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Undead or Alive (2007)

Director: Glasgow Phillips
Starring: James Denton, Chris Kattan, Navi Rawat, Matt Besser
Rated R  Running time: 91 minutes
Released by Image Entertainment

Three decades of movie watching has taught me that it is generally a good policy to avoid anything starring any past or present cast members of  "Saturday Night Live." That goes double for films billing themselves as "Zombedies." So it was a little disorienting to find myself amused by, and even laughing at, Undead or Alive, a zombie western that is guilty of both of the above.

Luke (Chris Kattan, "Saturday Night Live") and Elmer (James Denton, "Desperate Housewives") are a couple of bumbling wannabe cowboys trying to hightail it out of town after robbing a corrupt Sheriff (Matt Besser) of a bag of loot. Complicating their getaway is a curse put on the White man by Geronimo, which manifests itself in the form of a plague that transforms the living into flesh eating ghouls. The pair eventually team up with Geronimo's sexy niece (Navi Rawat) and try to make to Colorado before the Sheriff, his zombie posse, and the U.S. Army catches up with them.

While many of the gags fall flat, Undead or Alive is a lot funnier than most of the, umm, "zombedies" that are flooding the market.  Much of this is thanks to Kattan, who is almost restrained in this when compared to his usual over-the-top performances. His character, the prissy pseudo-cowboy who wears colorful western attire and carries a cameo containing a portrait of his horse, gets most of the laughs. Comedian Brian Posehn has a non-speaking part as the farmer who starts the zombie outbreak. There are a number of gory effects (courtesy of KNB vet Robert Kurtzman), and the anachronistic soundtrack features surf rock and a variation on the theme from Brokeback Mountain.

All in all, it's an entertaining entry in a genre that will hopefully die soon.


Intermission: Felix the Cat in "Neptune Nonsense"

Boardinghouse (1982)

Director: John Wintergate
Starring John Wintergate ("Hawk Adley"), Kalassu
Rated R  Running time: 98 minutes
Released by Code Red

Boardinghouse's big claim to fame is that it was the first shot-on-video film to get a theatrical release. Oh, what I wouldn't have given to see the look on theatergoers' faces while watching this one.

My friends, this isn't one of those movies that is "so bad it's good." No, this monstrosity falls into the "so bad it's surreal" category.

The man responsible for this abomination is writer/director/composer/and star John Wintergate (as "Hawk Adley"). He plays Jim, a guy with poofy blonde hair who loves wearing European-style bikini briefs, colorful tank tops, and frequently practices his extraordinary telekinetic abilities in the bath tub. So Jim decides to buy an old boarding house that has been vacant for years. Seems that the place was the scene of several murders that occured when the previous owners mind power experiments went haywire. Knowing this, Jim realizes that there is only one thing he can do: move in and fill the house with as many single and attractive young women as possible.

Shower scene goes bad courtesy of a monster pig head hallucination 
Writer-director-star-mastermind John Wintergate looks surprised
The lovely ladies of Boardinghouse kickin' it by the pool

So this bargain basement Hefner does just that, and in no time the house is occupied by a gaggle of ladies wearing short shorts and teased hairdos. But all is not well in permland. Weird stuff begins happening. People start dying. Pig heads replace real heads, mice and guts get barfed up, socks get levitated, gardeners start leering, briefs are worn, and psychic powers are unleashed in a colored lightbulb finale where people point at each other and yell.

Boardinghouse, with all of its scenes of Wintergate cavorting by the pool, in the living room, on the beach, and virtually everywhere else with scantily clad group of bad actresses, has the look and feel of an early 80's porn film. However, instead of graphic intercourse we get flying bars of soap, magic shows, ancient synth music, and makeup effects that could have come from Halloween Express. We are warned of bad things to come by the state-of-the-art "Horrorvision" effect - which is a black gloved hand wiggling around in front of a psychedelic background, or sometimes as a blobby silhouette of a ghost. Or something like that.

It's bad. Real bad.  So bad that at times, you are certain to wonder if you are really seeing what's happening on screen. In that respect, there are viewers who may find some entertainment in cracking jokes about the onscreen shenanigans. Everyone else, well, consider yourself warned.

Code Red have done an amazing job on this disc, possibly more than it really deserved. There are trailers, an interview and a commentary track with mastermind John Wintergate and his wife/co-star Kalassu. In the interview, Wintergate insists the film was an intentional comedy, but a producer (or maybe the distributor) wanted the movie to have a harder edge in line with the slashers that were popular at the time. I find this a little hard to believe, but I'll take Wintergate's word for it. He seems like a nice enough guy, and his commentary and interview are the most entertaining parts of the disc.

A sequel is supposedly in the works. God help us.


Sub Zero (2005)

Director: Jim Wynorski
Starring: Costas Mandylor, Nia Peeples, Jacqueline Samuda, Linden Ashby
Rated PG-13 Running time: 90 minutes
Released by Lionsgate

Goofy action/adventure flick from Jim Wynorski built off the Cliffhanger/Vertical Limit template. Terrorists steal an EMP device (which looks like a Rubik's Cube) that can trigger catastrophic satellite attacks from a top secret facility deep in the Himalayan mountains. While making their escape, the terrorists' plane is shot down, and the doomsday cube falls somewhere near the summit of K2.

Enter John Deckert (Costas Mandylor), a badass mountaineer who hangs up his climbing equipment after a tragic accident takes the life of one of his friends. His retirement is shortlived, however, because Uncle Sam comes a callin' and informs Decker that if he can't climb to the top of K2 and retrieve the aforementioned device the world will be in danger of being destroyed by terrorists. Now that's motivation! Decker reassembles his crack team of climbers and sets out to battle the enormous K2, as well as terrorists and other assorted punks with nefarious plans.

If you've ever seen a Jim Wynorski film, then you already know what you can expect - one-dimensional characters, ludicrous story lines, and silly dialogue all executed with deadpan delivery and a light tone that makes it clear that none of this is meant to be taken all that seriously. All those elements are present in Sub Zero, though this time around it isn't as much fun. From the generic score to the lifeless action scenes, this feels like something that was concocted just to fill shelf space. The PG-13 rating doesn't help matters. This film would have benefited greatly from a few exploding heads.

The best things here are Mandylor (who would make a solid action hero if he can find his way into better material) and the craptastic CGI effects. In fact, I recommend this movie only so that you check out the film's conclusion, which features a parachute scene that you'll have to see to believe.