Wednesday, October 7, 2015

New England Halloween Happenings: HYSTERIA At CONNORS FARM

If you want to max out your time spent hitting the different kinds of Halloween attractions, you usually need a boatload of time, a wallet stuffed with cash and the patience to drive long stretches of miles between places to hit. It can be a giant pain in the nutsack trying to plan out excursions.

What makes HYSTERIA AT CONNORS FARM special is it gives customers three super cool, fun and scary choices all under the open sky. You can take in one or try to hit all of the following: a haunted farm attraction,  zombie paintball and a separate flashlight maze. The farm is located in Danvers Massachusetts, just outside of Salem.

ZOMBIE PAINTBALL takes place on a tractor ride. As you're pulled around the farm, hordes of the walking dead rush your cart,and it's up to you to blast away and keep them from pulling you over the side and being consumed as brain chow.

HAUNTED FARM This takes place outdoors as well, and isn't for the easily scared. Wind your way through a cornfield, alongside a swamp and next to an authentic 17th century burial ground,where terror lurks around every corner. The farm promises that the outside atmosphere provides for sights and smells unlike anything that you can experience in a normal, indoor haunted house.

FLASHLIGHT MAZE This family friendly attraction is non-haunted and appropriate for people of all ages. Apparently a few years ago one family got so turned around inside of it that they called 9-1-1 in an attempt to get out. You only have three tools available to find your way out: a flashlight, the moonlight and your own wit. Good luck.

Granted, it's certainly not cheap, but if you don't do the VIP offering (80 bucks lets you skip the line for Zombie Paintball and the Haunted Farm Combo) and don't mind waiting in line then you could spend $15 each on the Flashlight Maze, Paintball and Haunted Farm. Granted, I don't know based on the turnout if it's possible to hit all three in one night, so if anyone has hit Hysteria, drop us a note and let us know. I tried hitting this last year, but screwed up the schedule and got there on a night it was closed. I'm an idiot.


Fantastic Fest 2015: The Witch

Witch film is a sub-genre of horror that is underappreciated. Though one could argue that the seminal THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is a classic witch film, criticism tends to focus more on its use of found-footage than the witch herself. Beyond that people’s minds go to either to HOCUS POCUS or to THE CRUCIBLE for witch films. Both of these are great films in their own right, but they tend to skip over witches in SUSPIRIA, HAXAN, and BLACK SUNDAY. With the forthcoming February 2016 release of THE WITCH we finally get an artfully created and bone chilling film about the terror that a witch can unleash upon a god-fearing house. 

THE WITCH opens with an exit. A devoutly Christian family is struggling with their small New England village and the father, William (Ralph Ineson) vows to take his family away from the settlement. Were this a contemporary tale he would have his choice of many towns or cities to find a new home, but in the 1630s there are few options. He uproots his wife and four children to a clearing on the edge of the woods, somewhere a full day’s travel from the town. The spot has land for farming and a stream for water, and within a year they have a solid home, barn, and the start of an autumn crop. A baby son is born in this time lapse, to the delight of the whole family. 

When we rejoin the family one year into their seclusion all is well. That quickly takes a turn when the baby, Samuel, disappears in the blink of an eye. One moment the oldest daughter, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), is playing peek-a-boo with the cooing babe, the next she is staring at empty swaddle. This is the beginning of this family’s descent into hostility and madness. 

The absolutely admirable thing that THE WITCH establishes early in the film is that this is unapologetically a horror film. Too often artier genre fare keep the audience guessing is there is really a monster or if the characters are hysterical. Very early in THE WITCH we see that the family has far more to fear than their own insecurities and that God is not protecting them. The family members continue their internal bickering and devotion to Christian tenants, but the audience knows more than they do about the threat that looms in the forest.

At first glance THE WITCH does not offer anything we have not seen before in horror film, but it instead elevates the material to new heights. The film itself is paced deliberately, and eases you into the story. It is shot beautifully; several frames could be mistaken for gallery-quality photography. The music is at times invasive, but it always heightens the mood rather than detracts from it. The performances are also leagues ahead of what I had anticipated. Even with much of the dialogue coming directly from documents of the era, we still get to know these sympathetic and complicated characters as individuals as well as a complicated family. And without giving a major spoiler, I will say that THE WITCH has one of the most haunting death scenes I have ever seen on film. It is as if you are looking pure evil directly in the eye, and it is not pretty. 

