Monday, May 12, 2014

Cowboys & Zombie Thingies

In the realm of straight-to-Netflix-Instant horror, we find a lot of repeated patterns. Pretty young people traveling to a supernaturally haunted location. Saw ripoffs with single three-letter word titles. 

We’ve seen a lot.

It’s why any time a movie with an uncommon setting or preference will catch my attention. In today’s case, that means a horror western starring Wesley Snipes (in between IRS hearings) as a gunfighter forced to battle the rising undead whom he has already killed.

Yeah, I’m in.

Quick Plot: Aman (Snipes) is a whispery badass in fringe who issues some serious vigilante justice to baddies. The problem, as so many of us experience in our daily lives, is that every time Aman puts a rapist or murderer down, the body eventually comes right back up. Such creatures, as you might guess, are known as ‘gallowwalkers.’

Yes, it’s one word, and yes, SpellCheck is having a major freakout about it.

Thankfully, Aman befriends the amazingly named Fabulos. There’s nothing that amazing about Fabulos aside from his fabulo(u)s name, but having a handsome sidekick provides Aman a sounding board for exposition. Here’s the scoop:

A pregnant prostitute found herself in a nunnery that happened to be located in a gateway to hell (or to the Sunnydale smart, a hellmouth). There, she gave birth to a son who was then sent away to wander the world until he befriended a slaughterhouse owner who raised him beside her daughter, whom he eventually fell in love with. One day, the man (I’m sorry: Aman) left his lover alone for a few hours and came back to find her gang raped and impregnated by a band of nogoodniks. Aman left her to seek vengeance, during which time she had a blond dreaded hair son and died. Meanwhile, Aman found the villains and killed them (including the leader’s loyal hooker), only to quickly discover that his place of birth now causes any man who dies at his hand to come back.

That sounds vaguely interesting, right? We’ve got hell-guarding nuns, slaughterhouse mamas, black hats, hookers with hearts of gold, hookers being shot in the heart, and zombie bad guys. THIS SHOULD BE AWESOME.

It could be, if aforementioned sequence wasn’t narrated by Snipes with less tone variance than Brad Pitt’s entire performance in Interview With a Vampire. Still, we stick with Gallowwalkers because, you know, horror western.

Honestly, a lot of it is. This is the kind of film that has, for no real reason, a beautiful Old West prostitute being kept around by the big bad villain because her skin texture will be perfect to garb the resurrected corpse of his beloved son. For goodness sakes, said beautiful prostitute is called a “painted cat” and later kills a priest with the line “forgive me father, for I have skinned.” There is very little reason why Gallowwalkers isn’t the greatest film since 7 Mummies.

Nah, I kid. VERY FEW THINGS come close to the glorious ridiculousness of Seven Mummies. Directed by the fabulo(u)sly named Andrew Goth, Gallowwalkers is a far better film than the one that involved stock footage tarantulas and kung fu flying mummies dressed like jawas. Henner Hofmann’s cinematography is genuinely gorgeous, and some of the design choices (particularly in the villains’ bag/bucket/alien twizzle headed garb) offer a surprisingly surreal touch. I say, without irony, that Gallowwalkers has some chops.

It’s also a little silly. From the Village of the Damned-styled villagers to the never-effective use of the big bad demon voice, some viewers will find a lot to chuckle at in this film. Snipes was right in the middle of his IRS criminal proceedings, and perhaps the real-world stress of that contributed something to his bizarrely listless performance.

Gallowwalkers is not, by any means, of high quality in conventional terms, but it tries to offer something new. In the world of modern horror, that’s always welcome.

Also, there are A LOT of beheadings. Beautiful, ridiculous, hilarious beheadings.

High Points
Filmed in Namibia, the setting of Gallowwalkers is positively stunning. It’s always nice to see a genre movie embrace sunlight, and while it doesn’t always flatter the CGI head explosions, the bright pallet is genuinely refreshing

Low Points
While I appreciate any film that tries to include a strong female character or two, Angel (that’s the ‘nice’ hooker) is ultimately such a wasted opportunity

Wesley Snipes is a good action star. Wesley Snipes is not a good narrator

Lessons Learned
Wearing a hat in the rain is a good idea

Trouble with the damned is they never stay put

Makeup in the Old West held up amazingly well to the elements

One just can’t go wrong with a white shirt (particularly if you one has no skin)

Skullbuckets present quite a few challenges to peripheral vision, even if you’re Diamond Dallas Page

Hey, for a 90 minute stream on Instant Watch, Gallowwalkers has a lot more to offer than most of its competition. No, it’s not a ‘good’ film per say, but it’s visually quite striking and in terms of its story, there are a lot of fresh choices. Know what you’re getting, then, when the mood strikes you, go get it.


  1. Wow, that's an amazingly awful pun!

    There seem to be quite a few Weird Westerns popping up as of late. At the recent local markets, I saw a DVD for a movie that's title was near-identical to Cowboys and Aliens. I didn't get it though. On one hand, I didn't want to see Asylum type creature feature crap (I was already taken in once by the boring Warbirds, which was about WWII WAFS take on evil pterodactyls), but on the other hand, this movie stars Billy Drago! Granted, he could only be in the film for two minutes, and the DVD is pulling a Trojan Carradine.

    1. Billy Drago: ALWAYS a mark of sound quality (I mean, 7 MUMMIES!).

      I wonder what the impetus for the new low budget horror western is. Are they just reusing old sets from Deadwood?

    2. By the way, I have a question. I guess I'll email you about it, rather than clog up the comments.