Tuesday, July 11, 2006

SHOCK-O-RAMA

ei Independent Cinema’s latest entry in their Shock-O-Rama horror line is the cleverly-titled SHOCK-O-RAMA (2006), a CREEPSHOW-styled anthology directed by Brett Piper (BITE ME!, THE SCREAMING DEAD).

When bitter scream queen Rebecca Raven (ei starlet Misty Mundae, THE SCREAMING DEAD, SPIDERBABE, in a semi-autobiographical role) is fired by the B-movie studio that employs her, she heads for a quiet house in the country to get away from it all…. and battle an angry, flesh-hungry zombie.

Meanwhile, her former employers have discovered that the girl they intended as Raven’s replacement has become unavailable, and they desperately need a leading lady for their new film. They screen a couple of flicks hoping to find a new star, and these films make up two of the three stories in SHOCK-O-RAMA. In "Mechanoid," a couple of tiny alien criminals land in a New Jersey junkyard and battle the yard’s owner (Rob Monkiewicz, BITE ME!) with a stop-motion, scrap-yard robot. In "Lonely Are the Brain," beautiful young women in a dream research project are finding their subconscious fantasies manipulated by a sexually voracious female doctor (Julian Wells, DR. JEKYLL & MISTRESS HYDE) and a giant, evil brain from the future.

Completely tongue-in-cheek, SHOCK-O-RAMA is, nonetheless, a great ride, with excellent handcrafted special effects, beautiful girls, a witty script, and some extremely effective low budget visuals, especially during the final story’s dream sequences. Director and FX artist Piper even manages some economical but effective illusions worthy of the great Mario Bava, with ingenious combinations of sets, miniatures, lighting and accomplished camera work. The pace never drags, and the film possesses a sense of humor (especially in the Misty Mundae zombie segment) that’s reminiscent of Sam Raimi’s early work.

ei’s DVD includes a 1.78:1widescreen transfer with anamorphic enhancement, and looks great. The special features include an audio commentary track by writer/director/FX artist Piper and producer Michael Raso, a behind-the-scenes featurette, footage of the film’s NYC premiere, an on-screen Q&A with Piper from the same event, and the ever-growing Shock-O-Rama trailer vault.

Full disclosure: I handled the layout and design of the DVD cover for this ei release, and I’ve been doing package design work for them regularly for some months now. But I can honestly say that I would have recommended this movie even if I hadn’t been involved with it in any way. It’s exactly the kind of imaginative, entertaining exploitation effort that I love, and Piper and the ei crew have done a great job with this, the best Shock-O-Rama release yet.

BUY: Shock-O-Rama