Directed by: Stefan Ruzowitzky
Run time: 93 minutes
The Lowdown: Here we go again, boils and ghouls. Another week, another zombie iteration.
Thankfully, with Patient Zero, the fine folks behind the camera have at least tried to come up with something sort-of original, although they never quite reach the dizzy heights of say, last year’s superior The Girl with all the Gifts.
The zombie outbreak this time is tied to a rabies epidemic, which turns people mad with rage. The Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith (try to overlook the weird speech inflection), is Morgan, a U.S. research scientist in an underground military bunker, who is desperately trying to uncover the source origin of the infection, i.e., patient zero.
Here’s the twist, though: Morgan can speak infected because he was bitten early on during the plague but didn’t turn into a full-fledged rage monster. So, naturally, he gets to interrogate different rage zombies that are captured by the military as they fan further and further out from the bunker, trying to find the oldest zombies possible.
Another neat little wrinkle in zombie mythology is that the only thing capable of disorienting the rage zombies is loud music, which thoroughly confounds them and basically makes them unable to move or react.
Hence, Morgan starts each interrogation by blaring classic rock into the containment cage where the talks take place.
By talking to the infected, he learns key intel, such as what they call the urge to kill and destroy – the burn.
Naturally, not everyone is on-board with Morgan’s approach, including a hothead soldier who would rather shoot the infected in the head. And, of course, Morgan has the assistance of an affable, chubby jokester (John Bradley) and a smoking-hot scientist, Dr. Gina Rose (Natalie Dormer).
While Morgan gets busy with Dr. Rose, he also makes occasional visits to his own wife, who was among the first infected. She lives in a sub-sub-basement holding facility beneath the underground lair.
Patient Zero hums along with more infected being brought in until suddenly the underground base is under attack by…Stanley Tucci!?! This may be a historic moment in cinema, the first time someone (me) shouted aloud, “Where the fuck did Stanley Tucci just come from?”
The answer – a body bag.
He’s a sneaky infected. He’s hipster cool. He smokes and waxes poetic about the urge to kill and how violence is food to the infected. Plus, music has no effect on him.
But why did he sneak into the secret government base?
Well, boy howdy, that’s actually one of the pleasant surprises in Patient Zero, and it’s a key plot point that serves to elevate the film to something more than just another 28 Days Later rip-off. No spoilers, but the title of the film definitely holds a big clue.
This one is definitely worth a watch.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – Yes.
Gore – Yes.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – Stanley Tucci. No, seriously.
Buy/Rent – Rent it.
The Toybox (Skyline Entertainment/Steel House Productions, 95 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Well, color me surprised.
In the pantheon of serial killer flicks, we’ve had indestructible killers, possessed killer dolls, deranged doctors and dentists, a homicidal car and even a guy who attacked through dreams.
The Toybox, however, ups the ante with a premise that seems legitimately original.
Even better, when I went to watch The Toybox, I could barely believe my eyes during the credits. Mischa Barton and Denise Richards, a former Bond girl and an O.C. bad girl, together for the first time?! Holy crap. Yes!
Even better than better, The Toybox doesn’t refer to the killer’s collection of murder instruments. Oh no. It refers to his killing grounds on wheels. That’s right, the “toybox” is actually an old recreational vehicle, and guess what? It’s fucking haunted.
The film opens with a nice tease, a young neighborhood kid who gets caught exploring the old RV, then jumps right into the main story. Denise, her daughter and husband, his brother and father are all going on a family trip.
And, of course, there are problems from the get-go: The air conditioning is broken. None of the windows but one will open. The radio knob moves on its own.
It’s like you’re watching the Christine of killer RV movies.
Before long, Dad the driver spies a car broken down out in the desert. Of course he stops. The gang finds Mischa’s character and her brother stranded. They load up in the RV too.
Dad is a terrible navigator. While trying to find some remote tourist attraction, the RV suddenly takes on a life of its own. The gas pedal hits the floor and shit gets crazy. The RV crashes. Mischa’s brother gets skewered. They’re pretty much screwed.
