Monday, January 25, 2016

Review: Captain Z and the Terror of Leviathan

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2014
Images from the Internet

Captain Z and the Terror of Leviathan
Directed by Steve Rudzinski  
Silver Spotlight Films / MVD Visuals                           
74 minutes, 2014 

With a name like Captain Z & the Terror of Leviathan, there are things that are going to be assumed, the most obvious of which is that this is going to be a really terrible film, or a WTF hoot. Thankfully, this very generously falls into the latter.

For those who didn’t grow up in the Wheeling, WV, area, Captain Z is a commercial character that has been seen on local television for decades to promote a store that buys and sells jewelry (think about it, “Arg, matey, sell us your treasure”). It was started by co-writer and actor Zoltan Zilai’s dad (get it? Captain Z? There ya go), and is now played by him. Having worked with Pittsburgh-based writer/director Steve Rudzinski before on Everyone Must DIE! [reviewed HERE], it makes sense he tapped Rudzinski to complete an idea to use his Captain Z (aka Captain Zachariah Zicari) character in a more full-blown production. Rudzinski picked up the challenge.

Apparently, as the expository prologue provides, 300 years ago to the year (1714), in picturesque Wheeling, WV of all places, four humans possessed by demons – two of which are not overly bright – try to raise the dark god Leviathan to bring destruction on the puny mortals of earth. All they need is an amulet, a redheaded woman (I wonder, does it have to be a woman? What about a redheaded man? Oh, yeah, cleavage factor, right… okay, onward) and a sentence-long incantation, and Leviathan rises from…the Ohio River? Thanks to the quick actions of the good Cap Z and Rosa, his sidekick chicken (you heard me), the demons are vanquished into a void that also drags the good pirate along with ‘em.

Heather, Captain Z and the Professor
Some credits later, we are introduced to a motley crew of (mostly) slackers who work at a museum giving tours to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the saving of the town (“Captain Z Days”). Among them are the interesting looking but nowhere near intelligent Heather (played with charm by Madison Siple), the intelligent yet abrasive Samantha (Cerra Atkins), the enthusiastic Neal. (Josh Devett) who dresses like the Captain at the museum, and his dad, who is the monotone, slow-burn curator of the place, Sterling (cinematographer, editor, etc., Scott Lewis). Along comes a spi… I mean a professor of mysticism, played snarkily and humorously by Rudzinski (in a role similar to the Giles character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, except with cool appeal), who arrives searching for the amulet that has been missing for 300 years.

Of course, the very day he shows up, it’s found by a family of rednecks who read the incantation on it and are instantly possessed. The leader of the quad is played by the buxom Aleen Isley, and among the rest is Seth Gontkovic, who nearly steals his scenes, as he did in EMD! as DJ Pink. He wears a bright and obvious copper-colored wig, for some reason, like he’s trying to look like an adult Opie Taylor. Like many of the others in this film, Seth is a regular in Rudzinski’s endeavors. I say when you find people who work out, keeping them close is a good thing. When the demons return, it also brings back the loveable Captain Z.

Aleen Isley as Vepar
The game is afoot to get back the amulet, and have the good Capt. get adjusted to the new-fangled contraptions (he really wants to drive/command a car) and cultural mores. He a somewhat good man in a strange situation; as he states to a pirate groupie (Lacy Brooks in a fun turn, who also does much of the great make-up effects) at a wild beer- and drug-fueled party, “I’ve done some bad things, but not evil things.” Honestly, his “arg” and “mateys” get a bit tiresome at times, especially how bad his accent is, but hell, this movie is a broad comedy so I’ll let it be and take it for what it is.

There is easily a Pirates of the Caribbean meets Demons vibe going on here, but the jokes are sometimes really good. For example, Heather collects “deformed jelly beans,” and another cries out after being interrupted, “Dude, I’m trying to bang your sister!” There is also a very brief homage to Mel Brooks’ High Anxiety (1977) when someone comments in a throwaway line, “I got it; I don’t got it.”

Played over the top just enough to be broad without being cartoonish, the acting here is quite substantial for this kind of gig, and nods to one and all. The gore effects are not over the top, but are quite well done throughout, most accomplished with appliances rather than using digi (with a rare exception being a Dustin Mills’ CGI creature). As with other Rudzinski productions, the women are not model types but have real curves and the occasional chunky parts, which is appreciated. Besides, there is ample cleavage to keep the viewer happy, if that’s a thrill for ya.

The extras are two commentaries (which I didn’t get to hear), a long segmented interview short with the director and some of the actors (Lewis comes off as charmingly abrasive), some of the Captain Z Jewelry commercials through the years, a blooper reel, and lots of others.

There is obviously room left at the end for the next adventure of the professor and the pirate, apparently dealing with vampires. Is this film outlandish? Most certainly. Is it goofy? Hoooh yeah. Is it worth seeing? Most definitely. This isn’t necessarily something you’d watch as a companion of, say, Robert Wise’s The Haunting (1960), but would easily be seen with the likes of The Puppet Monster Massacre (2010) or The Disco Exorcist (2011). Actually, it would play well with The Pirates of the Caribbean series, though bang for the buck spent by the production, this might win.


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