Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Len Kabasinski Special Part 1- Swamp Zombies.

Let me introduce you to a man named Len. He’s a cheap and cheerful director of pure schlock from Pennsylvania. I’m going to go through all his films in order, and attempt to do actual criticism of them, rather than throw the word “cunt” around a lot. So it these may not be the most entertaining reviews I’ve ever done. Nevertheless, here we go with his debut feature, 2005’s Swamp Zombies.

Swamp Zombies is a fairly simple film made excessively complicated. Basically, an evil scientist dude is tinkering with a serum to re-animate the dead. Anyway, there’s a school trip to the swamp near his facility, and sure enough the dead come back to life and start terrorising the living. The sherriff, Jack, eventually cleans things up and saves the day.

Firstly, the acting in this is pretty bad. Len himself plays Jack and he’s not too bad, actually, and he’s supported by Porn Star Jasmin St. Clair, Blue Meanie Brian Heffron and Pamela Sutch. St. Clair is comfortably the best on-screen, but I suspect that’s because she’s had the most experience. However, the real revelation here is Heffron- if I didn’t happen to know that he made this before Fist of the Vampire then I would honestly believe that the films were made the other way round. He’s much more “natural” on-screen here, and it’s a much better performance than the later role. The rest of the support is clearly comprised of amateurs, and it’s pretty obvious.

The writing is a touch ropey, and I’ll come back to this in a minute. Len himself wrote it, and there are problems- it’s contradictory, the mad scientist plot is, I’m pretty certain but stand to be corrected, straight from Resident Evil (the game, not the piss-poor Anderson film) in that he’s stimulating electrical energy (I think), and it’s otherwise a fairly generic zombie film. The dialogue is also laboured, and some of the characterisation makes little sense. To be fair, this is because a lot of the characters are little more than zombie fodder.

This is clearly an almost zero budget film so there’s no real point criticising it. There’s never going to be extensive CGI or impressive makeup in a film like this. The gore, on the other hand, is thrown around all over the place, and it’s well done and in a little schlocky film like this there’s no point at all in sparing the claret. To Len’s immense credit, this is the second film I’ve seen, he clearly doesn’t feel any need at all to spare the blood.

I happen to know, because Len said so, that Troma was the model for Swamp Zombies, but the point of a lot of Troma films, notably Poultreygeist and Toxie, is that there’s a strong thread of satire running underneath the gore and gross antics. Swamp Zombies is completely lacking this sly intelligence which is a shame, because that’s really what makes Troma as great as they are. Having said that, though, Swamp Zombies is intentionally funny on more than one occasion. The best example I can give is the sequence where Sutch is escaping from the zombies. She’s trying to put her top on and the living dead are shambling along behind her. It’s an intentionally funny sequence, and feels really reminiscent of Benny Hill. I don’t know if this was the model, but I wouldn’t be surprised either. The other stand out funny sequence is when Jack’s deputy is being killed and he’s doing DIY. This is so absurd, and so well done that it shows considerable promise.

There is a strong sense of slapstick to the film. Len’s background is martial arts and he always throws in a good amount of fighting. In this case, the scenes with Jack fighting the zombies are downright funny on occasion as the undead get tossed around like rag dolls. While I’m on this subject, the best piece of shot composition in the film is during one of these sequences- Jack slams a zombies head through a closed car window. The camera is placed inside the car and the zombies head smashes the glass right up to the camera. It’s a really good shot, and stands out in the film.

The other thing that Len clearly understands is the nature of these type of films, and isn’t shy of getting his actresses naked for the cause of cinema. St. Clair gets a completely pointless and gratuitous shower sequence, Sutch runs along with her tits out and so forth. There’s a lot in the way of nudity here.

Nevertheless, this isn’t a terribly good film. I’m giving it a lot of latitude because it’s a debut, but I’m sorry to say that for a lot of the time Swamp Zombies is boring. Basically, every single idea that they had is regurgitated on-screen here. There’s no sense of control and it’s run time is credited as 90 minutes on IMDB, but honestly felt a lot longer. A more tight edit (a lot of this should have ended up on the cutting room floor) would have made a world of difference to it. Shame.

Secondly, Len himself choreographed the fight scenes and they’re not great. The problem here is that he’s working with amateurs. Heffron stands miles ahead of the rest of the cast here, but he should with his wrestling background. The problem is that the fight scenes are far too slow and you can see a lot of punches/ kicks etc miss the target. I totally understand that Len can’t go about clobbering his extras but these scenes drag and look amateurish. If I had to give out a bit of advice regarding this, it’s another cracking example of less being more, and the big climactic scene itself feels really flat.

Overall, Swamp Zombies is a bad film and I don’t recommend it. However, I would say that it does in fact show some promise. The car-window smash suggests that Len has genuine potential, and the St. Clair shower scene is worth the price of admission by itself. Finally, when the comedy works, it’s quite funny. However, for most of the time the film doesn’t work, drags and is kind of dull.

