Dread (UK/US): I'm going to act like I don't know how Clive Barker's original short story played out, as I didn't know when going into the film, but that still leaves this adaptation a bit too long-winded for its own good. Stephen (Jackson Rathbone) and Quaid (Shaun Evans) team up for a college project on what people fear most, and sure enough, this little social experiment of theirs goes too far. It's an interesting premise, eventually carried out to a foreseeable but intense climax, shot moodily throughout by first-time director Anthony DiBlasi, but the redundant dorm-worthy moralizing delivered by our fairly obvious villain and a tacked-own ain't-that-wicked twist only make it more apparent that Dread was a story perhaps better deserving of, say, a "Masters of Horror" episode rather than a feature-length treatment.
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Mutants (French): You've seen movies like this before, where a mysterious virus lays waste to a populace while a group of hardened survivors hole up until help comes their plans can and do go awry. The victims aren't zombies in the strictest sense, but their bodily fluids and penchant for biting do spread the illness, which is how we are initially introduced to the dilemma of Sonia (Hélène de Fougerolles) and Marco (Francis Renaud). She's somehow immune, but he's surely infected, and they've found what looks to be an abandoned asylum in the French countryside in which they'll test their love for one another -- that is, until some more red-shirts can come along to beef up the body count. At first, David Morley's first feature seems like it might be a relationship drama writ bloody like Cronenberg's take on The Fly, but eventually, Mutants devolves into an adequate by-product of Danny Boyle's 28 Not Technically Zombies Later films. The end result is gripping and gory, but only in that order.
Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl (Japanese): Having not seen Tokyo Gore Police, I wasn't nearly prepared for Yoshihiro Nishimura's particular brand of lunacy, but goodness knows the man has some imagination. Monami (Yukie Kawamura) offers some Valentine's Day chocolates to the ever-popular Mizushima (Takumi Saito), who's unwittingly turned to a vampire by her blood-filled treats. This drives alpha bitch Keiko (Eri Otoguro) up a wall, and eventually off a roof, only for her to return as a mish-mash of body parts and catty angst. Let the arterial spray begin! While Nishimura and co-director Naoyuki Tomomatsu know no limits in terms of the old ultra-violence, it should be said that they don't quite stop there with pushing boundaries, throwing into the mix a club of uber-emo wrist-cutters (ha!) and a posse of African-American and outright African-African imitators (ah!).