The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘halloween’

The Zombiethon Round-Up – Part Three

Posted by BigWords on October 31, 2010

I didn’t make it to fifty films. That isn’t the biggest let-down of the week (you can make an educated guess regarding the previous post as to the nature of the week’s low point), yet the fact that I’ve sat through no less than forty odd films and a couple of television episodes regarding zombies has made me realize a few things. Firstly, I really, really want to be somewhere with an independent supply of water when the apocalypse falls. Can you imagine the smell of undead pieces of flesh hanging off your weaponry, compounded by the fact that no-one has had a shower in weeks? These are the types of questions which have been rattling around my head whilst the filmmakers intentions have been largely ignored. I’ve seen most of the decent films enough to know them off by heart, so the ruminations have been getting free reign.

Despite not setting out to expand my theories about survival post-civilization, there are good tips throughout zombie films, and even suggestions which could be put to use whilst the cities are still standing. Zombieland‘s cardio rule is a very pertinent one in a world where there are a lot of folks too fat to run from the undead. The walking banquets are, in a roundabout way, good for the long term survival of the human race, ’cause while the zombies are feasting on them the rest of us can run like our asses are on fire. And, while I’m thinking of food here (yeah, watching zombies do their stuff make me hungry) there needs to be enough food wherever I am at the beginning of the apocalypse, as there is no chance I’ll survive on junk food alone. Well, not for long anyways…

Even though it isn’t (yet) a required text on zombies, Dead Rising has a perfectly valid argument against trying to hook up with other survivors – there is nothing to say that everyone else hasn’t gone completely and utterly insane with the situation around them. These fuckwits (technical term) will most likely be the death of as many people as zombies, so it makes sense that everyone tries to avoid everyone else. Just in case. Adding to the reasons for avoiding other survivors is the fact that there is always one idiot who denies they have been bitten. Go watch the Dawn Of The Dead remake and you’ll see that even babies aren’t above suspicion… So yeah.

The list, for those of you wishing to replicate this “experiment”:

28 Days Later; 28 Weeks Later; 48 Weeks Later; AAH! Zombies!!; Apocalypse Of The Dead; Beyond Re-Animator; Bio Zombie; Day Of The Dead; Day Of The Dead; Day Of The Dead 2: Contagium; Dead Air; Dead Snow; Diary Of The Dead; Fido; The Ghost Galleon; The Horde; House Of The Dead; I Walked With A Zombie; I Was A Teenage Zombie; King Of The Zombies; The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue; Living Dead Girl; Mutant; Night Of The Living Dead; Night Of The Living Dead; Night Of The Seagulls; Pet Sematary; The Plague Of The Zombies; Quarantine; Resident Evil; Resident Evil: Apocalypse; Return Of The Blind Dead; Shaun Of The Dead; Survival Of The Dead; Tombs Of The Blind Dead; Trailer Park Of Terror; Versus; White Zombie; Wicked Little Things; Zombie Bloodbath; Zombie Flesh Eaters; Zombieland; Zombies, Zombies, Zombies

There sometimes wasn’t time for me to watch full features, so I threw in a few episodes of Tales From The Crypt as well – the less said about the feature films the better. You may also want to check out a couple of first season episodes of Urban Gothic, which subverts zombies and necromancy seven different ways before the end credits roll. Oh, and while I remember about it – as my brain is quite likely to melt before the next election rolls around – all Brits reading this really need to reconsider their political allegiance when there exists a party which actually makes sense out there. Trust me… When the end of days comes, you will want to have the correct people in charge.

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The Zombiethon Round-Up – Part Two

Posted by BigWords on October 31, 2010

If the first post was “The Good,” then this is The Bad. The films I have avoided mentioning thus far are, without being too mean, worse than eating dogshit whilst having a red hot poker thrust up your anus, as a Hanson album plays on an eternal loop. These are the films even as distinguished a film geek as Quentin Tarantino would be unlikely to admit to watching. I’m possibly overstating just how god-awful they are, but not by  much. I know they are meant to be horror films, but I’m sure inducing horror in viewers at the prospect of watching them again wasn’t exactly the idea. You can go hunt them down if you are sufficiently mentally ill or have a broad and deep masochistic streak, but it would honestly be cheaper paying someone to punch you in the face repeatedly.