All in all, it’s not a good film, sure, but it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen. I actually think that it might be better than Fist of the Vampire- it certainly doesn’t offend as badly, you can see and hear what’s going on (unlike fist) and there’s no crappy CGI that I remember. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, Troma this ain’t.

I give it 1.5 Juggs out of 4 (there really is an awful lot of nudity here).

Until next time (Please don’t hit me Len),

Jarv.

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

38 responses to “Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Len Kabasinski Special Part 1- Swamp Zombies.”

  1. Jarv says :

    I promised I’d do this in a mature and adult fashion, so it’s not as funny as the Fist one. It’s not as insulting either.

    Still, should be good for a laugh.

  2. kloipy says :

    Good review Jarv. I think I disliked this a lot more than you did but I didn’t entirely hate it. I even would have been more forgiving had it been MUCH shorter. As in just the lotion scene and the zombie fight in the woods.
    Are you going to let Len know when you post these?
    I know he said he has a kid, but I’m not sure if he’s married. I’m wondering if so, does his wife have a problem with him using porn actresses in his films or dealing with the sex/nude scenes? Kind of a stupid question but I’m curious.
    Also Len if you do happen to come back in I do have a few other questions to ask
    1. If you could go back and change something from your career in film what would you do differently?
    2. What is your biggest project that you haven’t done yet due to financing/casting?
    3. If you do decide to continue on in the very indie circuit, what are your ideas to bring something new to the scene?

    • Jarv says :

      After I come back and re-review Fist (it’s still getting an Orangutan of Doom), I’m going to email a load of questions to him to see if he’ll answer.

      If he doesn’t see this, I’m going to wait and send them all to him in one- see what he says. I’m doing these “straight” more in the style I do the Horror Series.

      No argument at all about the length. Should have been cut drastically. There’s a lot of extraneous stuff in it. A prime example is Lillian swimming in the pool. Just doesn’t add anything.

      I didn’t want to crap on about using local buildings like schools and things.

    • Bartleby says :

      I know I brought this up in the Pit drunken cinema TB, but I’ll regurgitate it again.

      In that film, the director’s wife would not let him direct any of the nude scenes in the film, EXCEPT….the ones involving his own daughter.

      Good review here Jarv. I think Len will appreciate you are attempting to look at them from a less biased/less helpful perspective.

      Despite this being a negative review, I think you have peaked my interest enough–just so I can udnerstand the man and his work– to take a peek at Swamp Zombies.

      • Jarv says :

        argento does the same with his daughter and nudity. Weird.

        It’s not a good film, Jonah. However, it is on Youtube.

      • koutchboom says :

        Well there may be a reason. Jasmin St. Claire used to be a former world record holder in a “special” category.

      • Bartleby says :

        yea, I get that it’s crap…this is probably premature, but it seems like one of the problems here is that Len’s not playing far enough out in the genre field.

        Like, Swamp Zombies and Fist of the Vampire seem so deriviative of big budget things, that there’s no real draw to them.Youmay have more success if you swing for the fences, and try to film an original crazy idea thats not dependent on the budget. For example, what if Swamp Zombies becomes Swamp Gorillas vs Swamp Ninjas?

        Great example of something good on a low, low budget Len? Thicker than Water. Check it out. Good writing and direction trump the terribly thin resources.

  3. Bartleby says :

    love the rating, and the shower scene shot is hilarious.

  4. Tom_Bando says :

    NEEDS GIANT ROBOTS.

    Well okay, that’s outta this guy’s budget. Jarv, seemed like a fair-minded review. Can’t say I’d bother sitting thru it, maybe he has some promise though? Lenny needs a budget.

    • Jarv says :

      Cheers Tom. It’s not a great film, but it does show promise. I wouldn’t bother rooting it out.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        I’m not likely to. But you’re being true to your word, actually reviewing his stuff instead of going down the ‘cunt’ garden path. I think that’s a good idea. He’ll prob. appreciate the effort?

  5. Droid says :

    Good review. A very… constrained critique. It is a first film on what I assume is a zero budget, so it’ll be interesting to see if the films improve (after Fist).

  6. Continentalop says :

    Good review jarv but I’ll be honest, I miss the excessive use of the word cunt.

  7. Continentalop says :

    Bart brought up Thicker Than Water. I really got to see that.

  8. Continentalop says :

    My question is do Swamp Zombies really deserve a movie over Jungle or Mountain Zombies? Or even Desert Zombies?

  9. Tom_Bando says :

    Anyone had a chance to see ‘the Fighter’ w/ Mark Wahlberg or Batman Bale yet as a sneak-peek? it sounds really good. True life story of Lowell Mass’ very own Micky Ward, a welter weight from not too far back. Directed by the Three Kings guy, David Russell. I’ll see it just because.

