Exhumed (Video 2003) Poster

(2003 Video)

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If it were two films and we left the material in the middle on the cutting room floor it would be good
Brandt Sponseller25 February 2005
Exhumed is constructed as if it were three shorts. The Forest of Death is set in "feudal Japan". Shadow of Tomorrow is supposed to be a 1940s-era film noir. And the third, Last Rumble, is an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink genre-film appropriation set somewhere between the early 1970s and 2003. The focuses of The Forest of Death and Last Rumble are traditional horror monsters—zombies, vampires and werewolves, although zombies make an appearance in all three segments. (And yes, despite claims from writer/director Brian Clement to the contrary, they are zombies.) Clement also attempts an overarching thread that has something to do with wars/armies of the undead, time travel, Nazi-like villains, and so on.

The premise is slightly incohesive and incoherent. Clement has set an overly ambitious task for himself with Exhumed--in his words, to create a "(postmodernist) critique of postmodernism" combined with an homage ("ripping off" as he calls it) to various kinds of genre films. Despite two good segments, the whole doesn't quite make it.

That's a shame, because both The Forest of Death and Last Rumble rise above--sometimes far above--their super-low-budget limitations. The problem is that Shadow of Tomorrow is awful, and the attempt at an overarching sci-fi horror story never rises above being gobbledy-gook. It's so nonsensical (in a bad way) that it begins to make Donnie Darko (2001) look like the masterpiece that it's not. Clement should have instead made two films--feature length versions of segments 1 and 3, and tossed the Shadow of Tomorrow stuff into the garbage. Then he would have had two 8s instead of one 6, which is equivalent to the letter grade of "D".

Let's talk about what's wrong with Shadow of Tomorrow first, since it's basically what ruins the film. In the director's commentary, which is shared with producer/actor/costume-designer Claire Westby, Westby notes a criticism she encountered about this segment. The critic complained that they were "trying" to make it just like a film noir. Westby countered with, "That's the point!" I think she may be misreading the word "trying". Trying doesn't necessarily mean succeeding.

Many if not most film noirs were quality films, with fine performances, interesting stories, intriguing scripts, great cinematography, lighting, editing, and so on. Sure there were a lot of unusual film noir actors, with quirky dispositions and deliveries--like Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, and James Cagney, but they weren't bad actors--far from it. The film noir segment of Exhumed is loaded with bad acting, a pointless story, banal dialogue, overdone lighting and bad editing.

Clement apparently instructed the cast to be "over-the-top", but over-the-top doesn't mean "deliver this generic and clichéd dialogue in the most stilted, amateurish way you can". If that's what film noir is to Clement and Westby, they're insulting film noir. To make matters worse, Clement and Westby spend a lot of this segment's commentary talking about trying to get period elements just right. Look, I don't care if a skirt hemline is the "right length" or if the radio is of the era and shown subtly or not. Work on creating a good story and dialogue while capturing quality performances. For all the putative period concern, the lighting in the segment, although interesting, is far too harsh to mimic a film noir. The contrasts were not that stark, or at least didn't appear so on film. Perhaps adaptations needed to be made for digital video. Also, despite the very brief Night of the Living Dead (1969)-like opening and the bad Dr. Frankenstein stuff in the end, this segment is not horror or sci-fi, and doesn't fit the tenor of the rest of the film. It doesn't help when the film noir stuff reappears at the end, either.

The problems with Exhumed's film noir are all the more curious in light of the two good segments. The Forest of Death genuinely captures the feel of a late 1960s/early-1970s kung fu horror film. It has a very interesting story and dialogue, pretty good acting, directing and editing, great martial arts work and fantastic special effects. Even though the story is a bit thin for a 90-minute film, it could have easily been expanded without adding much in the way of plot to make a fine film in the tradition of Master of the Flying Guillotine (1975), which has an even thinner plot but is still a masterpiece.

The Last Rumble segment may be even better. It's a bizarre concatenation of everything from Quadrophenia (1979) to Psychomania (1971), The Crazies (1973), Underworld (2003), Evil Dead II (1987), 12 Monkeys (1995), Hellboy (2004), Zombi Holocaust (1980), "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (1997), "Angel" (1999), Frankenstein (1931) and even the Santo films (beginning with Santo vs. The Infernal Men in 1958). We get motorcycle –riding vampire and Fu-Manchu-eyebrowed werewolf gangs in a crazy, surrealistic plot that includes a great vampire and werewolf lesbian scene and lots of well done graphic carnage. The gobbledy-gook almost works in this section, as its consistent with the bizarre tenor of the rest of the material--Psychomania is probably the best comparison for this. Only in this section did Clement achieve a successful wide-ranging genre film pastiche. In Last Rumble, "over-the-top" really is over-the-top, and the result is something that almost spoofs its sources while still respecting them. The sole limitations here are budget-oriented.

