Posts Tagged ‘Zombies’

MOVIE: Diary of the Dead (2007)

June 2, 2008

I can predict how this is going to go.  I’m about to tell you how much I HATED this movie, after raving like a madwoman about the awesomeness of Cloverfield.  And you guys are going to flood the comments with disagreements, saying Cloverfield sucked and this movie ruled. 

Except for Trip, of course, who will flood the comments with movie quotes about the undead.  Bring it, Trip!  (Here, I’ll get you started:  “Grandpa’s fallen and he’s getting up!”)

But I will not be persuaded to alter my positions, no matter how logical your arguments may be!  THIS MOVIE WAS TOTALLY LAME!  And I was surprised by that, too, because it’s the first time in history that I’ve ever not enjoyed a George Romero zombie movie. 

Maybe that was the problem, though: high expectations.  Going into Cloverfield, I literally had NO expectations.  No idea if it would be good or bad — I’d carefully avoided reviews and commentary on that one.  But this one — I know Romero’s work and even when he’s not at peak form, he usually has something moderately interesting to say about human society, right?

In retrospect, however, I think that may have been my biggest problem with this installment — I found George’s point unfocused and disorganized, and it seemed like he was trying to argue both sides simultaneously, which soon made it impossible for me to care what he thought either way.  But more on the theme after I give you the plot. 

This movie takes us back into hand-held shaky cam territory again, but this time it’s about a bunch of film school students, so the cam is not nearly as shaky as it was in Cloverfield.  As the story opens, a group of the students are working on a horror film for their class (about mummies — real original, guys!) when they are distracted by a news report about a dead person coming back to life and biting someone to death.  Intrigued, they decide to head out and see if they can get any similar footage themselves.  They load up into a big Winnebago-type deal, bringing along their professor (who was, incidentally, one of the most inane characters OF ALL TIME).  

At first their plan is to try to capture some scary footage for their movie, but it soon becomes clear that the world’s rapidly becoming dangerously undead, and they decide their best bet is to try to get to the huge mansion of their friend Ripley, who seems to be safe and sound in Philly, surrounded by security cameras and panic rooms.

Which reminds me — one of the things I liked about this movie was that it didn’t just consist of the video the students were filming, but also incorporated video downloaded from the web, images captured by cell phones and Ripley’s security cameras, and some TV news reports too.  Unfortunately, the characters showing us this footage were so incredibly LAME that no matter how hard I tried, I just could not sink into this film at all.  I mean, seriously — think of every college student stereotype you can come up with and then hire a group of ridiculously bad actors, and voila, you’ve just replicated this movie’s cast.  Argh!  What were you thinking, George?

Then again, even bad acting wouldn’t have stood in the way of my enjoyment of this film had it not been so brainlessly unfocused at the same time.  And here’s where I’ll take you back to my previous comments about George’s social commentary. 

In my opinion, if you’re going to use your horror movie to make a point about modern society, you have to at least take ten minutes to sit down and draft out what your point ACTUALLY IS.   And at first, I could see where Romero was headed and I approved. The group begins to compare news reports from TV with footage on the Internet taken on the video cameras of witnesses at the same scenes, and they begin to notice serious discrepancies.  The mainstream media, in other words, is manipulating the news in order to keep the public in the dark about what’s going on (possibly to prevent a panic, but as we all know, ignorance is pretty detrimental when it comes to fighting zombie wars — hence everybody aiming way too low with their guns).

So, as the character named Jason points out (he’s the man with the cam), it’s vitally important for those who want to know the truth to be able to get that truth from somewhere.  If they can film how you kill a zombie, for example, and then they load that footage onto the web, they can teach everybody all over the world how to protect themselves. 

Okay, this argument I can go along with — not that I distrust the media as a whole (seeing as how I’m married to a newspaper reporter), but I do think getting your information from a variety of sources is your safest bet, as long as you view all those sources with a critical eye.

But just as I started nodding my head in agreement, Romero turned this on its ear and started to demonstrate to us that the “grassroots” videos are no less “constructed,” and that the people who make them are actually just sick voyeurs with messed up priorities.   Jason can’t put the camera down, even when his friends are being attacked, and he routinely instructs his pals to back up and enter a room again, or repeat something they’ve just said, so that he can get a better shot of it on camera.  Well heck, Jason, that’s not pure unadulterated reality!  That’s MSNBC all over again!

