Review of Zombarella’s House of Whorrors

Zomba-Cover-webThis is a film review. I promise. But when hack-writer prima donnas edit ourselves, we get to scribble a few unnecessary intro paragraphs for literary effect. If you want to skip the setup and get to the fake beef, click this to go to the meat of the review, slacker. But don’t blame me when your frame of reference is all out of whack.

Friends know I’m an armchair film buff. Readers of this blog, however, know movie reviews aren’t in my blogging wheelhouse. This uncomfortably aging force-gasm might be my only prior, self-published movie review. (Unless you count a few even more blurb-ish reviews submitted to IMDB, Amazon, and the like. Did you know that I’m the 2,451st best Amazon reviewer? True story. Me? I think I’m better than that, but Amazon’s the gatekeeper of this clearly specious metric.)

…I digress.

The Seeds of My Deep, Penetrating Relationship with Film

Like a fart in the wind, I’ve had fun behind the scenes and in front of the camera. (Accurate analogy.) In college I was cast in a few student films. I managed to single-handedly (and unintentionally, I might add), turn Adam Dench’s old-timey drama short into a comedic farce. News of that poor acting didn’t make its way to Aaron Smith’s ears; a short time later he cast me in a few projects. I can’t remember the name of the Russian film student who typecast me as a mark opposite his prostitute scam artist character. Um… Justin Zimmerman’s been kind enough to license some of my iCurd music in his projects. And that’s probably enough name dropping.

Well, let’s drop one more name. Discounting and mercifully forgetting about the shaky, grainy 8mm home movies shot by my parents, my first foray into film was with Evan Davidson. Circa 1987 Evan pops up on my radar. So does his dad’s VHS camera. We’d make stop motion shorts inspired by Mr. Bill, or use Evan’s younger siblings’ abundant toys as doomed cast members in fiendish narratives. And while I can’t remember an iota of a dingleberry of a single plot thereof, my most dear middle school film-making adventures are the hazy memories of the times we and the Keating twins took turns acting and directing each other.

Fast Forward: SOV

Though as a precocious tweener I briefly played in the genre in its homebrew heyday, I was 40 when I first heard the SOV initialism, (not to be confused with an acronym, or any other abbreviation, mind you).

SOV (Shot On Video) is part limitation, part tech specification, and mostly blood, sweat, tears, and other bodily fluids. It’s low budget. Mostly horror and porn. Independent. And fading.

WARNING: Tony Massielo and Tim Ritter are nurturing SOV into a fresh monster.

Zombarella’s House of Whorrors. What is it? It’s a ludicrous love-song to long lost SOV, a retrospective of raunch and repugnance, a humorous hoard of homages to the homemade, an anthology of antipathetic cinematic abominations, a miscellany-mishmash of marvelous monstrosities, a deep dive into depravity, a bonanza of bouncing boobs, a collection of creepy curiosities, an exhibition of exploitative extremism, a harrowing heap of horror, a staggering stockpile of astonishing starts, and for sure, it’s a phantasmagoria of fear, film and fun.

It’s all that. …Unless SOV isn’t film. If you’re a stickler, we can scratch that one.

Speaking of alliteration, (and skipping immediately to the end, for some reason), parts of the alluring Zombarella end credits read like an alliterative allegory: Pandora Pestilence, Moana Midnight, Phil Phallus, and plenty of non-alliterative noms de gloom abound. (Dr. Johnny BeefRocket, anyone?)

There are so many layers of tease in Zombarella’s House of Whorrors. For the first fifteen minutes your inner dialog might go something like this:

“Is this the film?”

“Oh, I think this might be another trailer.”

“#@*%. That was a strange commercial.”

“Nice! Our hostess Zombarella’s back!”

“Wait, I think this is one of the features?! …”

“Hmmmm. Maybe not?”

Yep, there are three features hidden herein, cleverly and copiously broken up by countless commercials, trailers, and hosting interstitials tenuously tying the treasure trove of trashy terror together. It’s tough trying to render the parts from this whole into something of a cohesive review. But I’ll keep at it.

Up All Night

Reminiscent (I’m told) of, and surely inspired in some measure by Up All Night, Zombarella’s House of Whorrors runs the gamut from ultra lo-fi (e.g. recycled public domain footage), to the near-polish of Lucky Chucky Beer and some of the other commercials.

Zombarella’s House of Whorrors comprises almost 30 separate productions – and some productions are umbrellas for several segments e.g. the copious and glorious 1-900 ads + weird drug PSAs sprinkled throughout.