Exhumed is not really a critique of postmodernism, and isn't really postmodernist. Postmodernism isn't a cannibalization of self. It's not an exhumation of material. Clement is mistaking postmodernism's particular kinds of self-reference for (necrophilic?) cannibalism. Those are two different ideas, and even self-reference isn't sufficient (or necessary, for that matter) for postmodernism. To be postmodernist, self-reference would have to be in service of pulling the rug out from "truth", or in the case of films, breaking levels of removal--various fictional levels versus reality, theatrical conceits in films, and so on. Instead, Exhumed is more like honest and occasionally sophisticated low-budget hackwork. Sometimes it's successful, but overall it has problems.
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Decent low-budget zombie flick
Noel (Teknofobe70)6 April 2005
When somebody attaches the word "epic" to an independent, low-budget film it generally invokes some suspicion. But the truth is, "Exhumed" is indeed pretty epic. It's a great idea, and for the most part it's fairly well executed.

The story begins in feudal Japan, when a samurai warrior encounters a monk in the woods, and they soon find that they're both after the same thing -- an artifact which is rumoured to have the power to raise the dead. The warrior wants to claim it and take it back to his leader, while the monk says it must be destroyed. Pretty soon, they're attacked by zombies and find they must team up with each other in order to ensure their survival. Then suddenly, whoosh, we're in 1940's America, in a story about a female detective who is hired by a man to track his ex-wife. This leads her down a trail of mystery which has something to do with the recent graverobbing occurrences in the city, and a mysterious ancient artifact of great power ... and then, for the final chapter, we are whisked forward into a post-apocalyptic future where rival gangs of vampire mods and werewolf rockers do battle in ruined cities. Two of them are captured by some military fellows and taken to a base for an experiment involving that same artifact.

These three stories are linked together by more than just the single artifact. There's an aspect of time travel, and also there's a brief mention of an insane general in the future using a map drawn by the insane monk in the first story. It's all tied together fairly well, and for the most part the script is fairly well-written. The special effects are quite innovative, though obviously not that convincing given the budget. There's lots of heads being smashed against walls, zombies torn apart by chainsaws or samurai swords, and just a whole bunch of general carnage. You at least get the impression that they had a lot of fun making it.

It's really a mixed bag because of the three distinct styles of film-making. The samurai story was probably my favourite -- the film-making, the acting and the script are all very good and it's a great opening to the movie. The film noir segment has a pretty good script, but some of the acting is a little dodgy and the directing wasn't nearly as good -- there's often too much plain dialogue and not enough happening on screen, and the editing needed to be tighter in places. In the final post apocalyptic story, the film-making is competent and the acting is generally okay, but all of a sudden there's a lot of unnecessary nudity thrown in, which lowers the tone of the movie somewhat.

This is really only a movie for fans of independent movies or the zombie genre. It's a good effort from director Brian Clement, but it seems he needs more experience before he can have a serious career in movies.
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Stick with this B-movie, it gets better in its third segment.
ThrownMuse7 April 2005
"Exhumed" is a microbudget movie shot on DV that features three intersecting tales set in different time periods. Each segment has few things in common: zombies, the Necronomicon, and...horrendous acting! OK, that's a bit harsh. The first story features a samurai confronted with the living dead in the middle of the woods in feudal Japan. It is an interesting concept, but poorly executed with an anti-climactic ending. The second story is a B&W pseudo-noir about a 1940s detective investigating grave robbings. The lead character is likable, but unfortunately the actress is awful (think noir-imitator meets bored porn star.)

Halfway through this segment I was ready to turn off the movie. Fortunately, I stayed with it, because the final story is worth catching. It takes place in the future, where vampires and werewolves are at war against each other. Sounds like Underworld? Well the vampires here are hipster mods and the werewolves are rockabilly bikers! I would love to see a full-length film with such an amusing premise! During a fight, the opposing gangs are terminated by a group of neo-nazi-ish humans. The loan survivors, a female vampire and a female werewolf, are captured, experimented on, and pitted against zombies for the human entertainment! The acting in this story is much better, although it gets a bit grating listening to the lead actresses spit their dialogue out through their fake teeth. The three stories are connected in a clever way, and by the end of the movie I didn't think it was half bad. With basically no budget, I found it to be a rather charming b-movie. The director is clearly talented and I would be interested in seeing what he could do if he were provided with more resources.