Perhaps due to some sort of satanic intervention all of this comes from a director who had not yet created a feature film prior to THE WITCH. Robert Eggers shows some authentic vision in THE WITCH, and during his Q&A following the Fantastic Fest screening it became evident that film was not a success by accident. He has carefully thought out and created this addition to an ignored sub-genre. I cannot fathom why A24 is waiting so long and dumping the film’s release date in late February, but be sure to run to the theater when you can. 

Gross (in a good way) horror comedy GRAVY available now!

One of my favorite films from last year's Telluride Horror Show, and one of my twelve films to look out for in 2015 is now available to stream and on Blu-ray and DVD. With a surprisingly phenomenal cast and a light attitude toward dismemberment, I am still baffled that this horror-comedy has not gotten more attention. It is silly and a tad predictable, but I enjoyed the hell out of it and I hope more people check out this film soon.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

XLRator & Hulu Team Up To Bring Series 24 HOUR RENTAL To Binge On

Early this spring XLRATOR Media and Hulu announced a joint venture that allowed subscribers to Hulu Plus access to the "Macabre Collection." Viwers had access to a number of terrific indie horror titles, including FOUND & UNDER THE BED. 

Despite being the exclusive streaming home to the Criterion Collection, as well as offering up a massive number of exclusive films Hulu is primarily known as a place to catch up with TV shows. With that in mind, XLRator is importing the Canadian drama 24 HOUR RENTAL to the service beginning October 30th.

LOS ANGELES (October 6, 2015) – XLrator Media has acquired U.S. distribution rights to the edgy Canadian T.V. series 24 HOUR RENTAL from Reel One Entertainment. The 13 half-hour episodes will premiere October 30, 2015 exclusively on XLrator Media’s MACABRE Collection on Hulu before going to other platforms in 2016.  

“It’s The Sopranos meets Clerks in this over-the-top gangster satire that pushes the boundaries of mainstream television and is tailor-made for binge watching” said XLrator Media CEO Barry Gordon. “We are making 24 HOUR RENTAL available exclusively for digital distribution starting with Hulu, and will aggressively market the series to build a national audience of discerning fans who readily seek edgy smart programming on the top digital platforms.”

24 HOUR RENTAL was created by Frank Massa, directed by George Mihalka (My Bloody Valentine), co-written by Al Kratina and Mihalka, and stars Romano Orzari (Turbo Kid), Adam Kenneth Wilson, Aaron Berg, Vlasta Vrana, Mike Smith (Trailer Park Boys) and Michael Biehn (The Terminator). It was produced by Reel One Entertainment, Kim Yu and Neil Bregman and executive produced by Tom Berry, George Mihalka and Eris Salvatori. 

“Reel One Entertainment is extremely excited to partner with XLrator Media to introduce 24 HOUR RENTAL to the U.S. market.  The show’s unique mix of crime story and comedy should attract two diverse but strong fan bases,” said Tom Berry, CEO of Reel One Entertainment. 

24 HOUR RENTAL follows former Mafia boss Tracker (Romano Orzari), who having barely avoided early retirement in a shallow grave, now operates a seedy video store. Struggling to stay afloat in the Internet age, Tracker runs his shop as a front for a host of petty crimes, from fencing jewelry to peddling dope cut with Drano and desperation, all in hopes of returning to power.

In addition to 24 HOUR RENTAL, the XLrator Media’s MACABRE collection on Hulu will add three new genre films in October: Poker Night starring Ron Perlman, Giancarlo Esposito, Titus Welliver and Beau Mirchoff, Feed the Gods and Strange Blood. 

The deal was negotiated by Reel One Entertainment’s Tom Berry and Sebastian Battro with XLrator Media’s Barry Gordon.

Awesome, Troma-esque BLOODY KNUCKLES Coming To DVD/VOD October 27th

At the 2014 Fantasia Film Festival I had the pleasure of catching a Sunday matinee of Matt O'Mahoney's riotous, funny and disgusting BLOODY KNUCKLES. It's the perfect blend of horror and comedy that manages to find at least one thing to offend anybody lucky enough to watch it. For fans of the gross out, puerile brand of humor made infamous by Troma Films in their heyday-think Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke' Em High and recent efforts like Poutrygeist-Bloody Knuckles is a goddamn revelation.

