What’s the worst that can happen? That is what I had said last night before renting the yet to be released remake of George A. Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD (1985). Deep down, I knew…I knew it wasn’t going to be good, and yet there I was, pushing select and paying $6 despite my better judgement. I try to be fair. I know I am very particular about zombie movies. Deep prejudices, you might say. Being a Romero-purist makes it really hard to get into anything other than Romero. I understand that the late great grandfather of the zombie genre wasn’t perfect, we need only look at Survival of the Dead to realize that, but still…there has to be something. Story. Acting. Gore. The trifecta, no, the algorithm to making a solid zombie movie. So, did Day of the Dead: Bloodline make the cut? Continue Reading
Francine Parker: They’re still here.
Stephen: They’re after us. They know we’re still in here.
Peter: They’re after the place. They don’t know why; they just remember. Remember that they want to be in here.
Francine Parker: What the hell are they?
Peter: They’re us, that’s all, when there’s no more room in hell.
Peter: Something my granddad used to tell us. You know Macumba? Vodou. My granddad was a priest in Trinidad. He used to tell us, “When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth.”
Dawn of the Dead is among many things a very quotable movie. The scene above is probably everyone’s favorite, and for some there are more selective scenes to nibble on. Scientists arguing on what remains of the news broadcast. The SWAT incursion of the Philadelphia apartment building. The refueling scene, the dock scene, the shopping montage. The raiders and ensuing firefight. There are plenty. And if you were to ask me, I can’t really say if I personally have an all-time favorite scene, I mean let’s be honest here, there are so many to choose from. From the very beginning, Dawn of the Dead lures you in and keeps your attention rooted into the story. The pacing couldn’t be more perfect. Continue Reading
In 2005, my interest in the undead had officially been reclassified as ‘Mildly Addicted’, due in no small part to the Romero trinity of Night, Dawn and Day. By now I had branched out, and was working my way through any zombie film I could get my distended claws into. Then the news broke that Romero was making a new zombie film, Land of the Dead. To say I was a little excited would be an understatement. I remember watching it at the time and whilst I enjoyed it, it was not a patch on the originals, or most of the films I had been watching during that period.
So, looking at it objectively now and giving it another (overdue) viewing, has my opinion changed? Well…get comfortable, and I’ll begin. Continue Reading
I love horror movies. I love zombie movies. But more specifically, I love one very specific part.
I love the beginnings of zombie movies.
I love the inherent sense of dread at what we all know is coming. If the sequencing is done right, it’s a thrill to watch, with a few disparate, seemingly unconnected events and soon enough, it’s all going to shit. It’s quick. It’s brutal. It’s total. And best of all, you are never told why it is happening.
Zombies have often been painted as a metaphorical criticism of our own over-consumerism but I think it also functions as a demonstration of our own existential shelf life. That at any given moment, anything can turn on us and bring about a cruel and uncaring demise. The frailty of our own condition is really highlighted in the terrifying opening moments of any great zombie film.
Where will you be when the world ends? When it comes to apocalyptic movies, the beginning has always been my favorite part. Sure, its fun to see the aftermath, what the world looks like when the dust settles, but what I find absolutely intriguing is what happens in those defining moments when normalcy if flipped on its head. This is a huge reason why I’ve always enjoyed George A. Romero’s films. Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead (arguably) are about how the world ends in the moment. Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead are films about how people are doing after-the-fact. Good movies, but they’re missing that special punch. The defining factor which begs the question: What will you do when the world ends? Continue Reading
Day of the Dead is the third installment of the ‘Dead’ series from the late, great George A. Romero, and the final movie in what many consider the ‘original Dead trilogy’. It is, in every way, a masterpiece.
As the second sequel to Night of the Living Dead and part of a series, it is the perfect final third act. As a standalone horror movie, it is fantastic. As a zombie movie, it is divine. The special effects alone set this movie apart from most others, rivaled only by those in John Carpenter’s The Thing and Ridley Scott’s Alien (and okay, maybe also Tremors, directed by Ron Underwood). Continue Reading
What? Were you expecting a Friday the 13th Jason Voorhees review? Keeping with tradition, with Part 3 playing in the background, I’ll do my best and not yarn too much over the movie I give credit as starting my entire fascination with not just horror, but zombies too. No, not Friday the 13th Part 3, come on people, stick with the program. I’m talking Night of the Living Dead. Imagine, if you will, that you’re a twelve year old boy and you have a big sister who by all accounts ought to be hanging out with her much more mature friends but instead decides to watch movies with you. That was me. And while not every Friday (because my sister did have a life), but on most Friday nights we would have a Friday Movie Night. I’m talking pizza, popcorn, soda, candy, and whatever other junk we decided to indulge ourselves with. We’d order Pizza Hut and drive down to the local video store (Blockbuster) and rent whatever we wanted. While I cannot recall every movie night, I certainly recall the night my sister rented Night of the Living Dead. Continue Reading
Though zombie is never said in Night of the Living Dead, this 1968 horror film set the standard for all following zombie films: radiation raises the ghouls (as they’re called in the film) to life (though, as of this film, radiation as a cause is only speculation), they move in a slow, plodding manner, they eat the flesh of the living, and the people they kill turn into zombies.