And then, as if that weren’t enough commentary to chew on, in the final moments of the movie, Romero inserts a totally unnecessary scene that takes us back to Ye Olde Zombie Movie Theme:  how it just doesn’t seem to take much to turn humans into animals.  It was like he suddenly got to the end and thought, “Oh crap!  I forgot to make sure everybody knew humanity’s only one crisis away from turning into a pack of rabid dogs!”  (Well, to be honest, he’d also had the Inane Professor periodically interject drunkenly-wistful comments like, “I remember the war. . . When it suddenly became so easy for us all to shoot people. . .” but since the everything the Inane Professor said was completely INANE, I confess I’d long since started to tune him out by that point.)

The final line of the film asks us, “Are we worth saving?” 

Answer: Not if we can’t make movies more original and interesting than this one!

But hang in there, kiddies, because there is hope for us yet!  My next review is going to tell you all about another shaky-cam horror movie (not sure how I ended up with three of those in a row!), but this time, it’s one that actually SCARED THE EVER-LIVING HOO-HAH OUT OF ME.  I need at least another day to process it mentally, though, I think.  When my husband asked me what it was about the other night, after he discovered me sitting stunned in front of the screen, all I could muster was, “It was about . . . um. . . it was about. . . this . . . and the fire station guys were all. . . and in the attic was this. . .  Hey, do we have any vodka?  I need to get drunk RIGHT NOW.”

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Horror
Cast: Nick Alachiotis, Joshua Close, Laura DeCarteret, Joe Dinicol, Megan Park

MOVIE: I Am Legend (2007)

April 9, 2008

I actually saw this movie about ten days ago, but it’s taken me this long to get sufficiently out of my state of disgust long enough to put together a sentence that doesn’t consist primarily of swear words. Which is interesting because I didn’t expect this movie to be any good when I rented it — so why on earth am I so annoyed that it turned out to be so bad? I read the book by Richard Matheson a couple of months ago and didn’t think it was all that great (you can read my book review here (third or fourth review down): http://www.megwood.com/books/jan2008.html); it’s not like I was expecting them to take a sub-par novella and turn it into a brilliant film.

But here’s the thing — despite its many, MANY flaws, the book DID have several elements I found fairly effective. And the movie? Changed every single one of those elements into something WAY less effective. It was amazing how thorough they were about it too. Every single part of the book that I DIDN’T think was totally stupid was completely stupidized in the movie. Someday, I really want to meet the person who wrote the screenplay so I can shake their hand and congratulate them on being the most completely oblivious moron I have ever met.

For those that don’t know, I Am Legend is about the last human on earth, left trying to survive in a world where the rest of the population has either died or turned into vampire-like monsters (caused by a bacterial contagion of some sort in the book, and a man-made virus originally developed to cure cancer in the movie). Robert Neville is his name (played by Will Smith), and he spends the sunny days of his life out hunting vamps, and the dark nights holed up in his house with canned goods and a generator trying to figure out a way to stop the vamps (in the book) or cure the virus (in the movie) before he’s finished off as well.

Now, because I just have to for the sake of my own stark-raving sanity, I’m going to list for you the four good parts of the book that were changed suck-assily in the movie. Spoilers may ensue. You’ve been warned. NOT THAT YOU SHOULD CARE (<– another warning).

1. The way Neville’s family dies and the element of their deaths that haunts him: For those that have read the book, I’m referring to the image of Neville having to carry his daughter off to the mass burial burn pit and the guilt he carried because of that, which is something I found surprisingly poignant. In the movie, the deaths of Neville’s wife and daughter are completely different and utterly stripped of the same level of emotional depth, in my opinion. They both still die, of course, but in a way that was about as unoriginal and boring as you can imagine. It was a moment better suited for an action scene in the next Bruce Willis movie, frankly. Lame.

2. The dog: In the book, Neville comes across the dog one day while out running errands and spends a good chunk of time desperately attempting to charm it into trusting him. That whole section of the book is about HOPE, which is why what happens to the dog later was so moving it actually made me kinda tear up. In the movie, though? Ugh, it’s about as trite and tired as you can get, from where the dog originates to how it goes out in the end. I’m still rolling my eyes. TEN DAYS LATER!

3. The vampires. Once again, I must protest about the stupid looking monstery vampires! I thought the ones in 30 Days of Night were bad — these are even worse! How do humans go from looking like humans to looking like the creatures in this movie? How do their voice boxes go from making human sounds to making the sounds made by the creatures in this movie? It was totally ridiculous. Not only that, but one of the most disturbing parts of the novel were the parts where Neville would be holed up in his house listening to his NEIGHBOR, a vampire who still looked pretty much just like his neighbor, standing outside his door calling his name and asking him to come outside. You know what? THAT’S FREAKY. The creatures in this movie? Not freaky AT ALL.