Mischa starts having hallucinations. Denise sees a video come on the TV that seems to show a ghostly apparition. Dad gets maimed by the RV. But, just wait…
As the gang gets picked off one by one, viewers finally get to see who is behind the butchering, and holy hell, it’s revealed that the ghost killer looks a lot like…Leisure Suit Larry, the creepy pervy computer game character from the 1980s. Seriously.
The Toybox careens along like a drunk driver, smashing through conventional plot devices and upping the carnage with several spectacular kills, and you just can’t stop watching. When the ghost finally appears, it’s like Jeffrey Dahmer and Dr. Johnny Fever had a love child.
So as to avoid spoilers, I’m going to withhold several key details, but The Toybox is totally worth seeking out. In fact, this may just be the best movie that either Barton or Richards has been in in years. BVB highly recommends.
The Seventh Sign (Shout! Factory, 97 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Sometimes, all it takes is a vintage Demi Moore thriller to remind you how good we used to have it when genre films flooded the multiplex.
I’ve always had a soft spot for The Seventh Sign, likely because of its great cast (Michel Biehn, Jürgen Prochnow) and its deft handling of a lot of religious imagery and overtones, but it’s refreshing to discover the 1988 release again after several decades and find that it has aged really well.
Come for the sun-dappled shots of Demi’s Abby Quinn glowing from pregnancy, revel in the unnecessary but nicely lensed shots of Demi in the buff with baby belly and stay to find out whether the world really ends with her baby’s birth (because, honestly, I had forgotten).
Goldstone (Lightyear Entertainment, 110 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): You can almost taste the dirt billowing off the scorched ground that defines the sun-fucked landscape in Goldstone, a new neo-western set in Australia.
The locals and the native aboriginals are trying to make peace to further prosperity by embarking on a new development.
There’s a lone good cop, Josh (Alex Russell), whom everyone assumes they can spin along so he doesn’t interfere in the deal, and a reckless, drunk, indigenous detective named Jay (Aaron Pedersen), whom nobody can control, who shows up investigating the disappearance of an aboriginal girl.
And there’s two-time Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver as the mayor, doing her best Jacki Weaver, which is basically the same character that she has played in every movie like this.
Eventually, lots of violence erupts.
Goldstone isn’t exactly original, but it is watchable, if only once again to see Weaver shine in a role that few other actresses could transform into something worthwhile and memorable.
Rolling Stone: Stories from the Edge
Barbershop: Special Edition
Barbershop 2: Back in Business – Special Edition
Between Land and Sea
Revolution: New Art for a New World
Diamonds of Kilimandjaro
Golden Temple Amazons
Now on Video-on-Demand:
Blood Child (Random Media, 93 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Another week, another supposedly ‘based on a true story’ horror thriller about a pregnant woman and a demon child.
Blood Child, the debut of writer-director Jennifer Phillips, is supposedly based on true accounts from both the U.S. and Southeast Asia. It’s set in Singapore, which is a nice, exotic locale, but then quickly jumps to Minnesota, which is decidedly less exotic.
The film opens with a bloody miscarriage and then time-jumps several months. Grieving mom Ashley (Alyx Melone) is dabbling in black magic to resurrect her miscarried girl. What could go wrong?
Ashley orders the family maid to leave steak and candies out each night, but for who? Or what?
Her husband Bill (Biden Hall) hears his bride talking and discovers Ashley speaking to an empty chair. Don’t feel too bad for him, though. He’s a cheater.
In one of the most ridiculous sequences that I’ve ever seen in a mainstream movie, Bill corrals a hot girl at a bar to give him head while he’s sitting in full view of other bar patrons. Oh sure, this is based on true accounts. Because that happens often. Jesus Christ.
Blood Child just spirals downhill from there. It’s not even worth summarizing. In fact, I think I actually gave up and turned it off.
Regardless, here’s what you need to know: Avoid at all costs.