ones.

Otherwise known as The Darkest Evil and Witches, this first played on the SyFy Channel on December 13, 2009.

In Louisiana, a single mother delivers a baby boy — and a monster — in the cursed Whateley House. Ten years later, Dr. Henry Armitage (Sean Stockwell!) and his assistant, Professor Fay Morgan (Sarah Lieving, who shows up in plenty of this director’s films) discover that every single copy of the Necronomicon is missing page 751.

Oh yeah — the Black Brotherhood has also summoned the gatekeeper of the ancient ones, Yog-Sothoth, to open the portal to the walls beyond sleep. Meanwhile, Professor Walter Rice (Griff Furst, who was in the remake of The Magnificent Seven) tries to translate the book. And oh yeah —  Lavina’s son, Wilbur Whateley(Combs), is aging quickly and needs the missing page to save himself.

Written and directed by Leigh Scott, who created The Baron Trump Adventures and wrote several movies based on The Wizard of Oz, this film has a pretty great cast and moves quickly enough.

Nearly all of the various symbols and diagrams shown in this film come from the “Simon” version of the Necronomicon. Although Lovecraft insisted that the book was pure invention — it came to him in a dream and he allowed other authors to refer to it and use it in their stories — it’s not a real book.

That hasn’t stopped many from claiming that it was, with Lovecraft himself sometimes getting letters from fans asking about it. Several of them pranked large university libraries by adding it to card catalogs and even requesting it from large libraries like the Vatican.

The Simon book actually has little to no connection to Lovecraft. After a limited edition hardback printing, the paperback version of this book has never gone out of print, selling more than 800,000 copies. I mean, I have one. It’s right next to The Satanic Bible and Hollywood Babylon on my shelf of mystic related works. The tagline for this book states that it could be “potentially, the most dangerous Black Book known to the Western World.”

The book deviates from Lovecraft’s intent to have the Ancient Ones be forces beyond good and evil. The idea that mankind is locked in a war between opposing forces comes from the Judeo-Christian beliefs inserted into the Cthulu mythos by author August Derleth.

There’s also a section of the intro given over to Richard Grant’s theory, as espoused in his book The Magical Revival, that there was an unconscious union between Aleister Crowley and Lovecraft. In short, they drew on the same occult forces from different paths: Crowley through actual rites, Lovecraft through the dreams that inspired his stories. Grant goes on to claim that the Necronomicon exists as an astral book as part of the Akashic records and can be accessed through both ritual magic or in dreams.

There’s also a 1978 Necronomicon, edited by George Hay with an introduction by Colin Wilson, that was supposedly created from a computer analysis of a discovered “cipher text” by Dr. John Dee, the man who coined the term British Empire. He was an intensely religious Christian that studied sorcery, astrology and Hermetic philosophy, all with the goal of communicating with Enochian angels, so that he could learn the universal language of creation and achieve what he referred to as the pre-apocalyptic unity of mankind.

Anyways, back to the Simon version. Two members of the Magickal Childe scene — a New York City book store that was the major focal point for American magic/magick from the 70’s until the 90’s — Khem Caigan (the Necronomicon‘s illustrator) and Alan Cabal claimed that the book is a known hoax. My theory has always been that Peter Levenda, an occult author who wrote the book Unholy Alliance, is Simon, as the copyright notice for this book is in his name. Ironically, the name of Levenda’s latest book? Dunwich.

This is one of four movies on Mill Creek Entertainment’s Houses of Hell set. It’s an affordable way to get some scares that you may not have seen otherwise. Plus, you get a free code to save these movies digitally on Mill Creek’s MovieSPREE! site. For more information, check out their site.

You can also watch this on Tubi and Amazon Prime.

DISCLAIMER: This was sent to us by Mill Creek Entertainment.

Orphan (2009)

Jaume Collet-Serra has two major projects coming soon — Disney’s Jungle Cruise and the DC Comics movie Black Adam. He started his directing career with the remake of House of Wax and this was his third film. He also worked with Liam Neeson on the films Unknown, Non-Stop, Run All Night and The Commuter as well as the shark film The Shallows.

Orphan was written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, who started his career as Frank Darabont’s assistant before writing films for James Wan like The Conjuring 2 and Aquaman (as well as the upcoming sequels to those films).

Kate and John Coleman’s (Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard) have just lost another baby, which devastates them both. They decide to adopt a nine-year-old Russian child named Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) who their five-year-old deaf and mute daughter Max (Aryana Engineer, Resident Evil: Retribution) falls in love with immediately. However, their twelve-year-old son Daniel (Jimmy Bennett, who was in the remake of The Amityville Horror and who also accused Asia Argento of sexual assault after making The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things with her) isn’t all that excited.

