Monday, October 27, 2008

October Random Horror Movie Reviews

So, pretty much per normal, I've been watching a fair number of horror movies in celebration of it being October and all. Yeah, it's quite the excuse, I know. So, yeah, somewhere in here, maybe, is a movie you might want to see. And my glowing review of it. But you'll have to read the whole thing to find it. Oh, and I didn't really have much of a theme this year. I watched a lot of 80s horror movies I'd been meaning to see, so maybe that counts as a theme. Not a good theme but still a theme.

So, let's begin (this is pretty easy because I have my Netflix history in front of me).

I'd been meaning to see this one for awhile. This is a classic 80s zombie movie. I really like how 80s zombie movies didn't know about 28 Days Later. It makes things really interesting. It feels to me, as someone whose only conscious memory of a movie when it actually came out in the 80s being The Little Mermaid, that there was a cool experimentation period in zombie movie history during this time. There were all these movies that played around with zombies, all the while purposely trying not to just be like George Romero. Nowadays, everyone just wants to be like George and/or Danny. Which is okay, but it's nice to see a fresh perspective.

It's also nice to see Jeffrey Combs. He really just embodies the crazy mad scientist. I first saw him in The 4400 and thought he was awesome. Now I see why he got that role.

In any case, the reason this movie is awesome is because about half way through the movie, the bad guy gets his head cut off. And not cleanly, mind you. Yeah, that doesn't really stop him. It just means that he has to spend the rest of the movie carrying his severed head around. That's awesome. Now, I don't support rape, nor do I officially support necrophilia. But, when a headless corpse captures a young woman, tears her clothes off and prepares to rape her, while holding his creepy, salivating head the whole time, I can't help but applaud.

So, yeah, this is a pretty cool movie. It has some similar qualities to Return of the Living Dead, in that the people they Re-Animate are definitely in pain. Typically screaming. An extra impressive scene is when they bring a dead cat back to life and have it attack them. So, they break its spine to kill it. And bring it back again. That's just screwed up. Highly recommended.

Dead and Buried
I decided I wanted to see this old school 80s zombie movie, without knowing anything about it at all. I thought it was an alien invasion movie, to be honest. But, no, it was a zombie movie. This one even had a twist ending, although the fact that I just told you it has a twist pretty much gives it away (yeah, it's the kind of twist that is pretty obvious if you're looking for it). But, if you forget that I told you it has a twist, it's pretty cool. I really wish I could talk about it without spoiling it. Let's just say, it's about zombies living among us. Like normal people. Yeah, these aren't Romero's zombies. It's pretty old school. Voodoo zombie old school. I liked it, by the way.

Yep, I saw this one in theaters. Opening night, to be honest. No, you're not surpised. It was good. Very good. It saddens me that this, Saw 5, and High School Musical 3 were the only horror movie options for October 2008. I mean, I guess last October just had 30 Days of Night and Saw 4, so at least we're not doing worse (just watch, next year, it'll be just Saw 6 and I will die a little inside). But, I did like this one a lot. The pacing was excellently done. We got to know our main characters and couldn't help but kind of like them, especially Miss Jennifer Carpenter, who was in the not particularly scary The Exorcism of Emily Rose (as Emily Rose). But, once the horror starts, they don't slow down. At all. It just keeps moving forward, gaining momentum and momentum and tension and tension...only to just end the same way as the trailer. And the poster. Yeah, I don't know who thought to market the movie by showing its ending, but that's freaking anti-climactic as hell. Don't do that. For all you future marketing dudes.

In any case, the rest of the movie was awesome, and the end would be pretty awesome too if I hadn't already seen it way too many times. I guess the ending would also have been more awesome if Miss Jennifer Carpenter wasn't just completely ridiculous. At the end, her character is obnoxiously incapable of doing anything besides mumble hysterically and scream. It works for like 15 seconds as a way to get the audience scared, but then it's just annoying.

Oh yeah, Maya from Heroes was in it too. I think she killed someone. I couldn't tell if her eyes were black at the time. I assume they were red, though. Maybe, black-ish red.

Now, I don't want to spoil this, but there is one, very good reason for why this movie does the whole "first-person camera recording the events that happened in real time thing". The cameraman kills a zombie with the camera.