After sitting on the shelf for far too long, Bloody Knuckles is coming to market on October 27th, courtesy of Artsploitation Films. The distributor has quietly done a bang up job of mixing the arthouse with hardcore horror, and Bloody Knuckles fits right in with recent acquisitions Horsehead, Cub, & Children of the Night. It's quickly become a hotbed for films that any self respecting horror fan needs to put on their radar. The DVD and Blu-Ray includes a director's commentary and making of featurettes as bonus features.

From the press release!!!

A cult film in the making, Matt O’s cheesily sick Bloody Knuckles has been a film festival favorite and has been described as “Vulgar, violent and very funny”, “Puerile, juvenile, grotesque fun” by, “A bloody, funny blast!” by and “A five finger exercise in fun frights” by Fangoria.
The film follows a  determinedly offensive cartoonist who gets his hand chopped off by a humorless crime lord. But the severed hand comes back to life (think of it as a demented Resurrection parable) to seek revenge on evil-doers. With plenty of dark humor and eye-popping violence, Bloody Knuckles makes for a totally un-PC, bloody good time.

Artsploitation Films is releasing Bloody Knuckles on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD on October 27th.

Synopsis: Travis, an underground comic book artist with a penchant for obscene caricatures, upsets a Chinatown crime lord who responds by cutting off the young man’s hand. As a despondent, drunken Travis wallows in post-severed hand depression, his decomposing limb returns to life and is determined to exact revenge. Soon, Travis and his mischievous appendage join forces with a masked S&M superhero to rid the city of evil. Filmmaker Matt O.’s debut feature strips Canada of its “land of nice” image with this deliriously offensive, gory, and happily un-PC horror-comedy!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Toronto After Dark 2015: Full schedule and tickets available now!

The full schedule for this year's Toronto After Dark (TAD) fest is now live, and it is a thing of beauty. There is some healthy overlap with the programming for the Telluride Horror Show with will help both me and Mike keep our genre-jealousy in check as we part ways next weekend. 

THE HALLOW (Ireland) Toronto Premiere
Possibly the scariest film in this year’s Toronto After Dark lineup, THE HALLOW from the producers of LET US PREY terrified audiences at Sundance on its debut. After a young family move from the big city to a peaceful Irish woodland cottage, their dismissive attitude to folklore legends angers the local townspeople. It’s not long before the family members find themselves in a desperate fight for survival in a prolonged confrontation with some vicious creatures lurking in the forest.

THE HEXECUTIONERS (Canada) World Premiere
Directed by Jesse Thomas Cook (MONSTER BRAWL) from a screenplay by acclaimed writer Tony Burgess (PONTYPOOL) THE HEXECUTIONERS is a chilling new rural horror thriller with shades of cult classic shocker THE WICKER MAN. Two young nurses who specialize in treating the terminally ill are summoned to stay at an isolated mansion deep in the countryside. On their arrival, they encounter a series or bizarre and sinister characters including a hideously deformed old man with a terrifying dark past.   

BACKTRACK (Australia) Canadian Premiere
Oscar Winner Adrien Brody and the iconic Sam Neill (JURASSIC PARK) deliver polished performances in this creepy supernatural horror thriller that haunted audiences at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. After a series of unnerving ghostly encounters in the city, a troubled psychotherapist returns to his rural home town to try and solve the dark mysteries that date back to his childhood. 

THE DIABOLICAL (USA) Canadian Premiere
Single mom Madison (HEROES’ Ali Larter) and her two children are awoken nightly by strange and terrifying apparitions in this supernatural thriller from the producers of THE PACT that unnerved audiences at SXSW. Seeking help from her scientist boyfriend, they embark on a hunt to destroy the violent spirit that paranormal experts are too scared to take on.   

GRIDLOCKED (Canada) Canadian Premiere

DIE HARD meets ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 in GRIDLOCKED, a crowd-pleasing throwback to fan favourite action movies. A group of deadly mercenaries led by Stephen Lang (AVATAR) attack a police facility with a sinister ulterior motive. It’s up to a hardened officer (PRISON BREAK’s Dominic Purcell) and his sidekicks that include Danny Glover (LETHAL WEAPON) and WWE star Trish Stratus to repulse the invaders using every weapon they can lay their hands on.