What makes George A. Romero’s Dead films so important, though, isn’t the thrills and chills they provide, as generous as that providing assuredly is. It’s the social and political commentary, hidden beneath the piles of corpses, that distinguishes him from his imitators. The following is my interpretation of that commentary, a theme of mindless, pitiless killing, and a killing not limited to what the zombies commit, by the way. Continue Reading
RELEASED this day in 1968, George A. Romero’s epic, groundbreaking classic, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD hits theaters, recounting the tale of a group of disparate individuals who take refuge in an abandoned house when corpses begin to walk in search of fresh human bodies to devour. The pragmatic Ben (Duane Jones) does his best to control the situation, but when the reanimated bodies surround the house, the other survivors begin to panic. As any semblance of order within the group begins to dissipate, the zombies start to find ways inside — and one by one, the living humans become the prey of the deceased ones.
There are few movies out there that represent the feelings of the era in which the film was made as honestly and brutal as Night of the Living Dead. 1968 America was very chaotic, with the deaths of charismatic leaders such as MLK and JFK, post Tet, and the furious antiwar protesters took over in colleges across the nation, including Columbia University in New York. And of lest no forget, Tricky Dick’s infamous call for the GREAT SILENT MAJORITY to stand up and be recognized. Night of the ?Living Dead was very much an subversive answer to the late Presidents speech. And was interesting invoked one of the greatest Civil Rights speeches made, when Dave Dennis stood up in front of those mourning the loss of James Earl Chaney from Meridian, Mississippi, and Andrew Goodman and Michael “Mickey” Schwerner from New York City, when he said, “I’m not here to do the traditional things most of us do at such a gathering…what I want to talk about right now is the living dead that we have right among our midst, not only in the state of Mississippi but throughout the nation. Those are the people who don’t care, those who do care but don’t have the guts enough to stand up for it, and those people who are busy up in Washington and in other places using my freedom and my life to play politics with…”
Not only does Night of the Living Dead hold historical clout, but also became the predecessor to an entire sub-genre in horror. Think about it. Before Romero, zombies were still in the realm of voodoo witch-doctors and crazed plantation owners, space alien mind control, or even atomic aged ghouls. Not saying those sub-genres aren’t good in their own right, cause anyone whose seen The Serpent and the Rainbow can attest that voodoo zombies are still scary. But Romero created something new, a new monster in the lineup of Frankenstein’s, Vampires, Werewolf’s, Mummy’s, fish people, and the like. Without Romero we wouldn’t have The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Resident Evil, Zombi3, The Beyond, and a laundry list of films that benefited from George’s take on walking flesh eating ghouls.
And besides all this, Night of the Living Dead is a damn fine horror movie. Low budget and gorilla in nature. The story was plausible and the characters felt real: we know these people; they’re us, we’re them. Romero’s take on zombies is fundamentally about the people who are trying to survive and how they react given certain situations. How we ultimately take sides and are not quick to listen to the ideas of others. Our fight or flight response forces us into making poor decisions, instead of working together as a group. And then in the end, much how Ben met his fate, we needlessly die.
One of the best reviews I read on Night of the Living Dead wasn’t really a review, but rather a review on the audience during a screening in 1969. The unknown reviewer noted the following:
“The kids in the audience were stunned. There was almost complete silence. The movie had stopped being delightfully scary about halfway through, and had become unexpectedly terrifying. There was a little girl across the aisle from me, maybe nine years old, who was sitting very still in her seat and crying. I don’t think the younger kids really knew what hit them. They were used to going to movies, sure, and they’d seen some horror movies before, sure, but this was something else. This was ghouls eating people up — and you could actually see what they were eating. This was little girls killing their mothers. This was being set on fire. Worst of all, even the hero got killed. It’s hard to remember what sort of effect this movie might have had on you when you were six or seven. But try to remember. At that age, kids take the events on the screen seriously, and they identify fiercely with the hero. When the hero is killed, that’s not an unhappy ending but a tragic one: Nobody got out alive. It’s just over, that’s all. I felt real terror in that neighborhood theater last Saturday afternoon. I saw kids who had no resources they could draw upon to protect themselves from the dread and fear they felt.”
