Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Undead or Alive (2007)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes & DVDs comes…

DVD cover for Undead or AliveUndead or Alive (2007) by #GlasgowPhillips

w/ #ChrisKattan #ChrisCoppola #NaviRawat

Two misfits rob a corrupt sheriff as a plague of zombies begins to sweep the country.

“Guns don’t kill people. Zombies kill people.”

“A Zombie Western Comedy … no really!”

#Comedy #Horror #Western

 

Undead or Alive (2007) is another example of a movie (like last week’s Cult (2007)), which has been sitting on my shelf for about a decade – and which I certainly did watch before putting it there – that I basically have no specific memories of, in terms of plot and content. I recalled it being a zombie western, but other than that – nothing. So, I decided to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

Right off the top, they seem to be blaming the zombie plague on Geronimo – who they claim put some kind of curse on white people. Later in the movie, they even refer to the zombies as Geronimonsters. This didn’t quite sit right with me. I have undoubtedly written my fair share of politically incorrect humour in my time, and maybe I’m just getting old and cranky, but I felt that Geronimo deserved a better (albeit fictional) legacy than this.

I must have bought Undead or Alive during the time that I was thoroughly immersing myself in Westerns. I was writing my own epic Western play (an exploration of the history of Western Canada, in fact), and I wanted to soak up as much old west atmosphere as I possibly could. I was also watching a lot of zombie movies because, well, I like zombies – and we were in the midst of a huge zombie resurgence at that time (post Dawn of the Dead (2004)  – which was released, coincidentally, while I was in rehearsal with my brand new  zombie musical – but that’s another story).

Undead or Alive probably intrigued me because it was a combination of two of my current obsessions, Westerns and  zombies, and in theory it’s a brilliant idea. In reality, Undead or Alive just made me want to re-watch Blazing Saddles (1974) and The Return of the Living Dead (1985) – both far superior movies. I feel that Undead or Alive was lifting ideas from The Return of the Living Dead (like shooting zombies in the head doesn’t seem to work), but it was nowhere near as funny. The zombies in Undead or Alive were not that different from regular Western bad guys. They keep on riding horses, shooting guns, and having conversations. This is not what I generally look for in a zombie movie.

Undead or Alive is by no means a terrible movie. It’s well made, with decent action and gore. Unfortunately, the script is not as clever as it needs to be. The movie really aims for comedy much more than horror, and the comedy just isn’t good enough. A person looking for an effective satire of Western conventions would be far better off watching Blazing Saddles, Cat Ballou (1965), or Destry Rides Again (1939).

So what’s the verdict?

Undead or Alive (2007) is neither Trash nor Terror. It simply isn’t good enough, or bad enough, to be one or the other. It’s just floating somewhere in the middle, not particularly interesting enough to be worth multiple viewings. Having watched it twice in ten years, I don’t think I’ll need to be doing that again. It might be an acceptable time passer for those who haven’t already seen it. But I doubt that anyone will love it as much as I love Blazing Saddles (1974) and The Return of the Living Dead (1985). And in the future, I will be watching those movies instead of this one.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Hex (1973)

I rented Hex (1973) on VHS many years ago. My memory of that first viewing is a little hazy, except for the fact that I thought the movie was strange – and not at all what I was expecting. It was supposed to be a biker film of sorts; a biker horror film, in fact (or is the correct term, horror biker film?) I suppose I had visions of something more like Psychomania (also released in 1973, oddly enough), but Hex is nothing like that.

Some VHS tapes called the movie The Shrieking, which is an intriguing title but not as clear to me as Hex. I picked up a bargain bin DVD version on my travels last November which re-brands the movie Charms (which sort of makes it sound like a feel-good comedy, or a breakfast cereal). Not sure why they didn’t just stick with Hex, unless they’re trying to convince people that it’s a different movie. “No, this isn’t that weird biker horror movie Hex that you saw before, this is a charming and delicious horror biker film. Buy it!”

Hex isn’t really a biker film in the true sense of the genre. It’s set in post World War I Nebraska, during the dying days of the wild west era – which kind of makes it a Western. I actually have a theory that all biker movies are Westerns, with motorcycles taking the place of horses, but that’s another story.

Most Westerns are set between 1865 (the end of the civil war) and the late 1890s. There are a few that take place during the civil war, and some even before that. I also believe that the period can extend up to (and include) World War I (and that it was the war that ushered in the next era of North American history). So the two wars are kind of like the book-ends of the Western genre proper. Of course there are also plenty of modern Westerns like Lonely Are the Brave (1962) and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005) which are set in their respective times of production, but basically Westerns are period pieces, and Hex is most certainly that.

According to the IMDb, John Carradine – who was in classic Westerns like Stagecoach (1939) and Jesse James (1939) – played a character called “Old Gunfighter” in Hex, but his part is not included in any of the surviving prints of the film (thus far). It is considered a lost performance. For people like me, who are fans of horror films, other genre films and so called psychotronic movies, John Carradine is an icon and a legend, and his lost performance would be reason enough to hope for a restored, remastered and complete version of Hex making it onto Blu-ray and DVD at some point in the future. 

Incidentally, John Carradine’s son Keith Carradine stars in Hex as the leader of the bike gang. It was apparently his first starring role, shot in 1971.

Hex boasts an amazing cast of recognizable faces, including Cristina Raines, Scott Glenn, Hilarie Thompson, Robert Walker Jr., Gary Busey, and Dan Haggerty. Cristina Raines is perhaps best known (at least to me) for starring in one of my personal favourites, The Sentinel (1977), another supernatural horror film. In The Sentinel, directed by MIchael Winner, Raines is drawn into the supernatural horror when she moves into an old building. In Hex, Raines and her sister bring the supernatural horror down on the bikers when they temporarily move onto her family farm and run afoul of the two young women. 

Incidentally, Cristina Raines also appears in another Michael Winner film (and personal favourite of mine) The Stone Killer (1973), but the IMDb incorrectly credits Christa Raines (at least at the time of this writing).

Apparently Cristina Raines and Keith Carradine became romantically involved during the making of Hex in 1971, and were together until 1979. They were both also in Robert Altman’s Nashville (1975) and Ridley Scott’s first feature The Duellists (1977).

When I first saw Hex all those years ago, I dismissed it as a weird movie. Now, I embrace it as a weird movie. Weird is good. Weird is what makes it worth watching. It is unlike any other Western, or Biker Film, or Horror FIlm that I have ever seen. That’s not to say that it is unrecognizable, or impenetrable. It’s easy to follow, for the most part, and logical in its own way. Some aspects may be problematic for some viewers, and it’s certainly not for everyone, but I found myself charmed – hey, maybe that title makes sense after all!

Hex AKA The Shrieking AKA Charms (1973) is a unique, but entertaining example of #NotQuiteClassicCinema and it makes for a fascinating #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.