Jason Pankoke is a good guy.I mean that. He's always been in our corner and he publishes this terrific magazine called Micro-Film, which, if you're not getting, you're the poorer person for it. Seriously, it's that good.
We got the rare opportunity to hang out with Jason and his Eye-Trauma gang this past weekend. I'm going to snag him to write for me at Sirens as well. Because that's what we do in this industry: we cannibalize our friends.
So, Jason's alright. And I'm not just saying that because of this:
THE RESURRECTION GAME (rough edit)
Thank you! Here's something that doesn't creep out of the horror film underground every day - a certified crowd pleaser with lots of action, yuks, and grue! Although viewed in an extremely rough stage, THE RESURRECTION GAME delivers a budget-minded bang from Pittsburgh, PA, trio Mike Watt, Bill Homan, and Amy Lynn Best.
In the near future, we discover alcoholic ex-cop James Campbell (Ray Yeo) performing private eye-type jobs for hire, watching monitors in his dingy apartment as techie Tick Rowan (David Schremp) does the legwork to set up surveilance cameras. Prior to his seclusion, Campbell helped organize the government's National Organization of Exterminators (NOE) to deal with a zombie plague run rampant before turning solo as the first independent gun for hire. Thinking himself an "activist" for the cause, he eventually lost the nerve and retired.
A horror novel writer named Christopher Pope (Ted Hoover) contacts Campbell, complaining about how the zombie masses have destroyed his career - why should people read his books when the real thing lurks around in the backyard? Pope offers the man $1 million to discover the cause and the cure for the Infestation, which indirectly gives Campbell a new lease on life.
With hacker help from Rowan, the square-jawed Campbell hunts down another recluse, Dr. Emily Zarkoff (Kristin Pfeifer), a biochemist who had been developing a revolutionary cancer treatment for the AMA before receiving the boot with little explanation. Campbell reasons that her research had a relationship with the beginnings of the Infestation, and as if their meeting had been foreshadowed, an assassin (Mike Watt) breaks into Zarkoff's house. Thus begins a chain reaction that backs Campbell, Zarkoff, and freelance exterminators Sister Bliss (Best) and Simon McForman (Homan) into a web of deceit stemming from the omnipresent commercial monolith, Godcorp.
This quest/conspiracy hybrid makes for a satisfying opus because it blends genre conventions with a vibrant energy that invites us to kick back and enjoy the ride. Similar to how Matt Giaquinto and company introduced theological issues in THE GOOD BOOK, director/writer Watt carefully reveals details throughout THE RESURRECTION GAME to keep audience interest. Although some of the plot threads will confuse those not paying attention - particularly when Campbell and Zarkoff discuss an underground hacker movement, an element otherwise not depicted in the movie - the movie doesn't bog down because of it. Maybe the one element sorely lacking is a sense of scope; after all, this Infestation did take over the entire United States, correct? One or two pinpoint depictions of this reality would have made the peril seem all the more insurmountable.
THE RESURRECTION GAME also minimalizes technical gaffes that many in the micro-budget arena seem prone to repeating. The numerous action scenes move at a reasonable clip and rarely reveal the fakeness of the fight through awkward choreography. The zombies are incidental for a change, so moonlighting make-up guru Homan and his team wisely downplay the rotting skin effects to save up for splatter that often drenches the cast to hilarious effect. It remains to be seen how Nicholas Sportelli's cinematography will hold up, but it looks like Watt took great care to make his shot selection dynamic, compromised only in real-life enclosed settings.
On the acting side, Campbell's detached air contrasts nicely against Pfeiffer's Gillian Anderson-like warmth. The Sister Bliss/Simon McForman tandem provides comic relief without wallowing in too much camp, while Watt's assassin gleefully brandishes guns, swords, and more lives than a kitty cat. In supporting roles, Francis Vetri oozes appropriate smarm as the shadowy Executive in charge of hunting down Campbell and Zarkoff, Hoover's horror author echoes Glenn Shadix's fey interior decorator from BEETLEJUICE, and Shremp's hacker would feel right at home with THE LONE GUNMEN. Cameos from B-movie sirens Debbie Rochon and Roxanne Michaels [aka Jasi Cotton Lanier] liven up the satirical satellite programming (a la STARSHIP TROOPERS), along with a puppet horror host called "Necro-Phil" who's good for a few rude laughs and thankfully not over-used.
I seriously hope that, when the dust settles, Mike Watt and his production team find success with THE RESURRECTION GAME and continue making movies. It maybe says something that Watt chose to include numerous visual references to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, George A. Romero's seminal horror film classic also shot in Pittsburgh and an early example of a privately financed indie film making waves. May THE RESURRECTION GAME enjoy a similar fate 35 years later.
THE RESURRECTION GAME. 2001, 16mm, Color, 94 minutes. D, W: Mike Watt. P: Amy Lynn Best, Bill Homan, Mike Watt. S: Ray Yeo, Kristin Pfeifer, Francis Veltri, Amy Lynn Best, Bill Homan, David Schremp, Mike Watt, Ted Hoover, Roxanne Michaels, Debbie Rochon. Prod: Happy Cloud Pictures. Reviewed on VHS.
What a good, fair review, yeah? Now prove your mettle and pick up a copy of Micro-Film. The new issue is hot off the press!