Avenged (2013)

avenged02Two girls rip the tarp off of a pristine 1968 Pontiac GTO, “Dad’s pride and joy”.  They look like they could be sisters, but one says, “Dad always wanted you to have it,” and isn’t clawing the other’s eyes out at the time, so I assume they are mother and daughter.

New car recipient, Zoe is deaf.  She is setting out on a long trip through the southwest to see her boyfriend and her mother is worried about “a lot of crazies out there.”

avenged03Frankly, in the first 3 minutes, we get two signs that do not bode well for the film. When Zoe starts the car, presumably after a long time in storage, the close-up shot of her hand turning the key is in slow motion — I don’t think the director knows what slow motion is for.

Then, as she takes off for her adventure, the opening traffic scenes have all the color washed out like the new generation of filmmakers think is cool — it’s not[1]. Especially, if she is going to be driving through the gorgeous southwest with blue skies and red rock. She had better open the car-door like Dorothy at some point and see some color.


Dullest matte painting ever. Brown is not the only earth tone.

Two more signs in the next 5 seconds:  1)  She texts her boyfriend while driving on an 8-lane highway.  2)  He sees the text and kisses the phone.  Has any man ever done this?

Later, on a 2-lane road, she continues not only texting, but taking pictures while driving. She is not so lucky this time as she looks up to see a man in the road.  She swerves at the last second and misses him, but he goes down like Frasier anyway.  She then sees a man running furiously toward her, followed by some yahoos in a pick-up.  The man is presumably running to check on his friend, but then the men in the pick-up run him down.

avenged06Zoe bravely goes back and drags the man she almost killed into her car, but the savages in the pickup catch her before she can get away.  They finish slashing him to death in the front seat, ruining the classic upholstery.

They capture her and sadly, the world they take her to contains no more color than the landscape.  It takes literally 5 seconds before they have her tied down in the garage with barbed wire and are raping her.  They have figured out that she is a “deaf mute” (even though she can speak awkwardly).  After taking turns with her, they go to play poker (note restraint of “poke her” pun).

For a mute girl, she makes quite a few groans of pain as she agonizingly slides her wrists out of the barbed wire cuffs.  She makes a valiant attempt to escape, but is caught and stabbed to death and buried in a shallow grave — is there any other kind in horror movies?  Digging a hole is a lot of work, but it pretty much puts a stop to resurrections. In the real world I mean, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.  Still, a shallow grave is better than a cave with a rock rolled in front of it.

avenged07Miraculously, in the middle of this vast nothingness, she is found where she was carelessly buried with her hand sticking out of the ground.  Even more miraculously, she is found by a Native American who takes her back to the official Sacred Indian Burial Grounds which apparently now have plaques.  With all black actors apparently experiencing full employment, no Magic Negro is available.  So the film opts for the Noble Savage who, like all Hollywood minorities can speak to the dead and cast spells.

avenged09After some authentic ancient chanting and dancing and smoking 11 herbs and spices in the tradition of his elders, rituals unchanged in hundreds of years — in front of his RV — the Indian brings her back to life. He brings her so far back to life that she begins levitating and her eyes turn black, clearly possessed by evil.  But that passes and she is back on the ground with her regular eyes.  Thanks for saving her life and all, but a really Noble Savage would have also restored her speech.  And given her bigger boobs.

She wakes up and stumbles back into town, finding the last pay-phone in America.  She calls her boyfriend, but communication is difficult what with her still being deaf.  As luck would have it, she sees a police car, but it is manned by Jed, one of the men who raped her.  And I use the term “men” pretty loosely here.

Rather than take cover, she follows him into the bar.  As he is joyfully describing the disgusting scenario to the bartender, Zoe walks in.  Some of the other “men” see her, and call out to him.  Despite some ill-advised jump-cuts, it is a great scene of Zoe meting out some real social justice, resulting in a tug-of-war with Jed’s intestines (pulling out about 20 feet, still leaving him with more intestinal fortitude than John Boehner).  Too bad it wasn’t in color.

avenged10When one of his buddies comes to his aid with a pool cue, she breaks it off and jams it in his eye socket.  Too bad it wasn’t in color.

