Thursday, 7 May 2015


I've covered a couple of horror-comedies so far here at The House and recently talented young director Steve Rudzinski (who had a starring role in the very fun Scream Park) has been making quite the name for himself in the sub-genre.
The very friendly Rudzinski was recently kind enough to get in touch to ask if I'd like to review his upcoming horror-comedy-swashbuckler (a horrorcombuckler?) Captain Z & The Terror of Leviathan.
Having heard good things about Rudzinski's work I was quick to say yes.
So would this tale float my boat? Or would it just be a pain in the booty?
Read on…


Dir: Steve Rudzinski

Starring: Zoltan Zilai, Madison Siple, Scott Lewis, Josh Devett, Cerra Atkins, Joshua Antoon, Steve Rudzinski, Aleen Isley, Seth Gontkovic, Ian S Livingston, Christine Mancini, Lacy Brooks

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here, but continue at your own risk.

In 1714 a group of demonically possessed followers of the dark god Leviathan prepare to sacrifice a red-headed maiden to bring their evil master into this world and doom the Earth.

At the last possible moment, daring pirate Captain Zachariah Zicari (Zilai) swoops in and rescues the damsel, thwarting their plan. However, the demons and Captain Z find themselves sucked into an otherworldly portal, vanishing without a trace.
Flashforward to modern-day and Captain Z has become something of a legend to the local townsfolk. There's even a museum that celebrates his legacy, run by acidic curator Kincaid (Lewis) and his group of young workers including horndog J.T. (Antoon), sardonic Samantha (Atkins), loveably dorky Neal (Devett) and cute but very dim Heather (Siple).
When the snappily square Professor Stewart (Rudzinski) arrives, he aims to enlist the gang to help him discover a mystical amulet that played a key role in Captain Z's finest hour. Alas, Stewart is too late as a local family of hillbillies have discovered the amulet and then accidentally activate it. The demonic followers of Leviathan return, possessing the clan of rednecks, and, led by the nefarious Vepar (Isley) set about their dark plan once again.
However, it was not just the demons that were brought back from their inter-dimensional prison — Captain Z is also freed and, despite his fish-out-of-water status in the modern world, is soon allied with the young gang and Professor Stewart as they look to defeat the forces of Leviathan once and for all.
Will the gang succeed? Will the Captain find himself a lusty wench? And just what does that shadowy man after the credits have in mind?

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): More than anything Captain Z & The Terror of Leviathan is a fun film. From the opening scene in which Captain Z is ably assisted in his battle by his trusty and deadly chicken sidekick Rosa to defeat the dimwitted demons, it's very clear that this isn't setting out to be the ultimate experience in gruelling terror. Nor is it trying to compete with the multi-million-dollar Pirates of the Caribbean franchise when it comes to supernatural nautical action — instead it is looking to provide plenty of laughs and doesn't take itself too seriously to do so.

Rudzinski told me that seminal horror-comedy The Army of Darkness was a big influence on his film and that can be seen all too clearly. The movie skims along at a nice brisk pace, firing out gags like a mirth machinegun, and for the most part, these jokes hit the target.
This is mainly down to the fantastic writing by Rudzinski and Zilai. Just like Cut! this is yet another movie in which the co-writers take two of the lead roles while one handles directing duty. This sort of multitasking always impresses, especially when each job is performed well. The plot is goofy, but never betrays its own internal logic, and the story is surprisingly captivating. 
However, arguably the best writing comes in the characterisation. Each of the characters stands out, none are lost in the background and each has their moment to shine. By writing for such a large cast Rudzinski and Zilai are able to keep the script fast moving and avoid any of the joke characters from becoming too repetitive. For example, Captain Z's deliberately hackneyed 'pirateisms' could well have worn out their welcome if he had remained the sole focus of the flick, but by giving us regular breaks from the character we find ourselves lifted each time he appears rather than bored. It's a fine balancing act and they absolutely nail it.
Other characters that stand out are the delightfully dippy Heather, the sinfully girlishly evil Vepar and the long-suffering Stewart. With some fine moments involving the supporting cast, including lunkish T.J, the adorably naive Neal and (quite possibly my favourite of the gang) the dry Samantha, the dialogue throughout is of a pretty high and very witty standard.
The well-written characters are ably brought to life by a decent cast.
The show is very nearly stolen by the very attractive Siple. She has wonderful comic timing, and is very easy on the eye, so I predict big things from her in the future.
The two leading men Zilai and Rudzinski are also awesome. Rudzinski's is the more grounded role and he has some of the best lines, which he nails. He's very funny and his committed performance in the more physical scenes is admirable. This is one talented dude.
Zilai's is the biggest, most outrageous role and he plays it with gusto.

