And it must have been one hell of a good idea back in 1985. Of course that idea probably worked a lot better IN the theatre... kind of like that hacking cough scene from Outbreak. But what can I say, man... I'm in a Dario Argento mood.
Good old Dario produced and presented this horror film, and even co-wrote the damned thing along with Lamberto Bava and Franco Ferrini. But this is all based on a story by Dardano Sacchetti, so you have to imagine there are more cheesy plot holes than... well, than Swiss Cheese. Mozarella, maybe!
It's still a pretty cool idea-a-roni, though. College student Cheryl (Natasha Hovey, also of the vastly different Domani) is on her way to a night class, somewhere in West Berlin. But on the way a mysterious man in black who has been half-way assimilated by the BORG (Michele Soavi) offers her a ticket to an unknown movie at a new theatre. In short succession she ditches class and brings her Gal-Pal Hannah (Fabiola Toledo) with her... only to be hit on by two sleazy '80's geeks in a theatre that was Retro before Retro was Retro! They also get to meet Kathy (Paola Cozzo, also of the vastly different Demonia)!
The bad news is that the flick that's in store for them is another cheesy Italian Zombie Horror movie that you only usually hear about on this very website. The worse news is that when the cursed book (this time by "Nostradamus"... ha ha ha) starts to turn people in the movie into Zombie Demons, people in the audience soon begin to turn into Zombie Demons as well. Hey, that's a neat trick, and one that probably made the actual third wall feel pretty damned crunchy when first shown in theaters.
Soon friends and loved ones are fighting each other like they're on Batoru rowaiaru island or something. Thems the breaks when half the crowd goes all zombie on you! It all starts with Rosemary (Geretta Giancarlo), and pretty well spider webs from there. She becomes one of them, she gets up and kills! The people she kills get up and kill! Plus, when the whole thing starts the exits seal and the entire building becomes one big wall, just like the one in... hey, in Berlin!
It's a pretty thrilling ride, and one well worth the time it takes to watch it. It's also quite the preview to later riffs on the same thing like Scream 2 or Popcorn. However, quite often the film becomes far too silly for its own good. While the makeup effects were cutting edge for the day, they still manage to look a bit goofy when compared to the killer workings of, say, An American Werewolf in London. And that's not the only thing that's firmly lodged in the 1980's. With the big hair, tight jeans and corn-ball sweaters the only thing that could've made this movie more '80's oriented was by packing in the music of Accept, Pat Gribben, Billy Idol, Motley Crue and Rick Springfield. Oh, them and Claudio Simonetti, whom you may know better as Golbin (composer(s) of the original Dawn of the Dead). Yep, that's pretty damned '80's for you! Not that the "Me Decade" is the sickest of the sick eras, but any time you firm your flick within a certain era it necessarily loses that... you know... "timeless quality".
The cheese continues as Lamberto Bava (who also directed) loses his focus around halfway through and starts padding out the film with new characters, repetitive "surprises" and a silly symphony of shoddy shocks. Even so, Bava, and probably quite a lot of Dario Argento, manage to keep it all fun and scary, even when it does borrow more than a few pages from The Omega Man. There's nothing believable about the motorcycle sequence in the movie theatre, including how it ends, but cranking up the Neon Jams while getting silly on a bike is more fun than a Muppet revival of Phantom of the Opera.
SPOILER WARNING: There are two scenes that are possibly the most HELLO! moments since... well, since the last Dardano Sacchetti project. The first involves one of the Zombie Demons giving birth to what appears to be a regular demon. The birth takes place through the spinal chord and the demon is fully grown. So this is either an accordion demon or our lady carries with her a nexus of all realities in her back. The second takes place when a helicopter crashes, almost intact, through the thick and rebar-reinforced concrete roof of the theater. It's one of the coolest things in the movie, but it's not even as realistic as the series finale of Arrested Development. Man, I tell you, the Helicopter Finale of Sudden Death worked better than this... but it was stupider too, so... damn. It's even sillier when you see that the hole is approximately the size of a pomegranate. End SPOILER WARNING
I can't believe I'm giving this Three Stars out of Five, but man, this movie ("B" though it may "be") hits the right buttons where it counts. It's not the best Zombie Movie ever made... it's not even the best Dario Argento Zombie movie ever made. It's not the same old thing either, and it's at least a half a step better than the average foreign '80's horror films out there. Okay, it's true, I still can't believe I'm giving this Three Stars out of Five. Now, if you'll excuse me, with all these big badass demon zombies coming to get me with the glowing eyes, I'm reminded greatly of Creatures of the Night-era Kiss Videos. Yes, yes, yes! It's time for some "I Love It Loud"! It sure beats returning to the same Italian Undead Sludge I keep zarkin' around with. See you in the next reel... gone but not forgotten.
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