DVD Roundup: Schlock Horror! Part 1: Drive Angry and Zombie Strippers

Among the DVDs I’ve had on my shelf for a while are various trashy movies. You know the kind of thing- mindless action movies, low budget horror movies and B-movies, many of which go straight to DVD. I’ve got about 6 to get through here so here are the first two schlocky films.

Nicolas Cage is a bit of a challenge to pigeonhole as an actor, at one point he was a relatively respected Oscar winning actor and then a blockbusting action hero, but in recent years he’s kind of started a downward slide of playing on his “crazy” shtick and giving performances so hammy his films are probably off limits to Jews and Muslims.

But its hard to completely write Cage off, unlike several other action stars he does take on some interesting projects and while they’ve been a mixed bag at the box office, it should still be respected that in between daft low-rent action movies he will take on things like Kick-Ass, for which most people I’ve spoken to have been complimentary about. Which brings us to Drive Angry.

Cage plays Milton, a former petty criminal killed many years ago, but who has broken out of hell because daughter has been killed and his infant granddaughter stolen by a Satanic cult led by Jonah King (Billy Burke), who plans to sacrifice her and bring hell to earth. Milton has been resurrected as a superpowered badass and means to stop him. On his quest for vengeance he meets up with Piper (Amber Heard), a tough, strong willed waitress who has just split from her cheating fiance and Milton helped out.

At the same time, because of Milton’s escape he is pursued by the Accountant (William Fichtner), an employee of hell who tracks down escapees.

Drive Angry is not a good movie, although, to be fair I knew that as soon as I saw the trailer.

The thing is, it kind of feels like a jumble of Cage’s former movies- there’s the redneck accent from Con Air, the whole demonic angle from Ghost Rider, the love of cars from Gone in 60 Seconds and the swaggering badassery of Face/Off. As such it all feels a bit borrowed and also, some of its attempts to hammer home how cool Milton seem almost like a parody. And its not helped by some atrociously weak CGI.

For me, Cage works as an action hero and he has a weird charisma I kind of dig, but I know that for many he’s anathema, and this is not the flick to change your mind. There are tons of cheesy, groan inducing lines and macho posturing, and the film is largely stolen by Fichtner who plays the Accountant with a certain malevolent glee, telling people when he’ll see them next and revealing their deaths, sarcastically questioning people and strolling casually through the film’s insanity.

William Ficthner- show stealing

The action sequences have a ridiculous feel to them, and it seems every character in this film knows how to fight and doesn’t mind throwing down. There’s a particular gunfight midway through where Milton continues to have sex with a woman throughout which is quite possibly one of the dumbest scenes ever committed to the screen, and for me it really didn’t work. Its daft, but in a way that feels slightly forced and stops it from being truly enjoyable.

Heard does well as the sassy female lead and Burke is an average villain, although lurches towards the OTT end far too frequently.

I knew it wasn’t going to be good, but I’d hoped it would be more fun. 4/10.

If Drive Angry‘s trailer told me not to expect too much then today’s second movie, Zombie Strippers gets there even quicker just by virtue of its title.

A zombie virus has been created by the government in order to stop troop shortages and keep soldiers in the field longer. However, when they overrun the research base one of the elite soldiers sent in to deal with them is bitten and flees. He winds up at a strip club where he turns and bites star stripper Kat (Jenna Jameson), who dies before being resurrected. Apparently female zombies retain more of their behaviour whereas male specimens become your traditional moaning undead. Kat continues to strip and the punters love her new zombie look, leading some of the other dancers to deliberately turn as well. Unscrupulous manager Essko (Robert Englund) realizes that takings are up and hides the dancer’s victims in the basement.

How long can they be kept hidden? Just how long will punters want to pay to see decaying strippers?

Like Drive Angry, I went into this film with low expectations but hoping to see a fun, stupid movie. Unfortunately it started with some extremely heavy-handed “satire” and relied on the kind of lame jokes even the Carry On writers would’ve shied away from.

There were a few nice touches- the explanation of the virus being created as a military asset to combat troop shortages was quite clever and the elite Z Squad was a reasonably good spoof of traditional action movie swaggering, including the best line of the film where they boast of killing “Satan himself with a sharp stick”. And there seemed an eagerness to speed through the traditional plot which was quite nice, with the heroine Jessy’ (Jennifer Holland) cliched back story being guessed at in a tongue-in-cheek way by the other characters.

The effects are okay, when they’re the traditional grizzly zombie stuff, but there are a few uses of terrible CGI which feel unnecessary.

The acting is terrible and too much of the humour seemed to be trying too hard to be goofy and off the wall, and it felt rather flat. It didn’t even work as a T&A movie unless you’re a fan of the zombie look.

You get the feeling either Robert Englund owed someone a favour or really squandered his Freddie cheques, because there’s no other reason why he’d appear in this, its a toss up between this and 2001 Maniacs as to which is his worst movie.

Robert, you’re better than this!

Rather disappointing, nowhere near fun or sexy enough to work, the only thing you can say for it is that Jenna Jameson and the other zombies do at least look like they’re having fun making it, its just a shame less of that is passed on to the audience. I know its a cheap exploitation flick, but come on, it should still be better than this. 2/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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