SHUT IN (USA) Canadian Premiere
PANIC ROOM meets YOU’RE NEXT in this gripping home invasion horror-thriller, full of shocks and surprises, from the executive producer of INSIDIOUS. After three criminals, including fan favourite Martin Starr (DEAD SNOW 2) break into a supposedly empty house, they find themselves in a deadly game of cat and mouse with the occupant, a shy young woman with a few nasty tricks of her own to play on the invaders.

In this crowd-pleasing zombie comedy in the mould of SHAUN OF THE DEAD, the sleepy New England town of Portland, Maine awakens to an apocalypse of the undead kind. It’s left to awkward local girl Deb, Ryan a guy she’s just had an embarrassing one night stand with, and his eccentric dad played by fan favourite character actor Ray Wise (TWIN PEAKS) to band together to figure out how to defeat the blood-thirsty horde!  

THE INTERIOR (Canada) Toronto Premiere
A unique blend of dark comedy and creepy horror, THE INTERIOR scored rave reviews on its debut earlier this year at the Fantasia Film Festival. Tired of the corporate life, a frustrated young office worker quits his day job and flees the city to go on a camping trip by himself, deep into the forest. His sense of tranquility is replaced by fear when it becomes clear that someone sinister is also out there, lurking in the woods.

THE HOLLOW ONE (USA) International Premiere
In this sinister supernatural horror-thriller, with nods to cult classic HELLRAISER, a discovered artifact unleashes a demonic force upon the people of a small farm town. With most of the townspeople turned into possessed minions, two young sisters find themselves in a race against time to try and stop the sinister force before its evil purpose is achieved. 

Tickets are on sale now, and some screenings have already sold-out.

New England Halloween Happenings: GHOULIE MANOR

Praise Jeebus but the best time of year is now upon us. Only a week ago the last days of September brought about unseasonal temperatures that hit the nineties, forcing this fat kid to sweat uncomfortably in his long sleeved tee shirts while sipping on his pumpkin flavored anything.

Now the chill has hit the air, the sky grows dark earlier, and heavy wind is whipping the leaves around while rattling the windows of our home. OCTOBER has finally arrived and with it what I love to call "hoodie season." It's the time of year one can go out and about wearing their favorite hoodie while hitting up any and every haunted attraction that catches their fancy.

THAT'S RIGHT BITCHES ITS HALLOWEEN SEASON! It's the one stretch of year your normie friends pick your brain over what sick, scary and disgusting shit they need to watch. You get to wear all black and beat up trick or treaters for their sweet Milky Ways bars (don't do that) and stab pumpkins with knives in order to carve freaky deekie faces into them. Best of all, you get to take advantage of the full array of haunted attractions that are open for a few brief weeks a year. If you're in the New England area, there's way too many amazing places and events to choose from, so we want to use our little corner of the web to highlight a handful of the ones worth your attention this season. Trust us, there's nothing worse than braving hours long lines for an overpriced five minute "haunted house" that consists of nothing more than paper mache heads hanging in darkened rooms and stew bums paid in homemade moonshine to yell Boo at the exit. Stick with us and your Halloween will be hunky dory.

Up first we have HOULIE MANOR HAUNTED HOUSE located in Taunton Massachusetts. If you've seen the documentary THE AMERICAN SCREAM (and if you haven't, by God, stop reading this, break out a hanky and go watch it right NOW) then you remember Victor Bariteau. Victor spent eleven months of the year scouring dumps, yard sales, prop sales, internet classifieds and auctions in order to find props for the haunted house he hosted in his yard. He then spent the month of October as a fiery ball of stress who is very lucky his family didn't murder him in his sleep as he pushed everyone involved in building the house to their limits, all so he could open shop one night a year for the hundreds (or thousands) that turned up to scream their bloody heads off. Victor's dream was to turn pro haunter, and the film closes with him purchasing a space that allowed him to do just that.

The attraction is open Thursday through Sundays all month with the exception of Halloween night. They're open all week starting Tuesday the 26th and tickets are on the more affordable side of what you'll find this season at $19. If you order online, enter the code "marygoulet" and put an extra $4 back in your pocket.