Let me repeat that, now that you're sitting up again from the shock of the sheer awesomeness of that idea. The cameraman used the camera, specifically the lens of the camera, as a blunt instrument with which to repeatedly bludgeon a zombie in its face until it died. That didn't happen in Cloverfield, by the way. It definitely didn't happen in The Blair Witch Project. But, it happened in Quarantine. I managed to get the whole theater cheering for him.

Other than that, this one isn't really about the first-person thing that much. I mean, our camera man is a professional camera man, and he carries himself like one. Except when they're running away and stuff like that, of course. So, pretty much like normal, the audience is completely disoriented whenever something cool is happening on screen, but I guess that's how these things go.

Oh, and I was also impressed with how important it was to the film-makers to have a backstory and to tell it. That was well done. Definitely over the course of the movie, I felt like I was learning about what the cause of the outbreak was and why everything was happening. Suspension of disbelief was very achievable, which was nice. I appreciate that.

Let's see, next is Dance of the Dead.

So, um, it's worth pointing out that I apparently watched way more zombie movies than I had realized. Man, whenever I don't specifically pick a theme, it always just ends up being zombies. How does that happen? How can there be so many zombie movies that I want to see? I just don't know.

So, let's get back to Dance of the Dead. It's a fairly low budget indie high school comedy/zombie movie. To be perfectly honest, this German movie I saw a little while back called Night of the Living Losers was, approximately, 10000000 times better. I don't know how many zeroes I put in there. Just assume plus or minus a couple orders of magnitude of that number. Now, to be perfectly fair, this movie was perfectly decent. I enjoyed it. But, if you're going to do a silly high school zombie comedy, you need one of the zombies to be a stoner. You also need one of the zombies to try to get laid. I mean, what kind of high school comedy doesn't have those characters, and if you're doing that genre, then, well, you're going to have to make them zombies (note that Idle Hands gets credit for the character trying to get laid because the main character tries to have sex while his hand is trying to kill the girl).

Now, let me step back and admit that there is a character who gives up his life to be undead and get the cute chick who just turned into a zombie (and the sex appears to involve a lot of biting). So, there is that (if that scene isn't a powerful argument for abstinence, I don't know what is).

But, really, this movie just doesn't really have very many original ideas and plays by the rules of an 80s high school comedy so closely that it really feels stifling. We've got the nerds who end up impressing the girls who normally wouldn't give them a second look, the bully who used to beat up the nerds but is now helping them, the student council girl who's dating the main character who's life is pretty much directionless but he's using this as a way to prove he's worth something, the punk rockers who turn out to be pretty cool...and get stoned so maybe they count as the stoners, but I'm vetoing on account of the fact that they get stoned prior to finding that zombies are attacking, the mean teacher who helps them out and well, probably a bunch more cliches than that, but this is already a stupidly long sentence, so I'm just going to cut it short, right, about, here.

I will say that there's an extended scene by scene homage to Return of the Living Dead, which is cool, but hardly original and also more than a little overkill. Because, I mean, c'mon, if I'm watching your little zombie movie, then I've probably seen the original version of those scenes, and you didn't do anything clever to make yours better either, or even comparable. Otherwise, it was, just, decent. It definitely wasn't bad, but I guess it had been talked up a fair amount, so I kind of had high hopes for it. In the end, it just made me want to watch Night of the Living Losers again.

Oh, did I mention that in Night of the Living Losers, when the zombie is trying to get laid, one of his balls falls off? Yeah, I think it's normally some sort of German slang for not lasting very long, but it was just kind of awkward, in a funny way. Lastly, that movie had a hot Spanish love interest. That wins some major points too.

Okay, now for: not a zombie movie! Yep, it's true, I also watched a Japanese ghost movie (you'd think I'd seen just about all of those too, but no, there's a whole lot of those). I watched the original One Missed Call.

Now, I wasn't too sure what to expect going into this, because it's directed by this more than kind of screwed up Japanese directer named Takashi Miike. Note this is not Takashi Shimizu, who was my horror movie theme last year. In the end, I pretty much got a by-the-books Japanese ghost horror movie with your typical Japanese schoolgirl trying to find out why all her friends are dying and then trying to appease the ghost, but failing and, well, you know how it goes.

Yeah, for the genre, it was above average, but definitely not special, until the very end. The movie ends with Takashi Miike apparently waking up and going, "Wait, I make crazy evil shit like Ichi, the Killer. I have a reputation to uphold." And, well, let's just say he upheld it. Brilliantly, too. Instead of finishing with a gross or gory climax, it finishes with a happy, dreamy song about hope and happiness and bright blue skies and stuff. This is just after we watched the ghost take possession of the main character and stab her requisite older male friend. But, she didn't kill him. Just stabbed him and took him to the hospital, because that's what she would do when she was alive. And he's just giving up and letting her do this to him.