4. The ending! The ending of the movie compared to the book is so classically “ruined by Hollywood” it almost seemed like it had to be a joke. What it comes down to is this: the book was about what it means to be part of a society; the movie is about Will Smith fighting monsters. There was a single moment in the film where I had a flash of hope — the scene in which it becomes clear that one of the vampires has been watching him and is intelligent enough to figure out a pretty clever way of turning the tables on him. But it doesn’t end up GOING anywhere. It was a completely wasted moment. Damn it, I hate it when that happens!

In short, the ending of the book made me go “Huh. Interesting idea.” The ending of the movie, on the other hand, made me turn to my husband (a big fan of the novel himself — we watched the movie together) and exclaim, “Seriously?!”

To which he responded with a sigh, “Man, that movie was total shit from start to finish.”

Which I think pretty much says it all.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Crap, Horror

Cast: Will Smith, Emma Thompson (for about two minutes), Alice Braga.

MOVIE: Scarecrows (1988)

March 24, 2008

This is another one of Final Girl’s Film Club selections, so be sure to head over to her site to see what she had to say about it (as well as all the other Film Club writers!). I have to say, I didn’t think a movie could possibly top The Manitou, last month’s pick, when it came to hilariously bad dialogue, but this movie totally put up its dukes for the win.

The film opens with a group of bad guys — ex-military, naturally — who have hijacked a plane and are making a getaway after stealing the Camp Pendleton payroll (which for some bizarre reason they seem to think means they’ve robbed the Army — Camp Pendleton is a Marine Corps base, y’all). At first, things seem to be working out pretty well. They’ve got a pilot and his sexy young daughter at gunpoint flying them wherever they want to go, after all. But then, curses! One of their own guys tosses on a parachute, grabs the money, lobs a grenade onto the floor, and jumps out the door.

Now, of course, in a world where gravity and physics reign, he’d be dead, as they’ve just gotten done telling us they’re “flying under the radar,” and just as he jumps out, we get a shot of the plane flying about as low to the ground as you can go and still be considered “in the air” (uh, not to mention the fact that grenade sure took a conveniently long time to actually explode).

But, my peoples, this is a movie about scarecrows that come to life and kill for procreation, and I’m pretty sure the same rules that apply to us are not going to apply here.

Anyway, long story short, the guy who bails with the dough lands (safely!) in a field covered with creepy looking scarecrows. The rest of the team quickly jump out after him, and soon the ground is covered in ex-military bad guys chasing each other through the corn in the dark, periodically pausing to say things to each other like, “I think this place is possessed by demonic demons!” (really, is there ever any other kind?) or “Now you’ve gone too far, dirtball!”

Eventually, the group finds Bert, the guy who bailed out with the money, but he’s, uh, not quite himself anymore. They drag him up to the vacant farmhouse, where they theorize he’s taken drugs so that he’ll survive their beating, tricking them into leaving him for dead without finding where he’s stashed the money.

Hah! As though THESE guys would be that dumb!

When they go to wallop Bert’s impertinent insides, though, they find he doesn’t actually have any anymore. Bert quickly starts fighting back, so the group lops his head off with a machete and are surprised to find he’s been stuffed full of money and straw. Well, wait, I guess “surprised” isn’t quite the word for it. In fact, they actually seem to take that information somewhat in stride. Their assumption? That someone evil has cut Bert open and packed him full of their stolen money to taunt them. Of course, how Deadbert then managed to fight back, they choose not to speculate on — can’t really say I blame them on that one, personally.

As the group continues their search for the bags of money, they are knocked off one by one by the evil undead scarecrows, teaching us horror movie viewers once again just how little crime actually pays. By the end of the movie, we’re down to only two survivors (not counting the cute doggy, of course — what “demonic demon” movie would be complete without an adorable puppy, after all?). Luckily, one of them is the pilot’s daughter, and she and the last remaining robber hop back in the airplane and take off. Unluckily, also on board is the pilot, who isn’t exactly dear ol’ Dad anymore.

