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B-D Selects Reviews: Rammbock & Yellowbrickroad

One film to see, one to avoid

Bloody-Disgusting, along with the management company The Collective, is putting its mark on the distribution game this summer with the brand Bloody-Disgusting Selects. A handful of horror titles – that might not ordinarily have seen big screen play here in the U.S. – are receiving limited theatrical runs in select AMC theaters across the country. For the genre and the filmmakers behind the selected films, this is terrific exposure.

For a site like B-D, it is a risky, albeit doughty and ambitious, maneuver: Stamping your brand on a slew of movies you hope fear fans will embrace. If the films are shit, it reflects poorly on said brand, obviously. Fangoria attempted something similar last year with a slate of eight direct-to-DVD titles released under the Fangoria Frightfest umbrella. Only one or two were worth seeing. Like that experiment, Bloody-Disgusting Selects reaches out to all corners of the globe, representing various sub-genres.

With one B-D Selects import already on the screen and a homegrown U.S. indie effort arriving in a few weeks, I thought it’d be a good time to weigh in on the quality of the growing collection.

May 4 welcomed the label’s first acquisition Rammbock: Berlin Undead. At a lean 64 minutes, this German zombie film excels at clever moments that occasionally breaks up the ennui plaguing so much walking dead fare we’re seeing today. There’s a Rear Window-like ingenuity saving director Marvin Kren’s story from being a typical derivative surviving-the-zombie-apocalypse tale.

Like so much zombie fodder out there, Rammbock concerns itself with a viral outbreak of the Danny Boyle/rage-infected variety. It turns the residents of Berlin into enraged, white-eyed zombies and, of course, for protagonist Michael, this is the day he decided to return an apartment key to his ex-girlfriend. He aims to set things right with his lady love, but when he shows up at her apartment, she’s not there. Then, the zombie outbreak occurs, trapping Michael inside the apartment with a young plumber named Harper.

The duo can be nothing but witnesses to the madness taking place: a television, a radio and living room window overlooking the tenement’s four-walled courtyard serve as their outlet to the world. Soon, they’re communicating with the neighbors across the courtyard, strategizing escape plans and trying to figure out how to temper the lethal infection’s spread through the human body. When someone realizes the courtyard gate needs to be close to keep the undead out, Michael watches on like a wheelchair-bound Jimmy Stewart, helpless as a volunteer ventures downstairs in an attempt to hold the zombies back.

Of course, the danger escalates and the helplessness intensifies (if the muscle-bound dude next door bites the dust, well shit, how can anyone survive this?). Kren’s palpable claustrophobia begins to weigh on Michael and Harper and the duo are forced further into the apartment by the zombies. But through all of the dead-serious drama, Kren balances it with a bit of playfulness at times. In one smile-inducing scene, Harper makes it a point to break their momentum, and the zombie’s pounding away on the other side of their door, to take a photo of Michael as he stands next to a contraption that will help them break through a wall and to safety. Here, you’re on their side, even if Michael is a bit whiney and hung up on trying to find his girlfriend.

Needless to say, Kren answers a lot of questions Michael and the audience have. And even though his film is filled with a lot of been-there-seen-that, there’s some ingenuity you have to applaud.

Similar kudos could not be dolled out for Yellowbrickroad, which is opening on June 1. Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton’s account of an ill-fated expedition that traversed a trail through New Hampshire’s wilderness.

The backstory accompanying the plot floats a Blair Witch vibe: In the 1940s, residents of a small N.H. town packed up and left, setting off on a mountainous trail, never to be heard from again, until a search party was dispatched. Some residents were found frozen, others mutilated. A good chunk just went missing. Yellowbrickroad picks up in present day with a photographer/author team who find the coordinates for this trail. They gather a crew and set off to see what they can find.

Many miles into their journey, this mirthless bunch encounter Twilight Zone-esque strangeness. Tattered clothing is discovered. Classic music plays through the air, but the source of it cannot be found. Oh, and a dude winds up tearing his colleague’s leg off. Ouch. That’s when he shit really hits the fan. But the film’s problem is that Holland and Mitton appear to be making up the story as they go along.

Between the mystery music – which really throws the viewer off, especially when you’re trying to concentrate on listening to the dialogue – and some effective violence (a Scarecrow gag is especially f**ked up), Yellowbrickroad is a surreal, unsettling experience. But as a film with characters you want to see get through this ordeal and a story you’re invested in, it fails. The somnambulistic cast needed some life injected into it and the finale is a hasty, rushed mess that will likely piss you off. That’s unfortunate for a film that wielded a modicum of potential.

If you missed either of these films, they’ll be hitting DVD in the near future. Other titles on the way from Bloody-Disgusting Selects include Cold Fish, Atrocious, Fase 7 and Cut. I’ll be sounding off on those as I see them.

Source: Ryan Turek, Managing Editor