Yeah, not a bad way to finish an otherwise completely generic movie.

Let's see, then I saw Scanners because I thought it was a zombie movie, but it turns out it wasn't. In my defense, if you ever see a picture of the cover, there is no way in the world you won't assume that it's a zombie movie. There's basically a zombie on the cover, so, reasonably, you would assume that there's zombies in the movie. But, not so much.

It was okay. I'm just not that big a fan of David Cronenberg. He just thinks very differently from me. When I want a scene to be big and dramatic, he makes it very small and claustrophobic. Over and over again. Which isn't to say that he always goes small, it's just he never does makes things big when I would want him to. The result is that I'm just not that comfortable watching his movies. Things are never quite how I want them to be. So, yeah, that's just how it goes with him.

In this movie, there's all these psychics doing battle. Basically, this involves them staring at each other until somebody's head explodes. I mean, it's cool, but the flow of the battle is entirely controlled by the camera's cuts and the people faces. It makes it feel like we're just waiting, instead of watching.

Similarly, in A History of Violence, when Viggo Mortenson goes to kick William Hurt (or is it John Hurt, God, I'm so bad at their names) ass, he just goes there and kills the goons and then William Hurt. Mr. Hurt wants to talk and talk, because that's what he does, but Viggo just kills him. Again, that's not how it felt like it should go. On the other hand, it's clear he's playing with the role reversal as this family man switches back to his old persona, a silent, cold-blooded killer, while the man whose been trying to kill him can't shut up and barely seems dangerous (okay, that's an exaggeration, he seems like a snake who'll strike and kill given the slightest opportunity, but finds there are none, so he dies).

So, yeah, Scanners was alright.

And, lastly, I watched Diary of the Dead. Now, I'd heard some mixed reviews on this one. Well, I guess primarily bad reviews, with one really positive review actually counts as poor reviews, but anyways, I saw it. In Blu-ray by the way, looked gorgeous. Really did.

And, well, it certainly did do a lot of stuff wrong. Like the obnoxious narrator that couldn't shut up to save her life (disappointingly, she didn't die, but not because she could shut up, that's for sure). I swear, the movie would have been significantly better if she didn't feel compelled to talk all the time. And, so I end up having to ask what Romero was thinking when he chose to have her talking. See, the idea behind Diary of the Dead is that it's actually this student film called The Death of Death that some film school kids made during the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. They spend a lot of time discussing why they felt compelled to do this, and if that's something you're curious about go see the movie, so they can talk about it for you.

Anyways, they made it. And gave it an obnoxious narrator who has to point out every single even potential meaning in the shots she picked and comment on the nature of humanity, and the observer, and society and the media and whatever else is on her mind. So, I have to ask, why does she exist Mr. George A. Romero, sir? Are you speaking through her? Please say no, because you didn't need to have her in your other movies. Even Land of the Dead, which seemed unable to decide between being a stupid zombie movie and a discussion on humanity and the classes in society, didn't have a narrator walking us through every shot. I mean, you don't need her. So, do you use her as a part of the gimmick of this being a student film and so they're full of self-importance and have to explain everything for the viewer? Because, that's not cool. We don't want to see a student film; we want to see a George Romero film. Just to be clear.

But, well, it's also the best zombie movie I've seen in quite a while. It's annoying to watch, but it's also pretty good. There's some zombie kills that can stand up to anything, ever. Even though the characters are annoying, I enjoyed them. I enjoyed watching them fall apart. I liked how the camera was a central character. How the camera helped to tear them apart just as much as, if not more than, anything else. It's just annoying that the characters had to talk about that too.

But, most of all, I love the way George A. Romero ends his zombie movies. They're always so hopeless. Even when humanity wins, we're losing. But, most times, George just lets us lose, straight up. This movie stopped at just the right time. And I know it's because George Romero knows how to make these movies and does it so well. I loved ending it with the characters trapped in a panic room, surrounded by aimless zombies outside, and TVs inside showing them only hopelessness. I like knowing that it was in this situation that they sat down and started editing and making this movie.

It's just, so right. God, I love George Romero's zombie movies. They're really so much better than anything anyone else does.

That is all.


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