Case Number 21289: Small Claims Court


Raising The Stakes
IWC Films // 2005 // 62 Minutes // Not Rated
Die And Let Live
IWC Films // 2006 // 74 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // May 6th, 2011

The Charge

"A zombie movie in the tradition of Return of the Living Dead, Superbad, and The Sandlot." -- Die and Let Live

"King of like those Twilight movies...but these vampires are actually supposed to be funny." -- Raising the Stakes

The Case

There was an article floating around back during the 2008 election fever that claimed Republican presidencies saw a rise in zombie films, while their Democratic counterparts inspired vampire flicks. I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out the political implications of these associations. Whether this is a tried-and-true trend is debatable, but no one will argue that Dubya presided over some great zombie flicks (28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead come to mind), while all the Twilight fever came around during Obama's days in office. Apparently the guys at IWC Films (short for, Idiots with Cameras) didn't get the memo, as their first two features are a vampire and zombie movie, respectively. They're shlocky, low-budget, cheap films that had long been out of print. Now fans who didn't snap up the original DVDs can grab both these early IWC films in one place.

This double feature DVD includes two films on one disc. Raising the Stakes is the story of a pair of friends (played by IWC regulars Josh Lively and Zane Crosby) who are obsessed with vampires. So obsessed, in fact, that they want to turn themselves into vampires to get revenge on all the bullies who have tormented them. They get a potion that promises fangs, but things do not go as well as the pair had hope. Die and Let Live is the IWC Films entry into the low-budget zombie comedy race. In this case a lovelorn young man invites the girl of his dreams to a house party while a zombie outbreak rages in his town. Now he must defend his home and his lady fair against the undead hordes.

These two films fit neatly into the no-budget horror-comedy genre. There are the requisite pop culture references (Star Trek: The Original Series! Twilight!), Karo-flavored gore, bad acting, as well as blink-and-you'll-miss-it run times. There's really very little to distinguish these flicks from every other "We're friends and we have a video camera." Still, they do have two things going for them that puts them slightly ahead of their no-budget brethren. The first is the fact that they find themselves funny. No, not in that arrogant, "Hey, look at me, I'm funny" kind of way, but more that they're making their movies because they love getting decked out in gore and filming each other. That gives these films a charm that crowd-pleasing films of this nature often lack. By trying to hard to ape their favorite films, lots of low-budget films go overboard. Not the IWC guys. Sure they have their share of The Evil Dead references, but it doesn't feel forced. In the same vein, their second strength is the fact that they simply do not take themselves even slightly seriously. These films are obviously labors of love, but the crew do everything possible to avoid coming off as pretentious. This unpretentious vibe contributes the films' charm.

This release is also helped by the fact that the IWC guys are fans, so they know how to put together a DVD release. As the liner notes reveal, these flicks were out of print on DVD, and to get them back to their fans, a double feature release was the way to go. However, for purists, note that this is the 12-minute shorter "Director's Cut" of Raising the Stakes, and it's now the preferred version. Very little of the material from those old DVDs made it on here. Instead, we get a pair of newly minted commentaries for the features. The crew of Justin Channell, Zane Crosby, and Joshua Lively sit down for these, and the trio are obviously old friends. They dish production info, behind-the-scenes stories, and tidbits about their inspirations. With three of them, the info flows freely, with few dead spots. In addition to these commentaries, we get three different short films from the crew: "A Fetal Mistake" (with commentary), "Monorail," and "The Best Saturday Ever." Then there's a featurette on the group's early years featuring interviews from the guys along with excerpts from their early film experiments. Finally, the disc includes a set of promos and trailers for IWC productions.

Unsurprisingly, given the no-budget nature of these films (someone throws out the budget of Raising the Stakes as $100), they don't look so hot on DVD. These were produced with consumer-grade equipment, and since most of the films take place at night or in dimly lit interiors, don't expect stellar video quality. Similarly, the simple stereo mixes keep the dialogue audible, but little else. Finally, those who have no interest in blood-soaked horror-comedy made by film geeks should steer clear of these flicks.

The IWC Films Collection Double Feature is a fine release for these no-budget horror comedies. They won't go to the top of anyone's favorite flick list, but they offer a respectable collection of chuckles and some decent gore. Worth at least a rental for fans, and Troma-heads will appreciate cameos by regulars Lloyd Kaufman, Trent Haaga, and Debbie Rochon (in voice at least).

The Verdict

While the not the greatest no-budget films, these flicks are not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2011 Gordon Sullivan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice, Raising The Stakes
Judgment: 70

Perp Profile, Raising The Stakes
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* None

Running Time: 62 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Raising The Stakes
* None

Scales of Justice, Die And Let Live
Judgment: 78

Perp Profile, Die And Let Live
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* None

Running Time: 74 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Die And Let Live
* Commentary
* Featurettes
* Short Films
* Promos

* IMDb: Die and Let Live

* IMDb: Raising the Stakes