Saturday, April 26, 2008

Zombies In Prison: Dead Men Walking (2005), Shadow: Dead Riot (2006), and Zombie Death House (1987)

I work at a video store where I can tell the owner has purchased certain films just to fill up shelf space. Each week we get in a new shipment of films, usually between ten and twenty films, and there are ALWAYS ultra low budget horror films. Most of these films look both horrible and terrific, depending on who is looking at the DVD box art. So each week I make it my duty to watch at least one of the micro-budget terrors to see if I have found a gem. I am always digging for that diamond in the rough. And I have decided to give a little free advertisement here on my blog for some of the better ones. I think I can best sum up my state of mind right now by quoting the text message I sent a friend today: “You can watch what you want, all I want to watch is shot-on-video zombies-in-prison films.”
Zombies in prison. I dare you to come up with a better idea for a film than that. If you can, then you will forever know my respect. It’s like when my friend Hunter once mumbled “They should just make a movie called GUNS.” I was like “Man, I had that idea three months ago!” Who knows though, maybe he thought of it before I did.
Our first zombie prison movie is Dead Men Walking (2005). A guy goes to prison for murdering three people who had just turned into zombies. He is a doctor working for the government, or something like that, involved in a viral strain that turns people into fast moving zombies. One of the zombies bit him before he could kill it, so he winds up in prison a dead man, literally. The virus spreads, just like in most zombie movies, and chaos ensues. There is loads and loads of gore, and even a few moments of actual suspense, providing the viewer thoroughly secure their suspension of disbelief. This is but one of three zombie prison movies I have watched recently, and I must say that it is the best. It makes good use of the claustrophobic environment, it actually looks like something resembling professional, and there are lots of zombies. I liked it more than Beyond Re-Animator, to hold up better-known example of a zombie prison movie.
Next up we have the film Shadow: Dead Riot (2006). I noticed on the Internet Movie Database a reviewer described this as a C-movie. That statement sums up the mentality of almost all the reviewers on the IMDB rather than the actual movie they are reviewing. Most of these people are only impressed by movies with Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie in them, and hate all horror films made before this decade unless they are called The Exoricst or The Shining.
Dead Riot is a good example of a modern horror film that is not afraid to let loose and revel in its own absurdity. The 80 minute long kung-fu/ zombie/ women-in-prison in prison combines three of the best exploitation film ideas of twenty years ago into one festival of gore, shower scenes, and prison fights. Totally awesome! If you can appreciate this one, or even the premise, then we will probably get along just fine.
This movie isn’t quite as amazing and awe inspiring as it might sound, but let’s face it, I don’t need to give it a good review for people to want to see it. If the words kung fu zombie women in prison film don’t peak your curiosity, then you probably shouldn’t bother.
To round out our trio of zombie prison films, let me tell you about Zombie Death House (1987), also known simply as Death House. Veteran horror and exploitation actor John Saxon took his sole turn as a director and made this forgotten zombie film. It’s not very good, but it’s a hell of a good idea for a zombie movie. As far as I know, this was the first of it’s kind, and the sheer cheese factor alone made it the most memorable of the trio.
The plot is a combination of Attica and Re-Animator, and while extremely clumsy, does have a couple good scenes. This is probably more of a prison movie than a zombie movie. As far as time-wasters go, you could do much, much worse than this one, and the pace was pretty good. Any movie about a prison riot is always entertaining, and this one is good campy fun. I heard about this movie because it constantly pops up in my recommendations on It sure as shit was a hell of a lot more exciting than some of the other ones the square world has tried to push on me like Prom Night, April Fool’s Day, or Saw. Sorry folks, but I am going to give you until the end of this article to think of something in those films that was edgy and insane. At least with zombie prison movies you can’t say “Seen one, seen ‘em all.”


John said...

Charlie - check out this gem - looks like your boss might have to get a shipment of these babies when it comes out this november:

It looks like an ultra low budget piece of awesome to me.

E_B_A said...

Sir, I respectfully disagree. The third Reanimator film is superior to nothing. It was terrible. And I'm a fan, dammit!