You can head to for tickets, video links, pictures of the attraction, scheduling and a downloadable coupon. In the meantime, check out the houses backstory and current TV spot below:

The Legend of Ghoulie Manor
Goulet Manor was nicknamed “Ghoulie Manor” by the locals. The house has been standing since the early 19th century and has been passed down within the family from generation to generation. Its inhabitants have always been disreputable. Throughout the years, they have been accused of sinister crimes and suspected of dabbling in the dark arts.

No one goes there. There’s a good reason for that. Now and then, those who have dared visit the manor simply disappear. Don’t go looking for friends or loved ones once they’ve vanished or you may meet the same fate. Ghoulie Manor keeps its secrets. It’s said that family members who have died sometimes come back to protect those secrets. You don’t want to know if that little secret is true.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Review: THE GREEN INFERNO Here's What You Get When A Privileged White Dude Is Butt Hurt About Twitter

In my wildest dreams I never would have imagined that Eli Roth's return to directing would share creative DNA with Taylor Swift. However, instead of employing auto tune and drawing up diss tracks from the charred remains of failed relationships, Roth draws inspiration from 80's Italian cannibal films as a form of art therapy in order to strike back against his legions of detractors on social media. The end result offers some breathtaking stretches of horror marred by a toxic depiction of social activism.

Ivy league freshman Justine (Roth's wife Lorenza Izzo) has led a life of sheltered privilege, and the twin catalysts a lecture on the practice of female genital mutilation along with a crush on the guitar strumming activist awaken her sense of social justice. Determined to prove her mettle, she joins Alejandro's group of campus activists to Peru, where the group plans to chain themselves to bulldozers that threaten to steamroll over an indigenous tribe of people. The group's plan to broadcast stream of their stunt works, and it delays the destruction of that parcel of rainforest while earning the group legions of new followers online.

Their celebration is short lived as one of the engines on the puddle jumper carrying them to civilization gives out starting a horrifying chain of events that kick off with a spectacular plane crash that disposes of half the cast. Disoriented, far removed from home and left with broken bits of technology that can help get them to safety, the remaining group make for easy prey for the surrounding tribespeople. The warriors knock hunt down and knock the group out with blow darts before binding them and carrying them back to their village.

On the plus side of the ledger the thirty minute stretch that starts with this crash remind the viewer why it's impossible to dismiss Roth as a filmmaker. Given some resources, the man knows how to stage stomach turning violence. The crash and subsequent arrival to the tribe's village offer a master class in chaotic cinema. While Cannibal Holocaust is the obvious reference point for Roth's film, Green Inferno thankfully eschews the false documentary style. However, judicious use of handheld camera From brief glimpses of rotted, picked over skulls and torsos planted as a warning to outside intruders, to the swarms of flesh pressing up against, poking prodding and pulling at the petrified
students right up to the moment the tribe tosses them into the hogs' pen to be kept as future meals, Roth delivers visceral, memorable moments of pure horror cinema.

The FX work created by Greg Nicotero and Kevin Berger is, as expected, top notch. Since The Green Inferno mines similar territory as The Walking Dead, the special effects legends receive carte blanche to come up with ways to strip skin and muscle from the bone. The first staged death features the tribal elder plucking out the eyes and tongue of one of the group then consuming the organs raw before makeshift machetes hack the screaming man to pieces.

In one of the few truly inspired moments of Green Inferno, Roth follows up this brutal death and dismemberment with a scene where the women of the tribe prepare the body for consumption, followed by the natives enjoying a quiet feat once it's cooked. This moment mirrors the tranquility of a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner, and it serves up a strong reminder that the natives are not the villains here. With no contact to the outside world, an obvious language barrier between they and the students and the looming threat of extinction looming over their heads, they simply recognize the activists as the same "others" who run the bulldozers. As such, they use the customs and tools that have been passed down from generation to generation to protect their homes. While Alejandro earlier stated that "shame" is the best way to make someone change their ways, the natives know this isn't true. "Fear" remains the biggest motivator when it comes to making real change, and the natives can bring that in spades.

