I first took notice of Brian Yuzna when I was a young lass and I saw a little film called RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART 3. I watched this against my parents’ knowledge, and when they found out I had watched it (they had apparently seen some of the gore scenes), boy was I in trouble! Needless to say, Yuzna’s work has stuck with me, whether it be something that he’s directed or been a producer on. The general consensus is that he’s a hit and miss director. Personally, I think he is a talented guy, and even some of his weaker efforts still have their charm. Let’s take a look at Brian Yuzna…
One film I had wanted to see for the longest time was Yuzna’s directorial debut SOCIETY. I was also quite hesitant to see it due to the pictures and clips I had seen of the film: it looked absolutely sick! It was similar to the same feeling that I got when I first heard about THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE, but eventually I even saw that film, and had no idea what I was worried about. I figured that if I ever managed to track down SOCIETY, I had better just watch it and not think about how gross it may be. What a great decision that was. Last October, I watched it as part of my 31 Days Of Horror, and it was a blast!
SOCIETY is a fantastic satire and an incredibly mean one. Its take on ‘high society’ showcases them as pure evil, and really, isn’t that what regular folk think when they hear of high society? The story here revolves around Bill (Billy Warlock). His family are ‘upper class’ but he doesn’t quite seem to belong. He’s different than they are and those with whom he associates with at school. He begins to investigate things and he discovers there is something going on. But every time he gets close, it seems like he is going crazy. But then one big swinging party reveals all!
This film has kind of an INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS or THE PUPPET MASTERS vibe to it, with the fact that people are acting so strangely and Bill seems to be the only one to notice. It works so well, and through the first two thirds of this film we’re really left guessing. The third act is where it all comes together, and this is the reason I was hesitant to see this. However as gross and as messed up as the ending is, it is watchable and boy is it ever funny! But it is a really dark and deep seeded humor, the type of humor that Yuzna has really rolled with throughout his career. The special make-up effects are unbelievable. I was stunned by how well they’ve held up over 20 years. They effects in question were pioneered by Screaming Mad George. The man and his crew really created something special here. It is sick, it is twisted and does it ever work well with the message of the film. The metaphor comes across perfectly: the rich are evil, and they suck the life out of the poor.
The film is decently acted, it’s enjoyable enough, and the humor comes off far better than the more serious scenes. The look and feel of the film is great. I love how Yuzna crafted this one. The mystery works and the film’s conclusion is shocking yet just so much fun to watch. This really is a great film and it is a shame that Yuzna hasn’t managed to reach this level again in his career.
Yuzna has a number of films that one might consider bad, but they are bad in the sense they are fun, silly and enjoyable. That is kind of their charm, and why I really enjoy his work. But there is one film that I saw of his that I felt was awfully awful. It was downright rancid and I hated every second of it. That film would be 2004’s ROTTWEILER.
Now, I kind of had hopes for this futuristic film, where a man escapes prison and is hunted by a robotic Rottweiler. I mean that sounds like campy gold right? However, this film managed to be awful on every level. There was no fun to be had, nor was there any enjoyment. I soon started counting down the seconds till the film’s end. ROTTWEILER is poorly written, poorly executed, doesn’t make much sense and tries this weird almost artsy approach to the narrative and fails. We have this sort of backstory revealed in flashbacks, and if you spend 5 seconds thinking about it, you’ll get where it is going. I can appreciate that this was trying to be more than just an animal attack film by using its main character and his story to drive it forward but it just didn’t work. I didn’t care at all about him. In fact I found him to be extremely annoying and I wanted nothing to do with him.
This also doesn’t really feel like a Yuzna film. The dark humor is sorely missed, and this film really could have used it. The acting is also terrible. I had a hard time with everyone in this film, and I was even disappointed by Ivana Baquero (Ofelia from PAN’S LABRYINTH). I’m not sure how she got work after this, but at least she improved dramatically. As for the lead actor, William Miller looked like a poor man’s Josh Holloway and showed no real acting chops. I didn’t believe a thing that he did. His performance was so bad it wasn’t even laughable. It was so bad that it was kind of sad.