She awakens in a barn, perfectly stocked with a landscaping inventory that brings a smile to her face: axes, saws, hedge trimmers, and a long bow.  Which one of these gardening implements is not like the others?  Of course, she still has the rest of the gang to bring to justice.  She will indeed mow them down; sadly, not with the actual mower.

The degree of difficulty here is that even though she was resurrected and is seeming unstoppable, she is continuing to deteriorate — and smell — just as if she were still dead. She is shot, but it just leaves a nasty hole.  She pulls off a ring, and it drags off a sleeve of finger skin. She unwraps the bandages from the where the barbed wire had restrained her — it is now gaping wounds infested with worms and maggots.

In the fine tradition of many films — and it never gets old — Zoe starts picking them off, even as she is literally falling apart.  This is good stuff with some creative scenes.  The boyfriend is fairly superfluous.  Minor complaint — it might get too mystical for some near the end.  It just so happens that the Native American spirit that possessed her had a feud with an ancestor of the scamp who raped her.  So, while Zoe was indeed physically killing off the gang, the spirit was doing a lot of the driving.  I hated to see her motivation diluted like that, but it was not a deal-breaker.  All that really holds it back is the God-awful cinematography.

avenged11I’m a sucker for woman-power revenge flicks, and this is a fun one.  It is also occupies a strange niche in the genre — mute women (Ms. 45, Sweet Karma).

See it.


  • [1] It’s like when elite ivory tower intellectuals decided plot was too dreadfully pedestrian for great novels and nearly killed them off.
  • Title Analysis:  The original title, Savaged, was better.  The title Avenged just reminds us that she is mostly the passive beneficiary of the spirit’s actions.
  • One of the hicks refers to a cache of weapons as a cashay.  I’d really like to know if that was the character or the actor.
  • It is incredible how impervious to pain this gang is — disemboweling, multiple arrow shots, an arrow through the neck, a pool cue in the eye, a severed hand.  They don’t all live, but they don’t seem crazy in pain either.

Faults (2014)

faults01Faults has many tricks up its sleeve.  The first being that the first scene in the diner leads us to expect a Coen Brothers style of comedy.  In fact, cult deprogrammer Ansel Roth seems at times to be perfectly channeling William H. Macy’s Jerry Lundegaard in Fargo.  He needs money, he is twitchy-nervous, he will constantly tell small shortsighted lies which will only benefit him until the next question.  He even loses control and begins flailing his arms around in frustration.  He a loser.

Though it is impossible to watch this first scene and not start thinking of Macy, it takes only seconds for Leland Orser to replace him in your mind.  Whether he had Macy in mind when forming this character, or not, Orser owns it — both in the first scene and as the tone of the movie changes.

faults02From his brown suit to the gross way he scoops up ketchup with his fries, to his trying to scam the diner out of a free meal and struggling with the manager, it is a great dark comic scene establishing his loserhood.  It is a delight, but not a surprise that he steals batteries out of the hotel’s TV remote.

He exudes a little more confidence when he is standing in front of the small group that is attending his seminar / book-signing seminar at the hotel.  But really, how many people is that topic going to draw?  The ones that are there certainly have little interest in buying his books.  It is strange that they did not set this in a larger room to emphasize the size of the crowd.

faults03Book-signings are kind of anxiety-inducing events anyway.  If it is a popular author, you will have no time at all with them, and walk away with an illegible scribble.  I can’t even conceive what a proper thing to say is.  What could you possibly say to them that they haven’t heard a million times; and what could you ask them that you couldn’t Google in 30 seconds.  You’re left with a full price hard-cover that has gained nothing  in value[1].

faults04If it is a less popular, or local, author, it is just kind of sad seeing them sit at the little table by themselves with stacks of unsold books as you can’t help but glance furtively from your various vantage points in the store.  It’s like a guy at CostCo whose at the end of the aisle whose job is giving out samples of kale.