Hostess with the mostest, Zombarella’s reinvention of the spooky, campy horror emcee (Think: Vampira + Elvira + Rhonda Shear), is the glue holding these pieces together. Just when you think the Zomba-train is going off the rails, sexy innkeeper Zombarella’s back to comfort you. It’s going to be alright, worms. Producer/Director/Writer Tony Masiello’s use of Zombarella as such a foundation is an obvious nod to the fact that TV horror hosts of the past often became bigger features than the films they were hosting.

But enough about the glue. The features are the stars in this content cauldron, right? Yes and no. (I love me them interstitials!) The three features definitely anchor Zombarella’s House of Whorrors. Without them, the disparate divisions of the brew wouldn’t coalesce as well. My two fave features are Masiello’s Computer Date (with a best actor nod to Travis Hoecker as ‘Chuck’) and crowd favorite “The Doll”. Have you ever wanted to see a possessed ventriloquist dummy tongue-rape a hotty? Good news! Your messed-up search is over. This partnership written by Tim Ritter and Directed by Masiello will scratch your perverse itch.

I wasn’t as enamored with Ritter’s feature “Cosmic Desires” likely in part because I’ve only seen it projected on a screen in a group-viewing environment once, vs two and three such screenings for ‘Date’ and ‘Doll’ respectively. …That repetitive group experience breeds familiarity and other biases. #FilmCriticInTraining

Speaking of Mr. Ritter, he’s responsible for more than 20% of the Zombarella’s House of Whorrors content, by some measures. No small part of that is Ritter’s pot pori of repugnant fake ads. They’re an uncomfortable masterpiece. Furthermore, Cosmic Desires, Creep 2, Crocogator, House of Hoes, and Vampire Movie Starlet are also his creations.

More about that last one… Movie reviews might be new ground for me, but I’ve been reviewing other things for years. Like when I wrote a music column for four thankless years. I learned long ago that if you’re reviewing something or some things, and EVERYTHING is the best EVAR! Nobody’s going to believe you. If everything you review is the best, then everything is also the worst. Right? Vampire Movie Starlet gets a little special attention from me here, just so you know Ritter, Masiello, and Dreifort aren’t engaging in Payola.

Vampire Movie Starlet presents almost two minutes of unvarying minimalist synthesizer arpeggiation over a decidedly avant-garde smutgasm fake(?) film trailer with no dialog. I like synths, avant-garde, smut, and the occasional silent film from time to time, I’m not however a big fan of all of them combined simultaneously here. Perhaps mostly because of where it appears in the Zombarella’s House of Whorrors lineup – a scant two minutes in, as we’re still getting comfy in our seats.

The first two minutes of the film are chock-full of variety. Unless it particularly tickles your fancy, Vampire Movie Starlet could almost grind things to a slowdown just as you’re approaching the runway. I showed Zombarella’s House of Whorrors to a group of uninitiated oldsters, and they indicated that they’d “had enough” during Vampire Movie Starlet. It’s perhaps the most overtly erotic, intentionally unfunny, experimental bit in the compendium, and in this reviewer’s opinion would be better suited toward the middle or end. E.g. the similarly raunchy and somewhat similarly stylized intro to Ritter’s Cosmic Desires succeeds more, in part because it’s a segment of a more cohesive narrative, and by the time we see it, Zombarella’s House of Whorrors has had time to better establish that it is indeed many things. Even if you don’t love it, you know you can likely wait a minute and you’ll find something else to stare at, wide-eyed, with occasional sideways glances to your viewing companions to see if they “get it” – or if you’ve lost a friend.

Do you believe me now when I say: I like this film. ? You should.

The other three-quarters or so of Zombarella’s House of Whorrors come by way of Tony Masiello. Masiello’s trademarks run throughout:

  • Hilarious hamming/overacting

  • Not-so-secret secret conversations “Um, aren’t they like 3 feet away from the person they’re talking about??”

  • Careful use of music for both background and as a narrative device

  • Boobs

  • More boobs

My favorite segments: Cannibal Vampire Call-Girl Hookers from Outer Space (1, 2, AND 3), and the aforementioned ‘DanD Award’ Best-Actor winning Computer Date. I laughed out loud at these and several other parts of Zombarella’s House of Whorrors, and that’s important.

Ripe with ridiculous stories, great overacting, and goofy gore, Zombarella’s House of Whorrors is a parodical treat for its intended SOV-fan audiences and it has enough charm and universality hidden in the crevices to make it a potential crossover cult hit.