The first film to make me question my sanity in a week of zombie films was the comic-book adaptation Trailer Park Of Terror, which sounds like the perfect mix of everything I like, yet managed to disappoint on nearly every level. It’s not that the story is bad (there’s a nice clean line through the film), it’s just awful to look at. If I had watched it in isolation, I would probably have been more favorable to it, yet hot on the heels of some of the classics of the zombie genre it pales into insignificance.There are some nice extras with the main feature, but no matter how much supporting material could be added, it’s just another in a long list of disappointments which would sully those first few hours of flesh-tearing bliss.

The worst offender is – without the shadow of a doubt – Zombies, Zombies, Zombies, a film which any sane film producer would have bought in a heartbeat when they heard the high concept. It’s a twist on the Dawn Of The Dead conceit of hiding somewhere safe, in this instance a strip club. The survivors are, naturally, strippers themselves, yet despite having one of the best-sounding premises, it manages to destroy the idea resoundingly. I wanted to like this for so many reasons… Um. Okay, mainly for the strippers, but the film deserves no time whatsoever spent thinking about it. That I have already typed this much out is a testament to how much it irritates me, and I would rather puke blood than continue. Therefore…

That 48 Weeks Later manages to make those two films look decent by a substantial magnitude beggars belief. It’s so bad that it could feasibly be used as an implement of torture should the US military wish to get quick answers from those detained at Gitmo – trust me, even the most hardened terrorist will beg for a quick death after sitting through the first half hour, and it goes downhill from there. It would have gotten on this page for piggybacking on the success of 28 Days Later alone, but it’s unimaginable badness means it gets a special level of Hell all to itself. The amateurish acting borders on hilarious, so if you want to laugh at production values, awful acting and the kind of direction not seen since The Star Wars Holiday Special then this should suit you perfectly.

While not quite as bad as the above, Apocalypse Of The Dead is so packed full of clichés that it struggles to retain any of the vague interest which the admittedly cool cover art raises. It neither strikes an individual tone nor conforms to any of the established ideas which zombie films should strike for, varying wildly in tone from broad comedy to (allegedly) tense drama in the space of a few scenes. The brief moment late in the film where it seems to take a cue from Stephen King’s Cell is an opening which is never capitalized on, yet the “leader zombie” is probably the most interesting character in the entire film. That doesn’t say much for the leads, but they are as wooden as the stake through Dracula’s chest. If I make it sound disjointed and an awkward addition to the genre, then I am being kind.

It may seem a tad unfair to lump The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue (or whichever of the hundred odd alternate titles it shows under) with that lot, though I found it to have none of the charm or style which the best of the zombie films display. There are a few exceptional scenes which border on classic, though aside from the bandaged zombie I don’t foresee myself wishing to revisit this any time soon. I’m only being nicer to AAH! Zombies!! as it has a funny idea and a quirky style, but it rapidly outstays it welcome once shifting from its’ early premise into something that is not entirely unlike Stubbs The Zombie. Instead of being mean, I’ll just point out how hot Betsy Beutler is, and quickly change subject.

Beyond Re-Animator is the one film I’m mentioning here which I truly wish wasn’t made, not because of how bad it is, but because it diminishes the first two films in the series. The prison setting is still fresh enough that it holds some interest, yet manages to fumble some excellent set-ups with poorly thought out scares and crappy editing. I really like Jeffrey Combs, and the only reason I can think of him doing this film is that he was trapped into a contract even Harry Houdini couldn’t have gotten out of.

Those were the highlights of the worst. You may want to refrain from thinking too long on what films were so bad as to make me repress the memory of having watched them, but bearing in mind the level of quality here I’ve spent more time wondering how these films get made. The Bill Hicks joke about production meetings (which hangs pretty much on the phrase “Will there be titty?”) doesn’t seem so far fetched after all…

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The Zombiethon Round-Up – Part One

Posted by BigWords on October 31, 2010

Eternal cruise, I feel the fires of madness
Burning holes into my wounds
This Hell on Earth, I feel the power of sadness
No way out I’m marooned.

Lonely this Hell on Earth
Demons screaming in my mind
Wading through debris of life
A thousand souls their graves to find.

Marooned by Running Wild

My grand plan for Halloween wasn’t without some, ah… interesting time management issues, and I am especially proud of the ingenious idea of watching DVD’s on the laptop during my lunch break to keep from falling behind. You’ve probably guessed from the title of the blog post that it has something to do with the undead, but it is much, much madder than anyone could possibly think of, at least without already lining themselves up for a padded room in a nice facility where the jackets are done up from behind.