I am trying (and projecting ahead, probably failing) to make 500 words without saying almost anything about the story.  Claire’s (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) parents hire Roth to kidnap their daughter for deprogramming from the Faults cult.  Even though he is a loser who has recently fallen-from-grace, he once had a TV show and a popular book.  And frankly there aren’t that many deprogrammers in the yellow pages[2].

There are so many things to be enjoyed along the way, that I just can’t being myself to pick and choose.

This is a good one.


  • [1] The same booksigning issues also all apply to the actors who appear at conventions. At least there you can gawk at the actors — hey, that Traci Lords is holding up well!
  • And paying for an autograph at a convention would just make me feel like a whore even though I’m the one paying (in theory — I don’t really get the point of that either (in the convention context)).
  • [2] Fat yellow books of phone numbers in the old days that listed businesses by category, then alphabetically — so every region had an AAA Bail Bondsman and AAA Locksmith).
  • Title Analysis:  Conveniently, Faults is the name of the cult.  Claire explains that it means a change is on the way.  Roth later describes how pressure can build in a fault causing it to explode.  So, well done.
  • And that’s 600.

Hush (2008)

hush01You know those sitcom jokes you’ve heard many times about some beautiful big-breasted airhead not wanting to read subtitles on an Australian film?  Well this one is English and I had to turn on the subtitles.  So either 1) I’m a real dumb-ass, or 2) there are some serious English accents here.  I retract the question.

Beth and Zakes are on a road trip for  Zakes’ job hanging posters in various locations.  Not billboards, mind you, but just regular-sized posters and advertisements; seemingly mostly in bathrooms.

Is this a real job?  His boss requires him to take pictures of the newly hung posters because he shares Sarah’s opinion that Zakes can be a bit of a slack-ass.  His boss also underestimates the dim view that most people take of cameras in restrooms.

As they cruise along in Zakes’ BMW, his beautiful girlfriend Sarah realizes her state-of-the-art (for 2008) camera has no memory available due to vacation pics they took in Egypt.  Note to self: check out career in lucrative toilet poster hanging business.

They pull into a truck-stop — or is it called a lorry-stop across the pond — to petrol up and hang some posters in the loo.  Zakes even has the nerve to hit Beth up for the petrol money, so clearly posters aren’t the only thing hung around here.  While he is photographing his work, Sarah’s phone gets a call from Leo, who she had a fling with.

hush04Back on the road, Beth is asleep and Zakes is searching for the “flask” which I hope means thermos over there.  He is trying to reach it and nearly runs a white truck off the road. As he lets the truck pass, the back door rolls open for a few seconds and he sees a a naked woman locked in a cage screaming.  I could barely make out the woman and the cage; sadly we have to take his word for the nakedness.  A few more frames would have been helpful; there was never intended to be a mystery of whether there really was a woman trapped in there, so a half hour shot of the naked prisoner wouldn’t have been a spoiler.

They call the police, and describe the truck, but the license is too muddy to read. In a traffic jam, after being nagged and ridiculed by Beth, Zakes sneaks out of the car to try to get a better look at the plates.  When that doesn’t work, he peeks inside a gap where the door isn’t quite down.  Oddly, there are no women screaming, and he doesn’t call, “Hey anyone naked in there?”  He just takes a single picture through the crack and runs back to the car.  Beth nags him more for not getting the plates and the picture is useless.

hush07They see a police car on the highway and Beth wants them to flag them down about the truck.  Zack feels he’s done his part and, despite Beth ranting, takes the next exit to hang some more of his posters.  This turns out to be a poor decision in more than one way — Beth is abducted and hauled away in the white truck.

Zakes, in the standard tradition of such movies is accused of peeping over the stall at a woman in the restroom, stealing a car, stealing another car, killing a cop, etc.