This movie is actually surprisingly entertaining, all things considered. It’s suspenseful enough, has lots of shots of big biceps in tight short-sleeves (which is a sight I never mind admiring for 90 minutes) and, in my lame opinion, it works off a fairly original idea — it’s a nice twist on the classic zombie story, really, where the dead rise to make more dead. Only this time, instead of eating braaaaaaains, they eat straw.

And the occasional uncooked ear of corn (mrrruh?).

Meh, I’ve seen worse. And I bet Final Girl has too.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Horror
Cast: Ted Vernon, Michael David Simms, Richard Vidan, Kristina Sanborn

MOVIE: Undead (2003)

November 5, 2007

Just when you think you’ve seen ’em all, along comes the second zombie movie in a week that really entertained me (the first being Fido, and while this movie does not even begin to compare to that one in terms of greatness, it was still a lot of fun to watch in its own way).

This low-budget Australian flick reminded me a lot of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead — not in terms of the story, but instead in terms of the special effects and the very, very intentional goofiness (when I saw Evil Dead for the first time, I knew instinctively that the people making that flick were having a hell of a good time doing it, and I got the same vibe from Undead as well. I love that vibe — it’s entertaining all by itself.). I started off watching this movie a bit worried it might try to take itself too seriously, but as soon as the gruff farm/gun guy (Marion) starting bouncing pistols off his hips, flinging them into the air, and then doing all kinds of utterly hilarious and totally ridiculous tricks with them, I knew I’d found another good-bad movie to add to the growing list of favorites.

Man, that farm boy can shoot! Now if only he’d learn how to do laundry and shave, we might have a real keeper here. . .

The plot of this flick is about as hokey as they come, though I’ll confess I thought the twist at the end was pretty good. It’s about a small fishing town named Berkeley that, one day, begins being bombarded by tiny meteors from space. Everybody hit by a meteor is transmogrified into a zombie, and anybody they kill, of course, also becomes an zombie. Soon, a small pack of survivors have hooked up at an old farm house run by Marion, the aforementioned crazy gun-lover who for weeks has been trying to convince everybody he was recently abducted by aliens. Nobody believed him — until now, mua ha ha ha ha!

The violence in this film, and there is rather a LOT of it, is absolutely hilarious. I mean, it’s splattery and silly and way, way over-the-top, just like in Evil Dead. Marion is simply a joy to behold during the (numerous!) fight scenes — somebody had a REALLY good time choreographing those, I must say. At one point, he does a flip, hooks his spurs into the wall over the door to the kitchen and starts shooting at zombies upside-down. And if that scene alone doesn’t make you yell, “Oh, HELL yes!” then you just don’t know from entertainment, my friends.

This is everything you’d expect from a low-budget horror movie, with the added bonus of a set of actors, writers, and directors who were out to have a really good time. There’s literally no attempt to make any of this movie make even a smidge of sense, and that just means we get to spend more time watching them blow the undead up and less time sitting around doing exposition. It was great. Great, great, great. If you loved Evil Dead, rent this one and tell me what you think when you’re done.

Incidentally, it took the humans in this movie about 25 minutes to realize you have to shoot a zombie in the head to kill it. I’m telling you this just in case you, too, have gotten this far along in life without knowing this — you never know when the dead will begin to rise and, in my experience, it’s best to be prepared, especially if you have limited ammunition.

In other words, aim high!

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Horror

Cast: Felicity Mason, Mungo McKay, Rob Jenkins, Lisa Cunningham, Dirk Hunter

MOVIE: Fido (2006)

November 3, 2007

I hate to start any piece of writing with the phrase “Holy crap,” and yet, I’m not sure I can resist in this case. Because, HOLY CRAP, was this movie an absolute blast!  In fact, I think it might be one of the most brilliant and thoroughly entertaining movies I have ever seen in my entire life. I kid you not.  I’ll have to watch it at least one more time before I can be absolutely sure about that, but the first time around, I adored every single moment.  As soon as it was over, I flipped open my laptop and added the DVD to my Amazon.com wishlist, marking it “Highest” priority to encourage somebody to buy me a copy for my next birthday.  This is a movie I will be watching over and over, and you can definitely expect to see it on this December’s list of “Top Ten Movies I Saw in 2007” too. Don’t be surprised, in fact, if it scores the #1 slot — that’s how much I loved this completely ridiculous thing.