Roth has always struggled to create relatable, likable characters, and that trend continues with The Green Inferno, though this time that seems by design. Roth makes the activists the villains of the film while offering a sympathetic, often tranquil view of the Amazonian tribe. At best Roth paints the students as fame seeking media whores more concerned with garnering Twitter followers than affecting real change. Roth contends that groups tend no to think their positions through, pointedly giving the campus group the slogan "Don't Think, ACT" as a way of showing how anti intellectual these groups come off to the public. The film saves its most pointed criticism for Alejandro as the leader of the activists. When first introduced he comes off as a stubborn elitist who believes the only way to affect change is to "shame" the persons and companies into submission. This represents the most flattering portrayal of his character as we later see him as someone who won't think twice about using Justine's family connections to the United Nations to place her in the line of fire without her knowledge or consent. Once the group is under lock and key, Alexandro devolves into pure, mustache twirling villainy, exposing his group as in cahoots with the very organizations they're trying to stop and going so far to sabotage his cellmates attempt to escape captivity.

Even Justine isn't immune from Roth's criticism of social justice warriors, though he biggest crimes stem from her naivety and privilege. Roth takes aim at armchair criticism in a scene between Justine and her father, a UN lawyer, while the two consume rare prime rib in a posh restaurant while debating the obstacles in setting up social change. It's an obvious and not entirely unfair criticism that the people who often have a hand in affecting change are the ones with no understanding of suffering to begin with. When Justine later finds herself confronted over what social cause stirs the most passion in her, she struggles for an answer before coming stumbling into "women's rights in Africa" which just happened to be the subject of her lecture 48 hours prior.

At a time when grassroots activism has scored hard fought victories for same sex couples and increased awareness of police brutality and racism through the Black Lives Matter Movement, Roth's critique smacks of the privilege of a man who has his and is damned sure not about to spread the wealth. Roth does his argument no favors by choosing activists willing to put themselves in harms way to illustrate his point regarding the selfishness and futility of activism. That Roth can't see he was handed millions to make what essentially boils down to a revenge fantasy against people who are mean to him on Twitter reeks of self unawareness. Why the collective hive that tends to form on social media can frustrate, to equate groups committed to social activism with corporate entities looking to squeeze every last drop of profit out of consumers feels not only wrong, but dangerous. When one of the country's two major political parties has no qualms making their agenda about keeping the power structure in the hands of white males while trampling on the human rights of women, gays, immigrants and persons of color to not acknowledge there's a culture war with real repercussions

Roth isn't content with enabling his revenge fantasies on screen, he also has to come up with ways to strip his characters of their dignity as well. Since this is an Eli Roth film, the females carry the brunt of the shame. One moment has finds one of the female captive overcome with a bout of diarrhea. She's forced to squat in the corner of the cell in full view of the tribe's children. As the laugh at her predicament, she expels more liquid shit than it would seem possible a body could hold. The moment she begins to squeak out tiny farts marks the moment any spark the picture had is snuffed out, leaving the final half of the film to play out in rote fashion.

Roth has gone on record calling The Green Inferno his "mic drop" moment when it comes to gore. If that's the case, from a technical standpoint, it's a hell of a way to go out. Roth's first test will be the upcoming thriller Knock Knock, which looks as far removed from Hostel or Inferno as he can get. However if Roth wishes to grow as a filmmaker, he needs to stop writing his scripts and believing his own hype. Roth remains capable of staging beautiful and horrific visuals, but with no ability, or even passing interest in crafting strong characters, he's doomed to stay in a rut. While The Green Inferno pays wonderful homage to this sick and twisted Italian sub genre of horror, the true nastiness of the film doesn't come from the cannibal natives, but from the worldview of another white guy who sees the world changing around him and remains determined to keep his small piece of the pie.

Ultimately, The Green Inferno is what you get when you hand a privileged white bro millions of dollars to make a revenge porn about people who are mean to him on Twitter.

Friday, October 2, 2015

BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS: A Workplace Comedy With Little Bite

It comes as a surprise that more horror films don’t use the workplace as their main setting. From the tiny piece of one’s soul that gets squeezed out of them with each punch of the time card, to callous middle managers that scoff at the notion of a work/life balance by demanding increased hours in dimly lit cubicles to staring at one’s paycheck and worrying how to stretch out the meager wages in order to survive for another two weeks the workplace has become its own fresh hell. The new horror comedy Bloodsucking Bastards looks to mine the drab existence of the white collar worker bee for both laughs and shock value with a tone in the vein of Office Space and Shaun of the Dead. The result is a mixed bag.

