Low-Budget [Nothing Cheap About These] Thrills: Gamebox 1.0, The Hunt, Dead and Deader

Gamebox 1.0 - Box ArtGamebox 1.0 is the latest in a new genre: adventures in a video game world; The Hunt combines the alien hunters genre with a Blair Witch stylishness, and Dead and Deader combines three genres: the buddy movie, the zombie movies, and the superhero movie…

Gamebox 1.0

Charlie Nash [Nate Richert] is a lonely guy who, when he isn't playing video games, works as a video game tester. Because of a tragedy in his life – his girlfriend, Kate, was accidentally shot by a drug-abusing cop – he's let his social life dwindle to nothingness. Then, one day, he gets a strange parcel in the mail…

Gamebox 1.0 is a unique, immersive video game system – and by immersive, I mean that when someone plays the game, they seem to be inside the game. The player places the skeletal helmet on his head and hits the start button on the ovoid game console and is transported to the world of the game, where he can choose from three games: Zombie Land, Crime Spree and Alien Planet. To add verisimilitude to the game, the player can take photos of friends [and enemies] and they can be translated into characters in each scenario. The one drawback is that if you die in the game, you die. Period.

After a few false starts, Charlie gets into the game – especially since the game draws from his memories [it didn't tell him everything about character building]. Thus, the games' damsel in distress, Princess [Danielle Fishel], is a dead-ringer for his dead girlfriend – which adds an extra undercurrent of urgency to the game, along with that created by his choice of villain: the cop [Patrick Kilpatrick] who killed Kate.

Since the bulk of the movie is set in the worlds of the Gamebox's games, most of the movie is shot in front of a green screen. The result is that the worlds of the games look like high-end video games. The games come with things like "health icons" [for healing injuries], extra lives [Charlie gets three to start out] and weapons [which can be stored in a separate dimension to come when called]. Various of the scenarios call for teamwork and brainwork, but there's also a good amount of First Person Shooter action.

Overall, Gamebox 1.0 is a surprisingly well-written SF/action movie with an effective cast and appropriate [and therefore excellent] effects. Producers/Directors David and Scott Hillenbrand [who also developed the story with screenwriters Patrick Kelly and Worm Miller] keep things moving at an acceptable clip, and do a nice job of balancing character, exposition and action.

Features include: Audio Commentary by the Hillenbrands, Co-Executive Producer Jon coven, and Editor Dave O'Brien; Making of Gamebox 1.0; Bloopers/Gag Reel, and Deleted/ Extended Scenes [with optional commentary].

Gamebox 1.0 – Grade: B

Features – Grade: A-

Final Grade: B+

The Hunt - Box Art

The Hunt

When Jack [Joe Michael Burke] and his stepson, Clint [Mitchell Burns] set out with videographer Atticus Monroe [Robert Rusler] to make a how video on the subject of bow hunting deer, everything seems great. It's a beautiful day, they're well prepared – and it's going to be a great opportunity for Jack and Mitchell to bond.

As the trio stalk a deer in a one-day game lease section of woods, a disturbing second arc begins. This arc features Jon [Cliff de Young], Clint's father, as he records efforts to find the trio – who have mysteriously gone missing. The first arc is recorded by the cameras being used by Atticus and Clint [for whom Atticus fashioned a mini-cam in a bicycle helmet to provide extra footage].

The result is like a dual documentary that follows the trio in the woods and the father's efforts to find them. Outside of a somewhat larger budget, and color, the techniques used have the kind of feeling that we've seen used to good effect by the makers of The Blair Witch. To add to the atmosphere, the three encounter a surly hunter as they begin their own hunt; there are weird, machine monoliths in different parts of the woods [with constructed circles inside which are piles of white powder], and mysterious sounds that could be the wind [but probably aren't].

The Hunt is a relatively smart, concise [ninety minutes] thriller that builds suspense through sound, lighting, pauses and character interaction [things aren't as pleasant as they first seem between Jack and Atticus, for example]. While the pacing during the trio's video making is a bit slow, that's offset by the somewhat quicker pacing of the "search" videos. Intercutting between the two adds impact to both.

Fritz Kiersch [Children of the Corn] does a nice job of drawing performances from his veteran cast of character actors [De Young being the best known of the bunch] and it's because of that that The Hunt works as well as it does.

Features include: The Hunt Chronicles [a thirty-minute making of documentary] and the Theatrical Trailer [which, perhaps, gives too much away].

The Hunt – Grade: B

Features – Grade: C-

Final Grade: B-

Dead and Deader - Box Art

Dead and Deader

On a secret mission, Lt. Bobby Quinn [Dean Cain] and his men are killed by deadly insects that resemble glow-in-the-dark white scorpions. When Quinn awakens on an autopsy table back home, he discovers that the rest of his men have become full-blown zombies and are snacking on base personnel. By removing the insect burrowing inside his body before it reaches his brain, Quinn stops the zombification process – although still dead, he's not quite a flesh-eating monster. With the help of a smartass cook, Hieronymous Judson [Guy Torry], and a female film geek, Holly [Susan Ward], Quinn undertakes the task of dealing with the zombies who were his friends.

Dead and Deader is pretty ambitious for a made-for-TV movie [which originally aired on the Sci Fi Channel]. It's a buddy movie – the relationship between Quinn and Judson reminds of more pairs of action heroes than we have time to list; it's a zombie movie [with the requisite commentary of relationships, military intelligence and such], and it's a superhero movie [because Quinn hasn't completely gone zombie, he's able to utilize his increased strength and perceptivity toward positive ends].

Because of its ambitions, the movie feels a bit awkward at times, but usually manages to get past it with humor [like the vast majority of buddy movies, actually]. And what is a superhero without a weakness? Quinn occasionally needs to chow down on raw meat, or his buddies begin to look like lunchmeat…

Then there's the multitude of B-Movie references that wink at genre fans [Hieronymous Bosch, painter of hellish montages; officers Raimi and Campbell, and so on], and the cast of genre vets [Cain, Ward, Natassia Malthe, Armin Shimerman, Dean Haglund, Colleen Camp, and so on]. Clearly, despite nods at commentary, Dead and Deader is meant to be little more than a fun romp across three usually disparate genres.

Thanks to a reasonably witty script by Steve Kriozere and Mark A. Altman, and fast-paced direction by Patrick Dinhut, Dead and Deader succeeds, for the most part. It's
not a movie that you'll want to rush out and buy [unless you're a hardcore zombie film fan], but it's pretty enjoyable, overall.

Features include: Audio Commentary with Writer Kriozere and Writer/Producer Altman; Raising The Dead – The Making of Dead and Deader; a Photo Gallery, and the screenplay [DVD-ROM].

Dead and Deader – Grade: C+

Features – Grade: B

Final Grade: B-

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