FrightFest 2013: You’re Next, Hatchet 3, VHS 2 & More Reviewed
Cannon Fodder may be Israel’s first zombie film, but it’s built out of all the familiar parts, yet another “one last mission” movie, in which security specialist Doron heads to Lebanon to capture a chief member of Hezbollah. His objective changes, however, when he discovers a fleet of hungry zombies lying in wait, and now the focus is on finding an antidote before the undead horde takes over.
Unfortunately, despite the fresh setting, cookie cutter plotting is the order of the day here, where characters don’t listen to the painfully obvious truth that, eventually, one of their bitten own is going to eventually turn on the group. If you’ve never seen a zombie film before, it might pass muster, but otherwise, it’ll have you growning louder than the bloodthirsty beasties on screen.
Then there’s the eye-rolling one liners, and the wealth of unintentional humour (one character, straight-faced, says to another, “Wanna suck a black slave’s c***?”). It is a film that tries to have its cake and eat it; it wants to deliver the visceral blood-letting and also be serious, but the characters generally aren’t sufficiently developed enough to make it work.
Tonal issues also eventually abound; one minute director Eitan Gafny plays it dead-serious, before turning on his heel and having characters crack crass jokes. On top of this, some not-so-subtle allusions to the country’s socio-political landscape become lost amid the general mundanity of the narrative.
To its credit, the sharp cinematography does give Cannon Fodder a distinct enough look, but the cheap visual effects – namely of grenade explosions, gun smoke, fire and even gore – detract from the overall sheen of the aesthetic.
Though spritely shot, the first Israeli zombie flick does little to elevate itself above the garden variety entries to the genre, suffering from poor acting, a generic plot, and laughable visual effects.
One cannot downplay the impact of VHS on the world of both cinema and pop-culture in general, and Josh Johnson’s unapologetically dewey-eyed documentary cements that fact in thoroughly entertaining fashion.
It is, of course, the inception of home video that paved the way for the technologically superior media we deal with today, but what younger audiences nowadays may not appreciate is how VHS helped democratise the cinematic medium, in allowing audiences easier access to independent movies, and bizarre curios (such as Leslie Nielsen’s golf tips video) which, without home video, would have earned a TV airing and then disappeared into the ether.
Today, we live in a world of immediacy, something we no doubt take for granted, and to modern audiences, the idea that nobody really thought about preservation pre-VHS is unfathomable.
Johnson glosses briskly over the various aspects of VHS’ tenure, from the format war with Betamax, to the role of the porn industry in settling format wars, Blockbuster video, VHS’ impact on young filmmakers, and of course, the majesty of the “life” of a video (given that tracking marks will indicate which parts of the movie have been rewound and rewatched the most – and it’s usually the nudity).
The perspective, largely formed from interviews with VHS obsessives, unquestionably romanticises the format, though there is certainly something to be said for the beautifully painted covers that sadly have been replaced by soulless Photoshop rush jobs in the last two decades. This unabashedly nostalgic doc serves as a potent reminder of VHS’ pivotal role in the history of entertainment, even if we’ve all moved on now. Well, most of us.