All this is played very well, though.  Most of the movie is a cat and mouse game with a lot of literal hide and seek around trucks trailers and bathrooms.  The cover describes it as Hitchcockian and that is not too much of a reach.  We have the falsely accused man (well, he didn’t kill the cop, anyway) in way over his head and trying to stop something terrible from happening.

hush08After a twist that is too fun to reveal, Zakes makes his way to the kidnapper’s lair.  the place is wired up with stadium lights,so I assumed it was for naked gladiator-style games. Sadly it is just a security system.

The suspense continues to build as Zakes avoids the hooded man and eventually is able to believably steal his keys and use his gadgets against him.

All this plays out to a conclusion — a conclusive conclusion — that is foreshadowed, but none-the-less an absolute joy to watch.  Why such a mechanism would exist, I don’t know, but then I’m not in the sex slave business.  I’m sure there have been advances.

hush10Once you adjust to the accents, this is a great one.


  • Title Analysis:  Well Zakes was shushing Beth while trying to save her, but that is standard movie protocal.   So, no idea.
  • Truck-stop security guard humor:  Woman driver smacks into another car.  Other driver gets out and it’s a dwarf.  He says, “I’m not happy.  The woman says to the dwarf, “Which f***ing one are you, then?”
  • And really, naming the black security Guard Chimponda is just racist.

The Battery (2012)

battery00Two former baseball-playing buddies hit the road after the zombie apocalypse.  We first meet Mickey 1) smoking, so he’s is probably a loser, and 2) rocking out with some noise-suppressing earphones — making him guaranteed zomebie-bait. This guy has apparently leaned into too many pitches.  Luckily (for him (but not the remaining human gene pool)), the batteries die before he does.  Also very luckily for him, his friend comes running out of an abandoned house blasting away so that even Mickey can hear the shots, and they get away.

This guy is purely a slacker idiot.  In the next scene, he decides to take a break lying in the middle of the road while his brother Ben scavenges a car for supplies.  1) Wouldn’t the grass be more comfortable, and 2) would any other survivors hesitate to drive right over what appeared to be a murderous zombie speed-bump in road?  We’re already on the road to Idiocracy, but if this were the caliber of survivors, we would be really be Charlie-Hustling it (trying to stick to baseball metaphors, but it’s rough).

battery02After Ben shoots a zombie soccer mom in the head, they acquire a car that works; so the apocalypse couldn’t have been too long ago — yet Mickey uses a Discman.  While Ben is scavenging for useful materials in the garage, Mickey is collecting the panties of a dead teenage girl.  That pretty much says it all.  Ben is constantly doing something useful which Mickey is rocking out, sleeping, or staring at the dead teenage girl’s picture.  This imbalance almost taints the film in the beginning, but it is engaging enough that it works as a slice of life in a new world.

One morning, Micky wakes up to find Ben gone fishing, and a teenage zombie girl trying to get in the car.  Doing the only reasonable thing, he jerks off at her only slightly decaying boobs mashing up against battery07the car window.  Ben comes along and shoots her in the head, getting a pretty good laugh out of Mickey’s predicament.

That night, when they settle into an actual house, tired of saving Mickey’s ass, Ben tosses a zombie into Mickey’s bedroom.  It’s messy and doesn’t really accomplish anything, but he finally makes a kill.  Mickey is still depressed over a girl he has been talking to on the walkie-talkie who tells him to stay away, that The Orchard is not what they think it is.  If Walking Dead has taught us anything, it is that he should take her advice.

As luck would have it, they encounter each other on the road and Mickey lets it slip that they had been talking on the walkies and that she had said “the orchard isn’t what you think ti is”.  To be sure she isn’t followed, she shoots Ben in the leg.  They wake up the next morning in the car surrounded by zombies clawing at the windows.  For days they endure the moaning and beating against the windows, running out of food and water. And breathable air at the rate they’re smoking.

battery11The movie is what it is, as things usually are.  There is not a lot of zombie action, there is far less gore than on Walking Dead, the world is fairly clean given what has happened.  In fact, it is kind of understandable that Mickey reacts  to the zombie girl as he did — she wasn’t that far gone.  I would have not put anything near that mouth (you know, they say a zombie dog’s mouth is cleaner), but otherwise . . .