Esther immediately freaks out any viewer of this film, whether it’s her randomly showing up when her parents are aardvarking or killing pigeons at school or beating other children into oblivion. Oh yeah — she also murks CCH Pounder with a hammer and shoves her into a ditch before hiding the murder weapon in her adopted brother’s treehouse.

That little orphan is the master of gaslighting, taking flowers off a dead child’s grave, cutting brake lines and breaking her own arm to get her new mother in trouble for abuse. She even makes it look like Kate is drinking again, causing a potential divorce.

Karel Roden, who was Rasputin in Hellboy, also is in here as a Russian doctor who helps the family expose the big secret behind all of this mania. I’d rather not give it all away, but it’s a pretty audacious reveal, taking this from a cover version of The Bad Seed and into even more ridiculous territory.

There’s a nice bit of writing in here as Esther is adopted from an orphanage called the Saint Mariana’s Home for Girls. In the Catholic faith, Saint Mariana of Quito is the patron saint for those rejected by religious orders and orphans.

Ironically, ten years after this movie was released, this movie went from fiction into reality. Famous parenting author and motivational speaker Kristine Barnett and her ex-husband Michael were charged with the neglect of their 11-year-old daughter Natalia. The couple had left her to fend for herself in their apartment, but Kristine soon revealed that her daughter — who she adopted from the Ukraine — was actually a twenty-two-year-old woman who was planning to kill them both. The full story is insane and you can read it on Elle’s website.

Sorority Row (2009)

Remember The House on Sorority Row?

Somebody did.

Somebody remembered a lot of slashers, after all.

This is yet another in the WB era remake cycle, where a great title is remade, this time albeit made in not only my hometown of Pittsburgh, but my neighborhood of Munhall. Instead of killing their house mother, this time, the sisters kill one of their own.

I may have been watching too many episodes of The Hills and Laguna Beach these days — I blame my wife and the Pluto marathon channels — but I was interested to see what Audrina Patridge did in this film. Spoiler warning: She dies, impaled on a tire iron.

Director Stewart Hendler also has Whisper and Max Steele on his resume. These are not sterling accomplishments either.

Sorority Row is an alright late era slasher. If you knew nothing of better films, you’d probably enjoy it. I mean, Carrie Fisher is pretty good in it. Greg Evigan’s daughter plays the lead, for BJ and the Bear‘s sake. And hey — if you’re looking for a Rumer Willis film or enjoyed Jamie Chung on The Real World: San Francisco, you could watch it for those reasons too.

Despite references to the original — Rosman University is named for director Mark Rosman and Mrs. Slater’s cane appears — this movie seems to be inspired way more by the remake of Black Christmas, 2006’s Black X-Mas.

Obviously, that means we’re getting another crappy reboot of this movie soon, too.

Redline (2009)

So much of the animation that aired in the 1970’s came from Japan, like Star Blazers (the Americanized Space Battleship Yamamoto), Speed Racer (Mach GoGoGo) and Battle of the Planets (Science Ninja Team Gatchaman). It had not yet become the cultural force that it is today, with people dressing up and attending conventions. It was just something that was on TV that we all enjoyed.

In the early 1990’s, finding anime wasn’t as simple as it is today. I remember tape traders all having Legend of the Overfiend and other strange fare like Battle Royale High School. As anime grew in popularity in the US, I really checked out. It all seemed like the same shows over and over, to be honest.

That’s why I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Redline.

On the planet Dorothy, our hero “Sweet” JP goes into business for himself during a fixed race, trying for the win. Instead, the gambling bosses blow up his Trans Am 2000 and nearly take him out and ensuring that Sonoshee “Cherry Boy Hunter” McLaren is the winner.

Despite losing his car, the incident pays off JP’s debts and gains him a loyal fanbase that votes him into the galaxy’s most famous race, the Redline. That’s also because people have been dropping out of the race once its location is revealed — Roboworld, a dictatorship run by robots out to hang every single racer.

Imagine Wacky Racers injected with psychedelic drugs, propelled by nitrous and then injected directly into your veins. That’ll give you some small idea of what this film is all about. There’s also a gigantic mutant named Funky Boy and Metalhead, the dapper robotic front running racer, and some true love along the way.

With over 100,000 hand-made drawings and absolutely no CGI whatsoever, Redline spent seven years in production before busting through multiple planned release dates. If you ask me, it was worth every second. It’s a frenetic blast of pure mayhem that reawakened me to the potential I once saw in anime way back in the halcyon days of 1977.