The plan was to watch fifty zombie films in a week, so I started with the DVDs I knew I would like (not the last mistake I would make during this insane challenge), namely Dawn Of The Dead, Shaun Of The Dead, I Walked With A Zombie and Zombie Flesh Eaters. Calculating the odds of getting through the entire fifty meant that some cheating was in order, so I pulled out the box set of old zombie flicks and watched King Of The Zombies, Revolt Of The Zombies and White Zombie to fulfill my classic quota and to get some shorter features in before the time constraints really began to bite. The picture quality on the newer films was fine, but those older films are really starting to show their age, even on HD-upscaled DVDs.

A minor interlude is called for here, as it seems to me that the DVD quality of White Zombie especially is actually worse than the old video sell-through release. The tonal quality of the footage lightens and darkens mid-scene throughout, and the number of scratches is unbelievable. It wasn’t this bad on video (or, for that matter, on the 16mm version I saw whilst it was circulating in the late-80s), so I can only assume that this isn’t from the same master copy. The film itself has some wonderful moments, and one scene in particular stands out – Karloff’s Legendre is overseeing the removal of Madeleine’s coffin, and it is so much like a shot Kubrick would have engineered that I had to rewind a few moments to see it again. So beautiful…

Tick tock, tick tock… The clock is tight enough as it is, and I’m fucking around by rewinding. The night was filled with the original Night of The Living Dead, then the remake of Day Of The Dead. That is one film, I gotta say, that doesn’t deserve to be connected to George A. Romero in any way. Mena Suvari is so hopelessly miscast as a hard-ass military stock character that the rest of the film can’t help but look ridiculous around her. There are good effects in there, but rather blunted by the fact that she doesn’t get horrifically mutilated within the first half hour by the undead. With dawn closing in on me, and the week about to begin in earnest, I settled on 28 Days Later. Yeah, I know… “It’s not a zombie film.” Well, fuck Danny Boyle and the horse he rode in on. It’s a schlocky zombie flick. End of story.

I’m splitting this into three, so I can cover as much as I can be bothered saying about each of the films I watched. This, unsurprisingly being the first, is where I get to lavish affection on the good stuff, as there really isn’t enough said about the better zombie films. The other two posts will mostly be mockery and insults, so enjoy the relatively good mood on display here:

My opinions on NOTLD, Dawn and (to a lesser degree) Day haven’t changed over the years. Romero, more than any other director, really gets the concept of zombies – or, as he uses in NOTLD , “ghouls,” which is a much better word for his creatures. I love his style and his voice, but even I am not insane enough to class Diary Of The Dead in the same category as his earlier work. It’s a neat idea, but it’s also one which has been driven into the ground since The Last Broadcast – a classic of the POV style. The immediate follow-up to this, Survival Of The Dead is even less notable, save for an amazing final shot – almost worth sitting through the rest of the film for alone. It also breaks a cardinal rule by having identical twins as a major plot point, which indicates the slow deterioration of the “Dead” series as much as the dilution of the danger has.

If you are wondering, I’ll state right now that I skipped the lamentable Land Of The Dead. It’s not that it adds nothing to the mythos – the attraction to fireworks, and an increase in zombie intelligence which will eventually pay off in Survival – are fine, but any explanation as to how the sealed-off city fits in with the other films would require too much back-story. It’s the ugly step-sister of the franchise, desperately trying to look hip and cool while waddling along with too much padding. That’s probably heresy, but I’m beyond caring. I also managed to skip the comedy-horror Return of The Evil Dead, though that was more from luck than anything else – I forgot about it until it was too late to hunt down my copy. It’s probably nestled between Plan 9 From Outer Space and Twilight, along with a host of other B-movies…

Due to a couple of recommendations (here and here), I picked up the Norwegian film Dead Snow, and… Okay, I liked this, but the barrage of Frank Miller references in the credits threw me off slightly, and the shout-out to 300 only compounded the feeling that I was watching a low-budget fan-film. The effects are awesome, and it has a great storyline, yet there are moments where it feels as if it is trying too hard to throw in references to other films for the sake of it. I especially found the stark chiaroscuro of the trees against the snow at the beginning, though the harsher black and white element is lost rapidly as the film moves into a more traditional horror style. The zombies themselves are a major departure, being able to not only run, but also fight the “heroes” – med students, including a comedy character whose inclusion is obvious from the first reference to his phobia.