Evan (Cabin in the Woods’ Fran Kranz ) works for a telemarketing company that specializes in selling knockoff junk that’s pedaled in “As Seen On TV” telecommercials. While Evan seems to be devoid of a backbone, any sense of self worth or self confidence, he does represent the lone person in an office of slacker douche nozzles who gives a shit about the job and therefore he’s been promoted to the prestigious title of interim sales manager. While this temporary promotion does not seem to entail any sort of bump in pay, benefits or prestige, it does allow his workplace buddies more opportunity to goof off at their desks playing online shooters and sexually harassing the help.

As flinging spitballs into the hair of one of the office outcasts doesn’t lead to great sales figures, the branch is in financial peril and in danger of being closed down. The desperate branch president brings in Evan’s college nemesis Max (Game of Thrones’ Pedro Pascal) as the official sales manager. Max has the swagger and charisma of an infomerical host who can only speak in corporate jargon and buzzwords but his style produces results. In a mere two days time he turns the office into a lean and mean sales machine, trimming the fat that comes in the form of lazy workers and transforming the nebbish, cat loving NCAA office pool guy into a sales shark able to rack up double digit closings in a single day.

Rather than culling from the vast assortment of management strategies found in guides like “Who Moved My Cheese?” (I promise you this is an actual title. I was forced to read it years ago when I became a retail store manager. Yes, it’s every bit as shitty as it sounds and yes, the company is now out of business.) Max turns his staff around by turning them into Nosferatu. It turns out that the blood of Dracula runs rich with art of closing the deal. With Max looking to trim the staff further, Evan, alongside his best work buddy Tim (Joey Kern), not only has to worry about being turned into one of the undead, he has to worry if he’ll even have a job to go back to.

Bloodsucking Bastards desperately wants the audience to associate Evan with Simon Pegg’s iconic slacker from Shaun of the Dead but Franz comes up short when measuring the two characters. The film bludgeons the viewer by having every character insist that Evan is the prototypical nice guy, but fails to deliver any evidence of this trait; unless allowing every person in your life to use you as a doormat is a characteristic of niceness instead of spinelessness. Evan’s general reaction to any confrontation is to scrunch up his face, utter a lame retort in the vein of “C’mon guys” then let everyone shit all over him. It’s hard to mine humor from a human punching bag. The film saddles Kranz with a standard “Man Up” storyline. The stakes feel so small, because there’s never a doubt that Evan will overcome his submissive behavior, face down Max and win back the heart of the woman he’s on the outs with, Amanda in HR. Nothing about Evan’s arc hasn’t been done to death a thousand times before.

The office based humor is hit or miss. There’s too much focus in the early goings of the rank and file bullies and misogynists found in the white collar setting. Luckily, the largest offender at being a walking sexual harassment suit waiting to happen is disposed off fairly quickly. When the film shifts the comic focus to Kerns’ as the sidekick and Marshall Given’s Frank, a security guard who obsesses over military protocol and cute kitten videos-all while shotgunning Red Bull like there’s no tomorrow-Bloodsucking Bastards finds its groove and delivers solid physical and verbal comedy. There’s a pair of howlers involving Givens and Kerns that revolve around their mutual love of Kelly Clarkson and Evan being the absolute last person to know Max was a vampire. Pascal brings a rank smugness to his role as Max, chewing up scenery and having a blast while doing so. You can almost smell the Drakkar Noir wafting off the screen that you know this smarmy, two-faced management weasel drowns himself in every day.

As for the vampire bits, it’s fairly standard fare, with the vamps played more for laughs than terror. The one added bonus is the idea that a vampire’s organs explode once staked, covering Franz, Kerns and crew in buckets of gore whenever they drive a stake home. It’s a bloody as fuck film, and it picks up a lot of steam in the last twenty minutes during the hectic final showdown.

Overall Bloodsucking Bastards feels a bit like a missed opportunity. It’s an okay film, and it’s worth a look on whatever streaming surface adds it to its collection, but not something to go out of your way to find. The groundwork was there for something that reaches the heights of a Shaun of the Dead or Tucker and Dale, but in the end, it’s like trying to prepare a killer presentation but leaving out the crucial details.