But whatever. Richard Mogg said it better and far more succinctly:

Zombarella’s House of Whorrors invades your airwaves with more boobs and blood than a busty burlesque massacre!!! SEE! Jiggling bodies resurrect a vengeful spirit! FEEL! Decapitated heads squirting off the screen! HEAR! Ripping flesh as vampire call-girls devour their manly prey! It’s all here gloriously UNCUT, broadcast and shot on video for your viewing pleasure. Hosted by the irresistibly sexy Zombarella, HOUSE OF WHORRORS will keep you “Up All Night” as tales by Tim Ritter, Tony Masiello and the recently-discovered Fred Olen Wood entertain (and stain) your innermost desires. SO WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? Grab a beer and start dialing those 1-900 numbers. The action starts here… and Zombarella’s waiting!”

Yep. That’s tight. We’ll go with that.

Disclaimer – I made very small contributions far behind and briefly in front of the camera for Zombarella’s House of Whorrors. The former billed as part of Satanic Fruit Snacks, the latter billed as something else.

 


Dan Dreifort will be busy this award season. Please hold his calls until next year. When he’s not writing about or helping with SOV horror, which is almost always, Dan’s working in the world of UX and SEO, making music, and playing with cats. …But seldom simultaneously.

I’m a fan of the Joyo American Sound effect pedal. (JF-14)

joyoamericansound“American Sound reproduces the sound of a Fender 57 Deluxe amp, which performs great from clean, driven, and everywhere in between.” So says Joyo.

I can’t argue with that. Here’s my review.

It’s a good amp emulator/cab simulator. Up until a few days ago I had three reasons for my American Sound love affair:

  • I can put it toward the end of a pedal board (before reverb!) and then patch the board straight to the JamHub (basically a mixer) and get good, amp-ish sound without an amp.
  • Costs about $28 including shipping (Try eBay.)
  • Lots of tone options from tube-ish clean to crunchy drive. 3-band EQ. Etc.

But I found a new reason to like the JF-14.

I had my Electro-Faustus Drone Thing plugged into one of my American Sound-equipped pedal boards last week and noticed that the Drone Thing’s usually very responsive (Read: danger of clipping) volume knob wasn’t doing much. Was it broken? Then, after some fiddling I realized that the American Sound was acting as a hard limiter of sorts.

It didn’t matter how I turned knobs on any pedal before it in the signal chain; the output level coming from the Drone Thing/pedal board remained fairly consistent. No more clipping.

I already had two American Sound pedals. I bought a third.

American Sound with a mic?

I’m contemplating running a microphone through one to see what happens. I don’t have enough compressor channels for every mic, and the JamHub’s recordings sometimes skip when a singer is pegging a mic into the red. These pedals are way cheaper (and easier to operate) than a compressor, but I’m concerned about going from the more desirable balanced XLR to the high impedance quarter-inch. Hmmm.

Potential Caveats

I haven’t tested to see exactly how stringent the American Sound’s limiting is. That might matter, sometimes. E.g if you want to use a pedal earlier in the chain to significantly boost for a loud section, or to subdue a quieter part of a song. …Too much compression will limit dynamics.

I’ll whip out the db meter and get some figures. Eventually.

My Only (major-ish) Complaint

This pedal’s labeling/layout could easily get it a mention on /r/crappydesign. “AMERSOUNDICAN”? Who thought that looked good? Knob labels in a cutesy font, ALLCAPS, slanting this way and that isn’t helpful or legible either.

Joyo American Sound To-Do List

  1. Test with microphone (DONE: see comments)
  2. Test limits of, um, it’s limiter (DONE: see comments)
  3. New paint job (DONE: see below)
  4. Keep making noise (IN PROGRESS)

Thanks for reading.

IMG_0339


Dan Dreifort reviews effect pedals, blogs about UX, SEO, petty infosec, and other stuff. He’s a fan of San Diego noise collective Synth Band Dot Com.

Beware Donating to Collectibles with Causes

Keen readers will notice my last blog post discussed parting ways with my beloved comic book collection. I painstakingly entered each book first into a spreadsheet and then into an online database. If I’d carefully packaged and sold the lot, spread out into a hundred or so auctions, I probably could have received $5,000 or so.

Collectibles With Causes Legit? Unknown. Sketchy? Yes.

Collectibles with Causes, also known as With Causes, Works of Life International Ministries, and dozens of other names, is a charity that accepts collectibles, sells them, and then uses proceeds for good works, When I found them in August 2014, I did my research, like any good donator would. While I found nothing indicating proceeds would be used for hateful/exclusive causes, their EIN (26-0903224) appeared in neither the California nor the USA register of charities. I called the IRS and they confirmed that they had no record of their non-profit standing. Furthermore, none of the charity rating services have an entry for them. Not a deal-killer, but cause for concern.