Where does one begin with such a convoluted movie? Especially when said reviewer swore he’d never watch it, or at least refused to watch it in theaters. Be that as it may, I knew i’d eventually screen the DVD once it was released to Red-box or some other rental avenue; I wasn’t going to purchase the thing, and thank Valhalla for that. As it seems, the criticisms I had before watching the movie (only seeing the previews) were replaced with other criticisms. But not everything regarding World War Z is horrible, while watching this popcorn flick, there were moments of real enjoyment. So, lets get to the nitty-gritty and find what made WWZ good, and what made WWZ not so good.
Ignoring the traditional chronological review format, lets tackle this beast one issue at a time. First, the overwhelming reason I swore up and down i’d never spend my hard earned dough on seeing this “zombie” movie in theaters: Zombie Ants and CGI. CGI, as we’ve discussed on this site before, has its place in cinema. Sci-fi movies are a good place to put good moments of CGI action; not horror movies. Horror, in my humble opinion, should remain traditional, but then again, is WWZ a horror movie? The PG-13 rating bothers me. Granted, some really good horror can be done on a PG-13 MPAA rating, consider: Insidious, Drag Me to Hell, 1408, The Sixth Sense, and The Possession as just a few examples. But this is a zombie movie. Can you name one zombie movie with a PG-13 rating?
The fact that no one else has made a PG-13 zombie movie isn’t the point. The point is that we’re talking about a zombie movie, plain and simple, and zombie movies require a certain quantity of gore. There were plenty of moment where I found myself expecting for something bloody to happen, such as: the entire movie…and also anytime someone was bitten or how about when Gerry chops (more like swipes, though) off Segen’s hand. Did you notice how she didn’t even bleed!! I’m sorry, you hack someones appendage with a bayonet, there will be blood…lots and lots of blood. Prime-time television has more blood and guts then this movie did. Consider the Walking Dead; granted, The Walking Dead is rated (somehow) PG-14, but still. The point is, couldn’t producers muster up a little more gore without tripping into a R-rating? And the even more pressing point: Zombie movies shouldn’t even be done on a PG-13 rating. All you get is disappointment. Sure, there might be something wrong with us zombie horror fans, but we’ve been messed up for a long time, no need in changing the formula now.
As for CGI, my opinion on the matter has changed somewhat. It would seem near impossible, budget wise, to have scenes showing the zombie apocalypse on a global scale without the use of some CGI clips. Notice the two highlighted words there? Some and clips are key components on keeping CGI from going King Kong. Not that i’m a huge fan of the whole zombie ants thing, but those moments could have been better if only they had cut the screen times short a little. And since we’re on the subject of zombie ants: what genius marketed this movie based solely on those moments from the movie? Igits! Had they shown some of the other scenes without the mindless rage monsters piling on top of each other and knocking over buses, then maybe (big maybe) I would have seen the movie in theaters. There is an actual chance I might see the sequel (whenever that comes out!) because WWZ wasn’t all that bad. Here are some of the parts that I found to be good:
- When the movie cuts to the main protagonist, Gerry, there is a delay before his kids run into the bedroom. In my opinion, this was a nod to the Dawn of the Dead 2004 remake.
- The doomed apartment rooftop escape reminded me of the Left 4 Dead level, Mercy.
- The beginning of the film highlighted the essential element in zombie story telling: panicking people doing bad things.
- Theme of ignorance until its too late. Pay attention to the conversation between Gerry and Jurgen Warmbrunn, the Director of Mossad. Warmbrunn mentions the Nazi Holocaust and how a majority of European Jewry refused to believe that concentration camps were possible, that there was no way Hitler would do such a thing; until by 1940 the SS began to round folks up on transports. I’m currently taking a Holocaust class and found this tidbit regarding human denial interesting.
- And then there’s this guy, who so happens to be a doctor working for W.H.O. See what I did there? Was this some bizarre easter egg or just happenstance?
Bottom Line: The movie wasn’t as horrible as I originally thought. But, for a movie claiming to be a zombie flick, there was still a lot of let down. It’d be hard to pull off a good zombie movie on a PG-13 rating, though its not impossible. I’m not sure how the MPAA works, but i’m curious if they can up the ante by pushing for a PG-14 rating like The Walking Dead? Just saying, the whole severed hand and zero blood is still bugging me. And then again, the big issue with WWZ is that we cannot approach it with a Romero lens. WWZ is more akin to 28 Days Later and if looked at in that respect, it was a decent “zombie” plague movie, especially from a global perspective. If you missed WWZ in theaters, like me, go out and rent it; I still wouldn’t recommend buying it.