This was a huge disappointment all around. Yuzna really failed to deliver anything here. I feel like I am being harsh but I found nothing positive at all to say about this film. To me, this felt like pure torture, and is something that I hope I never have to sit through again.
Yuzna does have a few trademarks and these are definitely the things that I really enjoy about his works. First and foremost, there is the dark sense of humor that emanates from most of his films. He knows that what he’s making is ridiculous and he doesn’t take it seriously. There is usually this awesome injection of the darkest humor with the most messed up situations, which somehow makes it enjoyable. I don’t think that a lot of his films would have worked without the pitch black humor, and he nails it every time.
The other thing I love about his films is just how sick and twisted they can be. Not only are the ideas sick and twisted, but so are the visuals. SOCIETY is a prime example. That whole sequence being the ideas of different people but all coming together better than it ever could have looked on paper. The two RE-ANIMATOR sequels also have some messed up things going on, and there seems to be no limits on where to take it, either. Yuzna is a genre man through and through, and at least in this department he delivers the goods. Oh, and there is always the odd Corbin Bernsen appearance in his film. He’s always great!
I am sure this choice will be debatable, but I really enjoy this film and I think it gets an unfair rap. As I mentioned earlier, my first experience with Yuzna was with RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART 3, which also happened to be one of my earlier experiences with blood and gore. This naturally gained the film a special place in my heart, and I watched it quite often in the days before I made it to high school, and then watched it throughout high school. It had one of the coolest VHS covers, so whenever I’d rent it out I always felt like a badass (despite me sneaking it past my parents). And re-watching it again today, I still enjoy the heck out of the film. Even though this film has aged, the zombie and gore effects are still top notch and I still have a good time.
This film is a love story at its core (yes, how weird is that?). Perhaps this is worth a yearly re-watch every Valentine’s Day? Here we go: boy has a hot girlfriend. Boy’s father works for the government on a top secret military weapons program. Boy sneaks his girlfriend onto the base where they see some re-animation and zombies. Boy argues with father. Boy crashes his motorcycle and his hot girlfriend gets killed. Boy takes hot girlfriend back to base and re-animates her. Hot girlfriend gets a fetish for eating brains and piercing her body. See, it is a romantic film! The boy named Curt (J. Trevor Edmond) does not leave his hot girlfriend Julie (Melinda Clarke), and after everything still wants to be with her. Throw in some brain eating, more zombies and one hell of a grand piercing session and you’ve got yourself a fun time.
The film is actually nicely executed. We get enough build-up to know what’s going on, we feel the love between the characters and then once we really get going, we really get going. It’s pretty well paced, and I do like how the gore scenes are handled and we get a lot of those. The acting isn’t too bad. I think Melinda Clarke steals the show. Not only is she smoking hot, but she knows exactly how to play it. This is a good role to see her in before she became the go to MILF for television. The special FX work is outstanding. Steve Johnson was in charge here, and a lot of it looks quite gruesome and realistic. It’s nice to see that it has held up. Zombies I think is a sub-genre that Yuzna knows how to handle, and I have enjoyed all of his zombie-related entries.
Yuzna is a fun filmmaker. I enjoy watching his stuff, even if sometimes my enjoyment is for the wrong reasons. He kind of works off the grid, and I think that certainly gives his work a real edge. He definitely pushes the limits and keeps things fresh. He doesn’t really go for the A-typical genre stuff, and we know that when we see a Yuzna film, we’re in for something different. He hasn’t made anything recently, and doesn’t seem to have anything coming up, but I do hope this changes soon, as (and I’m not the only one) I’d love to see another Yuzna film in the near future.
Is there a director you hope to see Dissected? Feel free to send Marcey your suggestions to email@example.com