But despite the almost complete dickishness of Mickey, the two have a good relationship with naturally flowing, funny dialogue.  Ben is not without his flaws, either, insisting that they stay on the move.  Mickey wants to settle in a nice place, but also longs for a girl named Annie that he meets on the walkie-talkie.

battery13The desires of both contribute to their possible bad end (but mostly Mickey, let’s be honest).  The ending is ambiguous if you want it to be, and leaves one big plot string completely dangling.  Were guys making a $6,000 movie setting up a sequel?  I don’t know, I can only say that it worked for me far better than I expected it to.

Rating:  bats about .375.


  • Title Analysis:  A reference to the pitcher and catcher in baseball, of course, which were their former careers.  Mickey’s Discman batteries are running down so he will have to face the world more directly.  Their use also mirrors the breakdown of technology as there won’t be any new batteries being made for a while.  Positive & negative personalities?  I don’t see them that clearly defined.  Good choice.
  • I would have been happy with more Annie.
  • One of the few movies where the score works with lyrics.
  • Ben (Jeremy Gardner) also wrote and directed the movie.
  • Where did all the people go?  The guys are constantly finding immaculate homes with no one there.

Zombeavers (2014)

Zombeavers gets off to a very funny and unexpected start with hazmat haulers Bill Burr (Joseph) and John Mayer (Luke). After a funny conversation about Joseph dating a guy (but just for a week), then them discussing being banned from friend’s bathroom, Joseph runs into a deer, dislodging a barrel of chemical waste.

After fun, well-constructed, almost James Bondian credits which track the progress of the barrel downstream like a Bass, Saul Bass  It arrives at the home of the titular beavers.  It’s worth saying again, titular beavers.

zombeavers07Three hot girls are off to a cabin in the woods with no boys, no texting, and no tops (well, that’s more anticipation on my part).  If the movie maintains its pace and humor, this will be the Citizen Kane of horror/comedy.

zombeavers14There are so many good lines that it is pointless to to even discuss them.  This is easily the best horror comedy since Tucker & Dale, and even surpasses that benchmark. Whereas the T&D was mostly situational comedy or satires of horror tropes, Zombeavers ups the ante with a lot of very funny dialogue, a nice Jaws homage and even goofy throwaway shots (the skinny 14 year old kid with the “#1 Dad” hat?  WTH?). Even the standard wacky neighbor is genuinely wacky and hilarious.

Sadly, their 3 boyfriends show up.  They do come in handy when the first zombeaver shows up hiding in the bathroom, however.  Not being brainiacs, they decide to take a swim in the lake the next day with predictable results.  They swim out to a raft and we get a scene that is a beautiful balance actual horror, comedy, creativity and sexiness.  The bit with the dog is Oscar-worthy.

zombeavers21And the zombeavers are smart — I can’t even spoil how smart they are.  I expected the 3rd act to run out of steam, but it just never stops — twists, fire, whack-a-mole, it just goes on and on.

zombeavers23This is just great.  It even wraps up with some funny outtakes and a swinging Frank Sinatra / Tony Bennett style swinging ode to Zombeavers.  When the artists put this much effort into something that really could have been a VOD release in lesser hands, I really appreciate it.

Rating:  A


  • Title Analysis:  Really, there was no other option; it’s the reason the film was made. But you can’t put the emphasis on “zombie” or you’re left with “vers.  If you stress the “beavers” (of which we saw none, well of a certain kind), you’re left with “zom.”
  • In the last shot, we are visually set up for what I hope is a sequel by the same crew entitled Zombees.
  • Yeah, what’s the deal with this?zombeavers08