He swaggers and struts, spewing cliched pirate slang and diving into his sword fighting scenes with aplomb. Yes, this is a broad performance (and his cornish pirate accent slips a couple of times) but that is exactly what it requires. In fact, it just serves to make his work all the more likeable.
Like the vast majority of the cast, he is clearly having a fantastic time on set and it makes the movie that little bit more enjoyable for the audience too.
Furthermore the moronically comic possessed hillbillies are all great value too. As the group's sinister leader Isley nails it (plus her climactic battle with the forces of good is a surprisingly well-choreographed and fun knockabout brawl), although the devilishly wicked  Mancini gives a brilliant turn in her key scene. Excellent work ladies.
Finally, I loved the stoic and world-weary turn put in by Lewis. As the straightman to his wackier students he totally understood his role and handled it flawlessly.
Now, there's no getting away from the fact that Captain Z & The Terror of Leviathan is a lower budget effort (the imdb states that it was made for just $15,000!). However, despite this Rudzinski and co have done a great job with what they had.
Even the effects work looks pretty good in places, especially the great demon makeup on the villains. Very nice!
Rudzinski's direction does a good job of hiding any shortcomings in the picture, while the cinematography (by Lewis) ensures that the film looks as good as it possibly can. This is some nicely polished filmmaking from a group of individuals with a clear vision and committed determination to get the movie they want made. And for the most part, this drive has proven successful. Well done gang, kudos!
The latter stages of the movie suggest that Captain Z and the team could well be heading toward another showdown with a group of equally nefarious horror villains. If this means we can look forward to Captain Z & The Fangs of The Vampire King, count me in!
Finally, I want to touch on that post-credits scene. If you wish to remain unspoiled, look away right now.
Taking a cue from the Avengers, we see Captain Z being recruited into a team of slasher hunters. This follows on from Rudzinski's own short 2011's Slasher Hunters, which itself has ties to his 2012 movie Everyone Must Die, last year's Red Christmas and the 2013 short, The Killer, which directly leads into Captain Z. I love a good connected universe and Rudzinski is artfully spinning quite the web here. The quality of Captain Z means I'll definitely be checking out the rest of his catalogue... stay tuned for more reviews!

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): There's no denying it — Captain Z & The Terror of Leviathan is a low budget indie horror flick. It's a very good one, but if you want the polish of a Blumhouse horror of the sort you'll see at your local cinema, you may be left wanting.

Of course, the budget has had a knock on effect on certain things — for example, Captain Z's costume looks almost identical to a very cheap Jack Sparrow costume I wore on a boozy stag do a few years ago — but you can't help but admire the earnest way in which the crew have stuck by their vision and gone for some things that may well have seemed beyond their humble means. I find that when it comes to looking past the budget of a genre flick it's either something the viewer can or can't do, there's no middle ground. If you can't, I'm afraid Captain Z may not be for you, but if you can, there's a surprisingly fun little flick waiting for you.  
The budget obviously also has an effect on the cast. With several individuals handling multiple roles, there were some times in which their inexperience showed. It was nothing too serious but every now and then we got a clunky line delivery or awkward reaction. These don't crop up so often that they ruin the film and, for the most part, they don't occur at times that damage any key scenes. I do feel I should hasten to add that at no point did I ever feel the cast were half-assing this. Everybody comes across as if they are working hard and making a real effort. It's just that a couple of times a lack of experience hinders their work. Oh well.
As a comedy, the success of Captain Z & The Terror of Leviathan pretty much hangs on how funny it is. I thought it was pretty amusing, but that is very much a question of sense of humour so I can't speak for everybody. Alas a couple of the gags fell flat, but even the most uproarious of comedies can't bat a hundred. Instead, this one keeps the quips coming thick and fast so even if one misses the spot it's not long until another will be coming your way.
Finally, a couple of times I noticed some slight audio issues. Of course, I watched the movie online so it could very much have been an issue with the screener rather than the final product. In that case I'm prepared to give the movie the benefit of the doubt, so I'm happy to overlook it. Never mind, I still worked out everything that was happening throughout and heard more than enough punchlines to gags to ensure that I had plenty of laughs.

THE VERDICT: I'll be honest with you, Captain Z & The Terror of Leviathan is not a perfect movie. However, it is much better than it has any right to be and is a genuinely fun viewing experience. The movie suggests there will be a sequel and this one did more than enough right to get me onboard for that. This is the sort of movie to watch with a group of friends, some cold beers and a pizza and just go with it. You won't regret it.

If you'd like more info on Captain Z, head over to the film's facebook page and check it out. Give it a Like while you're at it. And for those of you wondering where you can check it out, the movie gets it worldwide release on 19th May, so get ready!

If you haven’t already, do please check out and like the Hickey’s House of Horrors Facebook page, which you can find here. It gives you a nice quick link to any new posts on this blog, plus regular news updates from around the web. I check the Internet so you don’t have to! Alternatively, follow me on twitter: The House@HickeysHorrors

Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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