(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, you Ho-rror Heartthrob, you! 🙂 xoxo)
To me, horror comedies rarely work out. I’m sure I’ve talked about this before, but I feel that most of them fail at either being a horror or a comedy. Usually, the cast knows what kind of film they are in, so they tend to play it up and delivering each line as if they are winking at the camera. The characters are usually stock cliches and more often than not, they confuse blood and gore with horror. Now as nice as those things are, when put in the hands of someone who misunderstand what either a horror or a comedy are, the film comes off as inauthentic and, well, stupid. Not to mention, they seem to be poorly filmed. The shots aren’t well planned and it’s like the filmmaker has no idea where to point the camera. I get the feeling that most of the time they don’t.
Luckily, Night of Something Strange isn’t any of that. Sure, it falls into some of the cliches, but they are done right, if that makes sense. At first, even I was a little worried when the characters were being introduced, but as the film goes on, you understand why they are and how they play into the plot and some of them become likable. Maybe it’s due to the film’s low budget or how the cast has a connection to each other, but they come of as genuine in playing their roles. A lot of heart went into this movie, something you don’t see very often anymore. That’s another thing; it’s shot like a movie. The cinematography is impressive to say the least and the use of lighting is done to effect the overall tone of the film. Everything that most lower budget films seem to misunderstand and mimic are done right here. Indie filmmaking seems like it’s becoming a lost art, but every now and then you get something that restores your faith. Night of Something Strange did just that for me.
Night of Something Strange opens with a tall, brooding hospital worker named Cornelius (Wayne Johnson) who looks like he probably has some issues. Sure enough, he shows us what kind of issues he has when he wanders into a morgue and decides to bang a female corpse. You could say that Cornelius is getting lucky, but I would say he’s getting unlucky seeing as how this particular corpse seems to have a still active STD. Not just any STD, but something that causes a much more serious side effect; you turn into a sex crazed zombie. Cornelius heads home and as the virus takes effect, he pisses all over his bed and then rapes and infects his mother. Talk about starting your movie off with bang. Where else are you gonna find necrophilia, watersports and incest all within ten minutes? Well, the last one I’m only assuming is only incest since the relationship between the two characters isn’t established, but I get the feeling it’s mother and son. It’s easily unsettling and let’s you know what you’re in store for. You would think at this point, the film was only trying to set the bar for absurdity, but it’s only getting started.
With Cornelius now free to run amok, we turn our attention to our central cast of characters in a high school. Or college. I don’t know which. All I know is that I was surprised to see Brink Stevens appear as their teacher in a cameo. Regardless, these are the people you will be spending the run time with and like I said, at first they may seem like cliches and they are all kind of assholes in their own, but stick with them. You will come to like them. The core girl of the group is Christine (Rebecca C. Kasek) and is probably the least douchiest of them all. Her friend Carrie (Toni Ann Gambale), Carrie’s boyfriend Freddy (Michael Merchant) who is probably the biggest douche of the group, token stoner Brooklyn and chubby Jason are all headed for a little getaway with their friend Pam (Nicola Fiore) and her boyfriend Dirk (Trey Harrison) who has suspicions that his girlfriend is cheating on him when he takes a peek at her phone and notices a dick pic. Still, he hasn’t been laid in a while, so he’s gonna let this slide for a bit. At least until he gets laid.
No better place to do that than at the Redwood Motel ran by a rather creepy old man who feels like a runaway member of family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Now that Dirk has had some time to relieve from sexual tension, he breaks things off with Pam and befriends Christine outside and the two have a rather nice bonding moment and the chemistry feels rather genuine. Freddy, on the other hand, is doing whatever it takes to get some ass, including berating and threatening his verbal punching bag, Jason. Even Brooklyn falls victim to Freddy’s pranks when Freddy attempts a frat, but sharts on his face. You have to wonder why these people hang out with him, but I’m assuming it’s through his association with Carrie. Or I’m over analyzing what doesn’t need to be. Freddy’s sexual conquest – or his attempt at sexual conquest – could be a Porky’s style comedy on it’s own. After being denied sex, Freddy heads outside to the dumpster where he reckons is a great place to rub one out. His realistic style commentary over his fantasy where Jason comes into the room while he goes at it with Carrie makes watching a character beat off a little more comfortable. And funny. Even when Freddy knocks himself out by hitting his head on the dumpster, do you think that stops him from finishing. Not a chance. The champ picks up right where he left off when he comes to.
Now it’s time for shit to really start hitting the fan. Cornelius and the few others he infected show up at the Redwood Motel and begin their rampage, infecting a few more others. Poor Freddy now has this and another situation to deal with; having mistaken Jason for Carrie, Freddy becomes stuck in Jason’s butt and not only has to avoid having the others see him and the mental scarring this will cause, but also battle the undead. Gotta give props to Michael Merchant for spending half of the movie with his bottom hanging out and pulling off stunts while being stuck inside an unconscious man. Hey, give the guy a break. It’s dark in that room. Meanwhile outside, Dirk finds himself fighting off these zombies alongside Christine and they learn that a simple gunshot to the head doesn’t quite work like zombie films have taught us. As the chaos ensues, what are they to do?
I can’t tell you how much I was impressed with Night of Somethings Strange, perfectly blending the horror and comedy genres. I was reminded of Return of the Living Dead while watching and that’s never a bad thing. I laughed at the parts I was supposed to and I ended up even rooting for Freddy, the biggest asshole of the bunch. Maybe I’m a little biased knowing the actor, but every time he was on screen, you were guaranteed a raunchy gag and a laugh and the film uses a lot of sick, gross out moments for laughs. One in particular that comes to mind is when Carrie falls into a blood and shit soaked toilet while trying to pee in it or later when she gets kicked in the crotch by Christine and her shoe gets stuck right in there. There’s also little things, like Freddy getting a bloody condom on his face and the aforementioned sharting scene. It’s a film that would feel at home alongside any given Troma film. I also felt Trey Harrison was a great lead, commanding every scene he was in and Nicola Fiore was a treat and I wish she was in more scenes.
Being a zombie film, it does have some pretty decent special effects for the most part, but at times you can notice a change in the quality. Most times, I thought the makeup was gruesome and disgusting, but then there were times when it looked noticeably different and not for the better, primarily when CG was used. This is due to problems with the previous effects people, as the film unfortunately had to go through a few of them, but I don’t fault the film or the filmmaker for that. After all, it’s about getting lost in the story and the characters and it’s quite easy to do that in Night of Something Strange. It truly was a breath of fresh air in the indie zombie horror sub genre. I can’t tell you how many I’ve had to sit through in the last few years, the majority of which are unbearable to say the least. To see something that has heart behind it made this a pleasure to see. Director Jonathan Straiton really made one of the best indie horror films I’ve seen in a long time. He demonstrated that you can play with the stereotypes and cliches of the genre while also showing how to play against them. He made what should have been a purposely foul and raunchy shlock fest that would have otherwise been ineptly made into something that’s outstandingly terrific and will be remembered (and possibly imitated) for years to come.