Directed by: Colin Floom and Greg Nemer
Run time: 79 minutes
The Lowdown: One of my all-time favorite guilty pleasure cult classics, without a doubt, is 1981’s Dead & Buried, an early zombie thriller written by Dan O’Bannon and starring James Farentino and Melody Anderson.
Amid the schlock and high-camp (for the time) was a compelling story about life, and death, and the lengths people go to sustain their existence.
Dead Love, the new thriller from directors Colin Floom and Greg Nemer is very similar, in a lot of respects, but it’s the story that grabs hold and refuses to loosen its grip.
Brandon (Grayson Low) is trying to process his mother’s suicide. It’s her feet, in fact, that hang in the frame for an uncomfortable length of time during the film’s unsettling opening scene.
But once his mom’s body is taken to the local funeral home, a lovely young mortician named Fiona (Nicole Elizabeth Olson) makes a startling discovery, a suicide note clutched tightly in the woman’s fist. (Don't bother asking why the cops didn't notice it.)
As she reads it, Fiona’s face turns flush. She immediately tells her sister, Caterina, “It’s so beautiful. I think I may have found somebody.”
From this curious yet somewhat sweet introduction, Floom and Nemer set in motion an elaborate con that slowly entangles Brandon to a point that when he (and us viewers) finally figure out what’s going on, it’s too damn late.
Dead Love is wonderfully understated. It’s a film that constantly surprises, whether it's Fiona breaking out in a cappella song an awkward dinner gathering or dropping a truth bomb that hits home with devastating precision.
Everyone has secrets, she tells Brandon. They just become truths when there is no one left to keep them.
The truth about Fiona, and Caterina, and Caterina’s odd husband Lassiter, once revealed, is wholly shocking and, in a darkly devious way, quietly beautiful.
Brandon must make a terrible decision following an equally awful discovery, and his choice will mean the difference between sustenance and life or painful, lonely death.
This one comes highly recommended.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – Yes.
Gore – Yes.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – Crazy immortal cannibals.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
Jack Ryan Collection 4K Ultra HD (Paramount, 620 minutes, PG/PG-13/R, 4K Ultra HD): To commemorate (or capitalize) upon the release of Amazon Prime's new small-screen serial, Jack Ryan, Paramount Pictures has packaged together all of Tom Clancy’s iconic hero’s cinematic adventures (The Hunt for the Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, The Sum of All Fears and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) in a nifty 4K Ultra High-Definition boxed set.
If there’s one thing that this collection definitively answers, it’s that Ben Affleck’s worst screen role to date was not, in fact, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but instead The Sum of All Fears.
In trying to repackage Ryan for a younger generation, the creative overlords tapped Affleck in 2002 to play Clancy’s hero at a pivotal point in his history, before he had made a name for himself within Washington’s espionage elite.
But Sum of All Fears is a tone-deaf disaster that makes a nuclear attack look like a schmaltzy basic cable TV event, complete with Affleck running haphazardly through fallout snow on a studio backlot with random fires burning in random cars. Worse still is co-star Morgan Freeman’s anticlimactic death and deathbed confession.
Stay for the Red October, revel in Harrison Ford’s best (Clear and Present Danger) but avoid the unnecessary attempted reboot, Shadow Recruit.
Dead Envy (Random Media, 71 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Dead Envy, the new thriller by actor-writer-director Harley Di Nardo, shouldn’t work as well as it does.
Di Nardo’s character, aging rock star David Tangiers, is a thoroughly unlikable douche. He cheats on his wife, he lies, he puts his vanity and ambition before that of his family, but no one calls him out on his bullshit.
Worse, after he inexplicably bonds with Javy (Adam Reeser), also an aspiring singer-songwriter, who defends David during a bar altercation, David refuses to acknowledge several warning signs once he invites Javy to work in his hair salon, including the growing concern of a frequent client who also is a psychic.
Viewers have seen this all before, whether in Single White Female or The Crush or even The Hand that Rocks the Cradle; seemingly sympathetic characters insert themselves in another character’s life and then proceed to show their true intentions while burning down everything that matters to the person they're obsessed with.
For his part, Javy hits every expected beat. He kidnaps another stylist who rebukes him. He takes David out and drugs him, causing him to fall into bed with a hot fan who Javy placed in his path. He makes moves on David’s wife.
Still, despite all the tired tropes stacked up against Dead Envy, the film is watchable, even if you know exactly how it will end.
Pool Party Massacre (Terror Films, 81 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Ah, the good old days, a time when a movie title like The Slumber Party Massacre was all a young man needed to hear to know exactly what to expect – boobs, blood, and lots of babes.
In the 36 years since that great Roger Corman low-budget opus was released, there have been plenty of imitators trying in vain to recapture the simple magic of a deranged killer with a power drill sneaking into a house filled with coeds with murder on his mind.
First-time writer-director Drew Marvick’s Pool Party Massacre is both a loving homage (check out the awesome retro VHS-style poster) and a sort-of send-up of such classic drive-in slasher flicks. It even opens with an OK kill and a nice 8-bit color graphic introduction.
Marvick’s screenplay also shows flashes of subtle brilliance with some clever dialogue that’s not normally a focal point of such affairs.
At one point, a mom says aloud, “If it weren’t for threesomes, we never would have met.” Or when a co-ed casually remarks, “Necrophilia is a dying art.” Or even an insightful little commentary by another character, who dissects Ferris Bueller’s Day Off through the lens of Fight Club, insisting that Ferris is actually Tyler Durden, and as such represents the manifestation of Cameron’s Id as Narrator.
But the sole reason that movies like The Slumber Party Massacre or Pool Party Massacre exist is undeniable: They exist to display lots of boobs and spurt tons of blood, and for long stretches of Pool Party Massacre, neither staple is present. There’s lots of bikini boobs, but not nearly enough gratuitous nudity.
As for the blood, there are a few solid kills, including a pickaxe murder and a gory claw hammer kill shot to the face, but in order for a new movie in 2018 to recapture the glory of an exploitation slasher from the 1980’s, the screen needs to be covered in chunky red, and it’s just not.
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