You can watch this for free on Tubi and YouTube.

Inglorious Basterds (2009)

Enzo G. Castellari’s The Inglorious Basterds — known in Italy as Quel Maledetto Treno Blindato or That Damned Armored Train — is a 1978 film that ran near constantly on cable throughout the late 70s and early 80s.  In case you’re wondering just how important this film was to Quentin Taratino, check out his excitement as he speaks to Castellari in this clip from the extras from Severin’s out of print release.

Taratino started writing his World War II film in 1998, but would struggle with the film, working on it and then shelving it again and again. That’s when he arrived at a story much like Castellari’s film — a group of soldiers escape from their executions and go on a suicide mission. While that idea changed slightly, it was what he needed to get the script written.

Tarantino had always wanted to work with Brad Pitt, so this felt like the right film, and the addition of Christoph Waltz — Tarantino felt that the role of Hans Landa was unplayable until then — made the movie for him. Tarantino saw the film as just as much a spaghetti western as a war film and almost called the movie Once Upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France.

The film starts with SS colonel Landa interrogating a French dairy farmer about the last Jewish family in town. The farmer is promised that his family will be spared if he gives up the family, so the soldiers shoot through the floor, killing all of the members of the Dreyfus family except for their daughter, Shosanna (Melanie Laurent).

We them meet Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) of the First Special Service Force, who is recruiting Jewish-American soldiers to his team. They go way further than the regular troops, scalping Germans when they kill them. Called The Basterds, we soon meet two of them — Sergeant Hugo Stiglitz, a rogue German soldier who has changed sides and already claimed the lives of thirteen Gestapo officers, and Donny “The Bear Jew” Donowitz (Eli Roth), a baseball bat carrying maniac. There’s also Smithson “The Little Man” Utivich (B.J. Novak) and Private Omar Ulmer (Omar Doom) amongst others.

Meanwhile, Hitler learns that the Basters have been atatcking his troops, carving swastikas into the heads of the survivors so they can never hide their shame. And teh surviving Shosanna is now operating a Paris cinama under the assumed name Emmanuelle Mimieux, plotting with her lover Marcel to murder the Nazi leadership who will attend the premiere of Nation’s Pride, a propaganda film all about Fredrick Zoller, who recently killed 250 Allied soldiers in one battle.

British Royal Marine Lieutenant Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) and the Basterds are planning their own attack. He and Stiglitz meet an undercover agent, the German film star Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), but Hicox’s accent nearly destroys the entire mission, as a firefight breaks out between the Basterds and an entire bar full of Germans. They survive, but now Landa is on to them. At the premiere, he strangles Hammersmark and catches on to the Basterds who have snuck in.

That’s when Landa makes his gambit. He has Raine contact his superiors and cuts a deal: the mission can continue as long as he has immunity for his war crimes. Zoller attempts to seduce Shosanna before they shoot one another and die. As the film draws to a close, footage of Shosanna appears, telling the assembled audience — including Hitler and most of his high command — that a Jew is about to kill all of them. The screen erupts into flames as Ulmer and Donowitz — using the fake name Antonio Margheriti, obviously a reference to the director of Yor Hunter from the Future — break into the box containing Hitler and Goebbels, killing the before firing their guns into the audience as bombs kill everyone.

The film closes with Landa and his radio operator driving Raine and Utivich into Allied territory, where they surrender. Raine responds by shooting the radio operator and carving a swastika into Landa’s forehead, marking him for life so that he’s never able to truly escape.

This being a Tarantino film, it’s filled with cameos and references. Bo Svenson from the original Bastards shows up as an American Colonel in the Eli Roth directed film within a film. Mike Myers plays Ed Fenech, named for the queen of giallo Edwige Fenech. Samuel Jackson and Harvey Keitel’s voices are in the film as the narrorator and an OSS commander. And Castellari himself shows up as a Nazi general.

How does this fit into the Tarantino Universe? Well, Lieutenant Aldo Raine is Floyd from True Romance‘s great-grandfather. And Donowitz would be the father of producer Lee Donowitz from that same film. This has great significance, as instead of Hitler killing himself in a bunker, American heroes killed him in a blaze of glory. Is it any coincidence that one of Lee’s movies was a war picture called Coming Home In a Body Bag?

For all the amazing roles that Quentin Tarantino has created for actors, this is the first of his films to win an Oscar for acting, as Christoph Waltz won Best Actor in a Supporting Role (he’s win another Oscar for Tarantino’s Django Unchained).