  10. ThereWolf says :

    That’s a fair review, Jarv. Can’t see Len getting all rowdy about that one.

    I’ll have a gander at Swamp Zombies – mainly coz ‘Fist’ showed some promise, even though I wasn’t engaged by the story even remotely. But I still admire folk who have the determination, with little in the way of resources, to get what’s in their head out on film.

    • Tom_Bando says :

      Wolf–anymore of those Quartermass reviews of yours coming down the pike? they make for good readin’.

      • ThereWolf says :

        Cheers, Tom.

        I’ve done all those now! There were only 3 movie Q’s, the rest were TV serials.

        I think there’s a reboot in the pipe – but I don’t want to think about that, makes me mighty fearful…

        I’m doing Volume 1 of a few Michael Biehn movies next.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        Ahhh cool–I’ll read’em. Biehn’s made some good movies.

      • ThereWolf says :

        Well, I ain’t promising they’re all the good ones!

        Basically, I threw a few titles into a hat and drew an initial 3. Just wanna see how it goes first, before I commit to any more…

  11. Xiphos0311 says :

    This review pretty much makes Len whatthefuckhisnameis seem like a CUNT creatively. It sounds like a he’s a bloody CUNT of a writer and even a dirtier CUNT of a director and a smelly CUNT of an actor and the worse sort of CUNT of a human being. What a fucking cowardly CUNT.

  12. Len Kabasinski says :

    sorry im late to this. Jarv your a good man for watching this film. ill answer a few questions here….

    I know he said he has a kid, but I’m not sure if he’s married. I’m wondering if so, does his wife have a problem with him using porn actresses in his films or dealing with the sex/nude scenes? Kind of a stupid question but I’m curious.

    MY ANSWER: i have a steady girlfriend. no i’ve never had a problem with girlfriends and nudity. in fact Pamela Sutch was my girlfriend around this time. she can be naked whenever she wants,lol….but no, never a problem. i know nudity is a big component to indie horror and i want to deliver.
    Also Len if you do happen to come back in I do have a few other questions to ask

    1. If you could go back and change something from your career in film what would you do differently?

    MY ANSWER:
    im doing that with my newer works. WENDIGO:BOUND BY BLOOD, WARRIORS OF THE APOCALYPSE, and NINJA:PROPHECY OF DEATH. if i could go back i would have tried to surround myself with more knowledgable tech guys to improve my lighting and sound first off….

    2. What is your biggest project that you haven’t done yet due to financing/casting?

    MY ANSWER
    well i write my films and to be honest when i go to write i never tackle a project or fully write one that i know i cant finish. time is too valuable.

    3. If you do decide to continue on in the very indie circuit, what are your ideas to bring something new to the scene?

    this year i am doing 2 films. 1 is an 80’s style slasher film entitled BRIDAL PARTY MASSACRE and then a have a survivalist/action film entitled SKULL FOREST. also my martial arts/revenge/horror flick NINJA:PROPHECT OF DEATH shouold be done with post production in summer 2011

    thanks guys!!!!

  13. Len Kabasinski says :

    in a rush right now…but fire away with questions and ill do my best to answer ladies & gentleman! SWAMP ZOMBIES was shot within about 10 days on a Canon GL2 camera. it was obviously my first attempt in filmmaking and suffers in many areas (i know this 😉 ) but fire away, if i could i would trim about 30 mins off of it. it turned out waaaay to long, i really wanted it to be anbout 90 mins., but it became like a ‘butterfly effect’ where if you remove one scene you inturn have to remove 5 other scenes that run into it…

    but i will say, for our first effort, we have played many times on sat/cable tv in the UK on the Zone Horror Channel and got a nice write up in RUE MORGUE which was awesome. so for what the film was (and is)….*shrugs*

    one thing i wish? i wish it woulve been marketed as a “campy” comedy/horror flick and not a straight horror film. we meant the film to be “campy” even to the point where when we did interviews we tried to “keep it serious” (trying to add to the comedy)….

  14. Jarv says :

    Cheers Len.

    The Werewolf one is on Lovefilm’s Watch now list so will be coming soon.

    I honestly think Brain Damage are misselling these films. This was campy and not the serious film they make it out to be.

    It’s miles better than shit like the Zombie Wars

  15. Len Kabasinski says :

    CURSE OF THE WOLF has actually been my most succesful film to date with FIST being a very close second (though COTW was released about a year before FIST WAS technically)….

    WENDIGO:BOUND BY BLOOD i have coming out from midnight releaseing/brain damage film this May 2011….its vastly different than the more “fight-driven” stuff.

    • Jarv says :

      Awesome.

      Looking forward to it.

      I’ve got Curse of the Wolf to watch- I’ll let you know when it comes up.

      Regarding Brain Damage- have they got first refusal on all new product Len? I’m just curious- but they do get on to Lovefilm in the UK, so it seems they are quite good

      Cheers

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