My Rating: 5/10.
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After seeing Meat Market a few years back, I had high expectations when
Jeff Dissent29 December 2004
After seeing Meat Market a few years back, I had high expectations when I received my copy of Exhumed. It was more or less what I expected, and Brian has progressed as a Zombie Film maker. I found the gore to have gotten a bit better than Meat Market. The nudity could have used a bit of work, in my opinion. I know Brian got that hot girl with the tattoos in the movie, but she could maybe have had a bigger role. I liked the way the movie was broken into 3 stories. The making of featurette in the special features was a nice touch too. All in all, I am impressed to see what this goofy hardcore kid from Victoria can do when he gets behind a camera.
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A lesbian sex scene between a vampire and a werewolf? What the....??
hippiedj17 June 2004
Exhumed is a great little discovery. One of those gems that you can't believe is not getting better distribution. It goes to show that you can still make a fun movie without all the big stars or budget, and not have the trappings of what's "marketable."

BUT....creator Brian Clement showed he had to bow to guys' base interests by figuring out a way to get a gratuitous lesbian scene worked into the plot during Exhumed's third story installment "Last Rumble." Sorry, but even if he didn't mean for it to be erotic and just for a giggle, a vampire and werewolf (well, as only indicated on the face) in a scene like that just had me sitting there going "huh?" Two points taken away for that one....I was thoroughly impressed with this project until Clement showed he had to do the typical guy thing ... films that resort to that element show a lack of confidence for the project so that guys will have something to be distracted by and drool a bit. Sure, the other brief nude scene was not necessary -- some of these film makers need to realize though that ONLY aiming to please men with naked women shows they don't really care about a wider audience. Give 'em some boobs and lesbian sex, and they seem to forget about the film's shortcomings and yak about the nudity level on online reviews. Apparently these comments didn't set too well with some of the folks associated with this project, thus at the time of this update this review has "1 out of 6" folks finding this review helpful. Everyone I know that has read this found the comments informative and clear... so to the filmmakers of Exhumed: Hey, it's just criticism. No need to punish me!

Having said that, Exhumed is otherwise a nifty showcase for indie talent. The premise of three stories that overlap at one point, all involving an object that raises the dead is quite clever. Technically it's quite good despite some faulty audio levels, and it looks great for its micro-budget sets and locations. A lot of care went into the samurai segment "Shi No Mori" with the language, and the costumes and hairstyles for "Shadow Of Tomorrow" were impressive. The outrageousness level of "Last Rumble" reminded me of Garrett White's video project NECROPOLIS AWAKENED, and lessened the charm of the trilogy of stories a bit for me. But as a whole, Exhumed still entertained and is a reason I love ultra-indie productions. I do hope to see more like this and ones like THE DIVIDING HOUR.

If Mr. Clement sticks to creative stories and doesn't go the "Troma" route of breast fests and lesbians, then he has a good future in making movies.
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zombie snoozefest
tbnormal24 May 2004
I happened to catch the first half of Exhumed the other day at a horror fest I had attended. I am a huge fan of indie horror and was excited to see what was out there from real horror fans. What I saw was beyond dull and caused me to walk out. The next day I was reading reviews of the film and was surprised to see that most all of them praised the film for all sorts of reasons; visual style, acting, story, gore.... Please understand, I am a very forgiving soul when it comes to micro-budget films. Some of the greatest films of all time look awful, but make up for it in originality, story, performance and gore. Look at Peter Jackson's BAD TASTE. It's painfully bad, and yet undeniably original. I will sit through it time and time again because it has enough great material to sustain its length.

Exhumed has a very good premise with very poor execution. I love the "zombie through the ages" idea, but there is nothing worse than a good idea gone horribly wrong. Samurais and zombies...what a great idea! So much great stuff you could do with that. Sadly, nothing a great interest happens. The little fighting there is is very poorly executed, making it laughable for all the wrong reasons. I think if a little more time was taken on the script, they could have had something fun, but instead we are left with a snore fest of the walking dead. Van Helsing was a good idea in theory as well.
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