The Haunting In Connecticut (2009)

We just love when a movie is “based upon true events.” This one is all about Carmen Snedeker and her family, though Ray Garton, the author of In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting has publicly distanced himself from the veracity of his book.

In this film, the Campbells as they move into a former mortuary so that their son, who is fighting cancer, has a place closer to the hospital. Before you know it, the house is attacking all of them.

Sara Campbell (Virginia Madsen, Candyman) and her recovering alcoholic husband Peter are struggling to care for their son Matthew, who is battling cancer. They rent a house closer to the hospital that is unbelievably cheap, but that’s because it was once a mortuary. Soon, Matthew has visions of an old man carving symbols into corpses and discovers the door to the mortuary.

As he’s getting chemo, Matthew meets Reverend Nicholas Popescu (Elias Koteas, forever Casey Jones from the Ninja Turtles movie, but he’s also in Crash) and tells him all about the visions. The movie doubles down on the mortuary by showing seances that were also conducted in the house. A man named Ramsey Aickman ran these seances, but one led to everyone dying except for a boy named Jonah, who disappeared. It also seems that Aickman may have been a necromancer. As we’re searching for a new home, you better believe I’m going to do the paranormal research while my wife looks into the easy stuff like the house’s foundation and electrical system.

This is another movie touched by the hands of Earl and Lorraine Warren. They are the ones that claimed that the Snedeker house was “a former funeral home where morticians regularly practiced necromancy and that there were powerful supernatural forces at work that were cured by an exorcism.” There is the claim that the aforementioned author Ray Garton was employed by the Warrens to write the story, instructed by Earl, “You’ve got some of the story — just use what works and make the rest up… Just make it up and make it scary.”

The film was followed by a sequel, The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia, which is amazing in that it contains two states geographically equidistant from one another, and another film, The Amityville Murders: A Haunting on Long Island.

The House of the Devil (2009)

I love that this movie starts with this crawl: During the 1980s over 70% of American adults believed in the existence of abusive Satanic Cults… Another 30% rationalized the lack of evidence due to government cover ups… The following is based on true unexplained events…”

With this burst of white on black type, The House of the Devil sets itself up as not just an 80s loving slasher, haunted house and satanic panic film. It reaches back to the occult film roots of the 70s, when every movie was supposedly based on a true story. This worrisome addition — it could have happened to someone you know — pushes this film past simple pastiche toward work of genius.

At some unnamed time in the 1980s, college student Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue, who played the younger Barbara Hershey in Insidious Chapter 2, which is a meta bit of casting if I’ve ever seen one) wants to escape the college dorm she shares with her boorish roommate. A landlady (Dee Wallace in a great cameo that does as much to ground this film within its time as that title card open) says that she reminds her of her daughter, so she forgoes a security deposit, which gives hope to our struggling heroine.

A potential babysitting job for Mr. Ulman (Tom Noonan, who is always a welcome site) and his wife (Mary Woronov, who we love so much we made a Letterboxd list of her films). Samantha wants the job so bad that even after the first attempt at getting it falls through, her best friend Megan (Greta Gerwig, who would go on to write and direct Ladybird) tears down every other flyer, ensuring that she gets the job.

Things get weird. But hey — when the job pays $400 for just a few hours, weird is fine. Unbeknownst to Samantha, a mysterious stranger has already killed Megan and delivers a pizza that begins to warp her mind. There’s a great Walkman scene here that ends with a vase broken, the reveal that the original family in this house is dead and that all is not what it seems.

Then Samantha wakes up, bound and gagged inside a pentagram, whole the Ulmans and their son (the stranger who killed Megan and delivered the pizza) begin a ritual with their “mother” which involves forcing our heroine to drink blood from a goat’s skull. For a film that has crawled to this point, all hell quite literally breaks loose in a fervor of gore, flashes and quick cuts. It appears that our heroine has been picked to become the mother of the devil, but she has her own ideas of how to escape that fate.

The 16mm film look of this film — as well as the zooms within the frame — is a signifier that this film is of the decade — and the one proceeding it — that inspired it. It feels real, however, and not just a movie claiming to be Carpenter influenced. It lives and breathes and sounds of the time.

I haven’t liked much of director, writer and editor Ti West’s other films, but here, I feel like he captured eldritch energy in a bottle. There’s even a reference to the Patrick Dempsey film Loverboy, as the mysterious man asks if Samantha wants extra anchovies, the code that that film’s pizza shop used to indicate whether or not they should send one of their male escorts. Plus, the name of the Ulman’s is taken directly from the hotel manager in The Shining, a film that West has cited as an influence.

You can watch this movie with and without commentary by Joe Bob Briggs on Shudder.