Another outstanding example of non-traditional zombies comes in the form of The Horde, a French zombie film in the mold of the Dawn Of The Dead remake, though infused with a stylistic angle as expected from a pair of French directors. It’s billed as “Die Hard with zombies,” but it has a lot more in common with computer games than any films which come immediately to mind. The sequence in Max Payne 2 where the building is burning around him is captured in mood, only the danger is zombies running around trying to eat people rather than flames licking at the heroes heels. The fat guy with the fire-axe may be a reference to Resident Evil, though it becomes an indispensable character trait for the unlikely savior of the beleaguered survivors. I’m going to watch this again, it’s that good…

That, sadly, is most of the best stuff. Sturgeon’s Law is fully in effect when it comes to zombie films – perhaps more than in other horror sub-genres – so I’ll leave off this post here without spoiling the mood.

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Why Do Remakes Have To Kill Franchises?

Posted by BigWords on September 16, 2009

Having just sat through Death Race I have to ask this question. It should have ended with the chick standing on the roof of the car in the Frankenstein mask, the cutaway signifying the possible escape of the drivers. It ran on a few minutes longer, with an ending which was completely unnecessary and destroyed my interest in seeing a sequel. I have to make it clear, straight off the bat, that I’m a big fan of the original, and the thought that this would be similarly laced with barbed commentary appealed to me.

Wow, was I wrong about that or what?

It could have set up a great B-Movie franchise of explosions, gratuitous violence and general mayhem, but after the add-on scenes set in Mexico I’m not sure a sequel would even be possible. It isn’t as if creating a kick-ass franchise is difficult, as even the abysmal Butterfly Effect has managed to drag on to three equally yawn-inducing installments. As for the craptastic remake of The Omen, the least said the better…

Why are remakes so hard to get right? I’m not going to include the constantly revised stuff here, because anything with Sherlock Holmes or Batman is going to be revamped in a few years anyway (and Batman currently has a few versions available), so this is centered solely on fresh remakes on dead properties. Such as Planet Of The Apes.

Rule One (which must be obeyed at all costs) is that a remake must engage the fans of the original. Halloween (which was too slow and too retro) missed a few vital pointers from the original and demystified Michael Myers to a degree that it wasn’t really a horror film. It wanted to be taken seriously, but when there is an audience waiting on a certain type of film, they’re going to react badly when they see something that doesn’t push their buttons.

Rule Two is don’t fuck up the ending. This is where I ought to launch into a “What the Hell is the point of Tim Burton?” rant, but I really don’t care to expend energy attacking someone who doesn’t even have the courtesy to learn about the subject of his films before he starts directing.

Anyone who makes a comic-book movie having never looked at the comics is a fucking hack.

And a pretty useless one at that. There are at least a dozen major problems with the first Batman film, and even an awesome Batmobile can’t save the film from the dumbest ending ever. Who in their right mind kills off the Joker? Then he compounds his errors with the Planet Of The Apes, where he kills the potential series with a completely uncalled for coda in which… Sorry, I can’t even bring myself to relay the end of the story.

Anyways…

Rule Three. Don’t betray the fans of the original. As if having to watch Tom (not gay) Cruise running around in Mission: Impossible, we find out that the heroic Jim Phelps betrayed the IMF. Really? The same Jim Phelps who put his ass on the line every week to save the world? The man who put more villainous dictators in their place than Dubya could ever wet dream of? It was a slap in the face to the fans of the original series, and an insult to intelligent viewers.

Rule Four. Don’t remake Casablanca.

Rule Five. Big robots fighting each other over a Rubix cube isn’t big and isn’t clever.

Rule Six. Never let Pitof direct.

Addendum to rule six: Never let Uwe Boll direct. Anything.

Rule Seven. Just because everyone else is doing a _____ film, doesn’t mean you have to resurrect a crap franchise to cash in. I’m half dreading the announcement that some half-assed reimagining of an old cartoon will be appearing in cinemas soon, because it nearly always turns out to be a bad idea. If you need proof that it’s not a way to appease fans, then just look at the mess which Transformers made of its source material.

Rule Eight. Always keep the villain alive for the sequel.

I’ll add to this when I pluck up enough courage to watch what Uwe Boll did to Far Cry, and I suppose that I’ll have rules for making films based on computer games as well. I may even have to watch Super Mario Bros for that, so I might have to sober up before posting my thoughts. If I watch Tomb Raider I’ll need to be really drunk…

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