The only third-party mention of With Causes/Works of Life I could find pertains to their Christmas 2011 gift of a house to a large family whose house had just burned down. Here’s an article/video. Works of Life is still milking it; one of their most recent (2014) Tumblr posts gives a shout-out to this same charitable effort.

Nonetheless, I was attracted to Collectibles With Causes. I really liked the idea of a win-win-win. I get a tax write-off for my comics and don’t need to spend dozens of hours selling them. The charity sells them and my beloved comic books find new, loving homes. Finally, people benefit from the good works/proceeds of the sale. Three wins–at least! But is it too good to be true?

Communication Problems

Collectibles with Causes might not want to reimburse your shipping expenses even when you follow their instructions.
Collectibles with Causes might not want to reimburse your shipping expenses–even if you follow their instructions.

I sent them the details of my donation on September 3, 2014 and received a canned response thanking me, providing shipping instructions, shipping reimbursement instructions, and other information. I asked for clarification on 9/7/14. On 9/9/14 I still hadn’t received a response so I pinged them again. Later in the day, no response forthcoming, I called them. Ginger finally checked the info@withcauses.org inbox and responded.

Five days later, on 9/16/14, I shipped eight boxes/about 280 pounds of comic books to:

Works of Life
ATTN: Collectibles with Causes
1175 Shaw Avenue #104-135
Clovis, California  93612

Their canned reply mentioned that, “The best method for shipping a volume of comics is USPS PARCEL POST or MEDIA MAIL …costing only approx $25.00 per long box and less than half of that for a short box.” Alas, you’re unable to ship anything with advertising via media mail. (Newsflash: comics have ads.) The plot sickens: USPS Standard Post (known as Parcel Post, until May 2007,) is much more expensive than $25/box. My shipping bill totaled $484.49. I sent them the original receipt as requested.

I notified them of the shipping cost and problems with media mail, and asked them how long it would take to get reimbursed the large shipping outlay. Amazingly, I got a reply the same day, 9/18/14, “Shipping is reimbursed once we receive your books and the shipping receipt. I will let you know once the books arrive.”

Tracking information let me know that the books arrived on 9/26/14. Ginger did NOT let me know. I sent an email on 9/29/14 asking if the books arrived. No response. I sent another email on 10/8/14 asking for an update on shipping reimbursement. No response. On 10/27/14, I emailed again. No response. (I should note that I called a couple of times in that month-long period too.) I then called on 10/28/14 and was told Ginger no longer worked there and that I’d receive a call back in a couple of days. That didn’t happen.

I called on 11/3/14, and they’re now apparently reluctant to reimburse shipping, because actual expenses don’t gel with the dream-world figures in their horribly out-of-date canned response. They asked me to scan and send another copy of the receipt. I did. Again, they said they’d get back to me. …24+ hours later, I’m not holding my breath.

Is Collectibles With Causes as Scam?

I’m not sure if Collectibles with Causes is a scam. …They might just suffer from personnel and communication problems.

If I don’t receive shipping reimbursement within a week I will contact the California Attorneys General, the BBB, the IRS, their local news media, and anybody else I can think of. I’ll pass along every bit of information I have about Works of Life and how they’ve (so far) reneged on the implied contract presented on their website, in their emails, and via phone. …I’m pretty sure that’s a crime. They are messing with the wrong dude.

I strongly urge you to find another charity for your donation. I will revise this review if they eventually make things right.

Update:

It’s 11/17/2014. After nearly two months staying on them, I have a shipping reimbursement check in hand. (They paid up!) Did this blog post have anything to do with it? I don’t know.

If you’re going to incur considerable postage expenses when you ship something to any With Causes charity, note that you might have to wait and/or fight for reimbursement. If I had to do it all over again, I’d donate to a local charity instead. Lesson learned.

Update:

2/16/2015:  Very unofficial response from alleged former Collectibles with Causes volunteer is in comments. While it’s entertaining, I smile more when I read my response to it. Enjoy.

Update:

1/30/2017:  Somebody claiming to be Cameron Arballo from Works of Life called both my wife’s and sister’s places of employment and left threatening messages saying that he knows where she lives. Conveniently, these conversations were recorded. I’m giving them to the police.

Dan Dreifort is a professional part-time complainer. (In lieu of donations, send his wife earplugs.) He consults on web optimization and usability for fun.