This crazy-brilliant film is set in the idyllic 1950’s, with the setting looking every bit as “classic 50’s” as an episode of Leave it to Beaver. To set up the plot for us, the movie opens with one of those crinkly old black-and-white educational films from our youths — remember those? The film tells us the history of the Zombie War: Years ago, the Earth was exposed to some type of radiation that turned any newly-dead people into zombies. Because it’s the 50’s, before Romero’s time, it took the humans a couple of months to realize they could kill the zombies by destroying their brains (head shots with a gun, decapitations with shovels, etc.). As soon as they realized this, though, they quickly  launched an all-out war against the zombies — and won.

Unfortunately, there was nothing they could do about the radiation, which, the educational movie tells us, still lingers. This means that anybody who dies, even from natural causes, still turns into a zombie unless their head is immediately chopped off.  Enter a company named Zomcon which developed a device that can be put around the neck of a zombie and renders them harmless — as long as the device is active. Using these collars, Zomcon quickly made a fortune and, in essence, took over the neighborhood, dividing the area into two sections:  a fenced-in safe zone and the “Wild Zone,” where zombies still roam free.

In the safe zone, a lovely little Leave it to Beaver town has sprung up, and the number one status symbol in this brave new world is a Zomcon-collared zombie houseservant.  All the upper-middle-class people have one, and when the CEO of Zomcon himself moves in next door, Helen Robinson, mother of Timmy and wife to Bill, decides it’s time they had one too.  So, one night Bill gets home from work to discover Fido working in the kitchen — an adult male zombie Helen has purchased to help around the house.

Bill, however, is still traumatized from the time he had to kill his own zombie-fied father back in the early days of the Zombie War — this is why he’s resisted buying a zombie thus far.  But, to make his wife happy, he reluctantly agrees to let Fido stay.  Timmy, on the other hand, a geeky kid with few friends, is immediately enamored of Fido, treating him like the family pet instead of the family manservent.  He starts teaching Fido how to play ball, and the two spend a lot of their time together.  Ah, a boy and his zombie.  So sweet!

Things get a little complicated, though, the day Fido’s collar blinks out and he manages to eat the old lady next door before Timmy can stop him.  If your zombie kills a human, you can be sent to the Wild Zone for punishment, so Timmy is too afraid to tell anybody what has happened.  Panicked, doesn’t do anything with the old lady’s body, and pretty soon, there are wild zombies loose in the Safe Zone.  When the Zomcon CEO realizes Fido was to blame, he takes him away from the Robinsons to have him “put down.”  But it’s not long before Timmy realizes what’s really happened — that the CEO has actually taken Fido back to Zomcon headquarters and put him to work in a sweatshop there.

Ensue elaborate plan to bust Fido out and teach Zomcon a lesson about enslaving the undead.

The plot, though, while thoroughly entertaining, is hardly the point of this riotously funny movie.  I mean, the concept alone is just so much fun — the movie is essentially an episode of Lassie, with a zombie taking the place of the furry dog (Timmy is clearly even named “Timmy” just so we can have a scene in which he’s tied up by some bullies and Fido has to run for his mother, who, upon seeing the distressed zombie struggling to communicate something to her says, “What is it, boy?  Is Timmy okay?  Take me to Timmy, Fido!”) .  And the commercials that periodically play on the family television set just had me rolling (my favorite features a little girl whose grandfather promptly has a heart attack, causing her to exclaim into the camera, “Grandpa’s fallen. . . and he’s GETTING UP!”).  It’s an absolutely brilliant satire of those classic 50’s TV shows, zombie movies in general, and a variety of other tidbits of pop culture from recent years.

Gorgeous sets, terrific acting (especially from Carrie Anne Moss as Mrs. Robinson, who even begins to develop a very sweet little platonic crush on Fido at one point), and writers who were having a VERY good time coming up with the dialogue — I absolutely adored this movie and can’t wait to see it again.  And I think it’s one even non-zombie-movie-lovers would enjoy.  There are a few scenes of typical zombie flesh-eating, but the gore is extremely minimal — I don’t even think they’d edit this one for TV, frankly, and instead of being scary, it’s simply downright charming.

In fact, I bet even my Mom would like this one — what do you say, Mom?  You game for this over Thanksgiving when I’m down visiting again?

Highly, HIGHLY recommended!  92 minutes of sheer awesomeness.  And if you’ve seen it already and you hated it, don’t even bother telling me so in the comments, because I’ll simply plug my ears with my fingers and start chanting, “La la la I can’t hear you la la la.”  Pfft.
[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Comedy

Cast: Carrie Anne-Moss, Billy Connolly, Dylan Baker, Tim Blake Nelson, K’Sun Ray, Henry Czerny