Monday, October 13, 2008

Necroville – review


Directors: Billy Garberina & Richard Griffin

First released: 2007

Contains spoilers

There are certain things you shouldn’t do. You shouldn’t make a film with zombies, vampires and werewolves for the princely budget of $9800. When you break that rule then you should strive to follow the next one: you shouldn’t make it a comedy with overtones of Kevin Smith. Then along come Garberina and Griffin and they break both rules and thank gravy they did. You see, as much as this shouldn’t get close to working, it just works.

Perhaps I was taken by the fact that they seemed to care about the product. It’s a budget film, on a cheap-end label and yet it has liner notes. It has extras (and, we will see, worthwhile ones at that), which is another sign of caring. Perhaps I am biased as it has Zombina and the Skeletones on the soundtrack and regular readers will know that I am a Zombina fan.

Billy Garberina as JackThe film begins with a graveyard and a zombie rising. It walks through town, passing other zombies as it staggers. It gets in front of a car… that beeps at it. Here, right here, is why this film works. It is absurd and it knows it. We are in a world (to the south east of Albuquerque) where zombie hordes can appear, where vampires rule the night and all other sort of weirdness can appear and it just seems right. In such a world a commuter would beep at the zombie until it got out of the way. In the end it wanders into a DVD store. Alex (Adam Jarmon Brown) is up a ladder and so Jack (Billy Garberina) takes care of it. He blows the zombies head off, which knocks over the ladder, wrecking the store ceiling as Alex falls.

There follows a marvellously shot sequence where the phone rings and it is Jack’s girlfriend Penny (Brandy Bluejacket). At the same time the boss comes in and Jack switches his phone to voicemail. We hear her nag as we see the boss giving them a bollocking, not hearing his dialogue at all. The scene works really well. All we hear from him is, you’re fired. Outside we see more of the way the world is when a crazy homeless guy asks if they have spare shells… ammo is more important than change.

Brandy Bluejacket as PennyJack gets home – forgets to pick up groceries – goes back out and then admits he has lost his job. Now we can all side with Alex on his view of Penny, she is a nag, who doesn’t have gainful employment herself (she’s waiting on her mom’s cheque so she can go to massage school), has Jack take out loans to buy her a car and generally treats him like dirt. Jack and Alex are job hunting the next day when they see an advert for supernatural exterminators Zom-B-Gone – they are hiring.

the vampire in the test areaThey go in for an interview. Weaponry aspects are covered by Alex – his dad was a member of the NRA and took him to meetings. Jack takes the melee challenge and this is our first view of a vampire. He is in a testing room and she appears, seductive at first and then fangly. He bends her over and, by hand, takes out her heart. They get the jobs.

Alex loves his new jobPenny isn’t happy (though slightly mollified when Jack lies and says that Alex isn’t involved) but then Penny is never happy. The boy’s first job is a ‘cat-man’ at the house of Old Lady Johnson (Ellie Phillips), which turns out to be an actual cat and then they have to deal with an outbreak of zombies at a sorority. Jack ends up going hand to hand whilst Alex looks after the college girls… some guys have all the luck. At home Penny seems to be emailing an ex, someone called Hmmm…

vampire exposed to sunlightThe next day they have to perform a house clearance of vampires but when they get inside they realise they aren't vampires but a gaggle of Goth Kids. A bullet in the head of one and we float back in time to the briefing, where they have been warned it might be Goth kids under the influence of a vampire and they should kill them anyway as it would be preparing the way for a Master Vampire. Masters, it appears, can walk in daylight. Cutting back, they execute the Goths until there is one left and he really is a vampire. Jack freezes but Alex manages to blow a hole in the ceiling, the sunlight burning the vampire before Jack snaps out of it and does his job – with gusto.

It appears that Jack had received martial arts training along with his rival Clark (Mark Chavez). Clark was naturally better than he and his sensei told Jack that if he saw a master then he should run. He froze, worrying whether the vampire was a master. Clark is also Penny’s ex. That night Penny is going to a Goth club and Jack follows. In there he sees Clark and realises that he is now a master vampire. As confirmation he and Alex see the vampire sun bathing the next day.

well done wall climbThe film then goes towards the inevitable run-in between the two. Jack comes up with a masterstroke way of killing the master vampire (actually the story premise that led to the film being written) of dropping a baby grand piano on his head. It doesn’t work, however, and we get a rather nicely shot wall crawl as Clark goes after the two exterminators.

I'm melting...Lore wise everything is standard, though the master vampires are given lots more power and vampires generally have power over Goths. The ‘Necroville Guarantee’ is that you won’t have seen a vampire killed in exactly the way one kill occurs in this. Just about true. I haven’t seen a kill so direct and explicit, true, but I have seen the dead held off, warded if you like, by a similar method. It is not uncommon to use such a substance in Hong Kong films and Shaolin vs the Evil Dead has an example of the substance being used early on in the movie. What am I talking about? Watch the film to find out.

werewolf effects proved a little poorThe effects are remarkably well done given the budget. I have mentioned the wall crawl already and the vampire death effects were such that I have seen a lot worse done on a lot bigger budget. The werewolves irked, perhaps, because you really do need a large amount of budget to do werewolves right, but we only get a brief appearance of our lycanthropic friends.

zombie hordes attackI was impressed with the film’s zombie horde moment. Too often in low budget films, featuring zombies, your horde numbers five at the most. This was truly a horde. Kudos to the filmmakers for that. I was also amused with the girl guides who would get a merit badge for recovering a zombie head. Again you can just see it happening! As for the zombie makeup, it worked in a ‘we love Tom Savini’ way so that anything that didn’t look too realistic (though again congratulations given the budget) seemed like an ode to the classic zombie makeup of yore.

bad boys... watcha gonna do?Acting was okay, it wasn’t world beating but it worked for what we had. In respect of the primaries Chavez worked in a campy way as the master vampire – suitable due to the comedic nature of the film. Bluejacket was perfectly shrew-like as Penny. Our two heroes worked because the actors made their characters personable. Not Oscar winning but perfectly watchable on just about all levels. As I implied earlier the direction and editing of certain scenes – I’m thinking the phone call/fired scene – were excellently constructed.

Yes it had weak moments (and we didn’t need the masturbation gag) but this was well worth getting hold of and, generally, was an entertaining watch. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Bonus Honourable Mention: I mentioned the extras on the Necroville DVD and, as a bonus mention, I want to look at the short film “Legend of Aerreus Kane” directed by Lance Maurer in 2003.

Lance Maurer as Aerreus KaneThis short film was shot as a silent, sepia toned film (with excellent musical score it has to be said) and followed Aerreus Kane (Lance Maurer) a hunter in an alternate world in which a vampire has taken the woman Lucinda (Anna Dumars) and plans to make her his infernal wife.

Billy Garberina as KarketAerreus gets advice from the Great Wise Oak and the tree tells him that the vampire is Karket (Billy Garberina) and is hidden in the Forgotten Church. He can only be destroyed by a bullet made from the tree and then being beheaded – the head buried at the tree. Interestingly the vampire is incorporeal during daylight hours.

An interesting extra on the DVD, the imdb page is here.

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