Return of the Living Dead: Whimsical
Moving along to 1985 I’m picking one of my horror guilty pleasures. While I’m a little “zombified” by zombies and the undead in general, one film really holds a special place in my heart, and while I do love the Romero Trilogy of Night, Dawn, and Dead, there is nothing like the fun and all out insanity of “Return of the Living Dead.”
It’s weird to talk about “Return of the Living Dead” when I could have easily picked “Dawn of the Dead” for 1985, but who really wants to hear about the message George Romero was trying to make about the evil of capitalism, that’s all been done before. What I want to talk about are goofy government conspiracies, graveyard stripping, a mortician who might be a Nazi, and of course talking zombies.
“Return” is the tale of government foul-ups and cover-ups. When a toxin is release by two bumbling chemical warehouse workers it awakens the dead from a nearby cemetery which ruins the time of a group of punk rockers who are partying in said cemetery. That’s pretty much all you need to know about this film, that, and it’s tons of fun.
While “Night” and “Dawn” relied on practical horror and a message of social change, “Return” is the Id of those films. There is blood, boobs, and more blood. There is also the first concept and idea that zombies enjoy to not just munch on flesh, but also “brains.” This plot point is revealed by a talking zombie.
There should be so many things that bother me about this film. One, the zombies talk. Two, the characters are goofy and whiny. And three, my cardinal sin, the zombies RUN. This, to my knowledge, is the first example of running zombies, but I’ll give it a pass considering the goofy nature of this film.
Here are some other oldies but goodies from ’85:
Wyrmwood – Progressing
Let’s admit it finally; the zombie genre needs to die….again….and again….and again. The days where zombies were a novelty are over, and part of that I blame on “The Walking Dead.” And no, I’m not saying the show is bad, but it simply created the over-saturation of zombies everywhere, and to me, it’s run its course as a horror fan. Here I am, of course, about to rain compliments all over a zombie film, what kind of person am I? This brings me to “Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead” yet another quality product from the Land Down Under, which also brought us “The Babadook” last year. What works in “Wyrmwood” is it’s ability to be different, progressing the same old tired zombie flick, while incorporating the best from other zombie films.
Here’s the skinny on this flick; The zombie outbreak has finally hit Australia and the Outback is in ruins. We have Barry and Benny, two guys trying to make it out alive, and we also have Brooke, Barry’s sister, an artist who has been kidnapped by two soldiers and is being experimented on by a scientist with a penchant for KC and the Sunshine Band. Barry has been traumatized by the zombification of his wife and daughter, who he had to kill himself, while Benny is a wild and crazy Aborigine. That is the basic story, and to spoil other aspects of the film would be a disservice.
I know I said I didn’t want to spoil anything, but *SPOILER BEGINS* skip ahead to the next paragraph, or better yet, skip this review for now, watch this flick, and come back and read the rest. What separates this zombie tale from others, is the way the zombies are created and what part they play in the film. While the origin of the infection is relatively tired and true (really, a meteor shower?) and the explanation a little hokey (Biblical) the actual literal fuel of the zombies is a interesting wrinkle to the genre. Basically, when the meteor show occurs, it creates an airborne event where everyone who doesn’t have A Negative becomes infected and all fuel becomes useless and zombie blood becomes the new gasoline….yes, zombie blood is now fuel. It makes you wonder how someone thinks of this type of stuff, but if you are watching a zombie film, you should already be suspending enough belief. Oh, and there is also zombie telepathy. Again, who thinks of this stuff, but again, somehow it works. *SPOILER ENDS*
For genre buffs, “Wyrmwood” is the perfect example of “stealing from the best.” You have the post-apocalyptic craziness of the “Mad Max” trilogy, the over the top gore of “Dead/Alive,” the younger in cheekiness of “Shaun of the Dead,” the screams of “Evil Dead,” and the unrelenting zombie hordes of “Dawn of the Dead;” get the point? This film is every zombie lover’s dream and is the proper homage to everything that has come before it. What is even more impressive is that this is director, Kiah Roache-Turner’s first film and while he borrowed from the best, it’s evident that he not only cares about the genre, but is also interested in expanding it and not just trying to create the same old carbon ops we’ve seen since 1969’s “Night of the Living Dead,” and “Wyrmwood” is far and away the most original and fun “zombie” film since “28 Days Later.”
Warm Bodies – Surprising
*This review is being provided by guest contributor, Kayleigh Brown, aka, Kayleighkill. Thanks for the submission Kayleigh, and we look forward to having more guest submissions. You can find Kayleigh on YouTube through the following link. She is also on Twitter and Tumblr.*
*This review is based on a sneak preview that took place on January 10th, 2013. “Warm Bodies” will be widely released on February 1st 2013. Thank you Regal Cinemas for the FREE tickets for this event. This movie will be revisited upon it’s actual release.*
*Caution, spoilers ahead*
Whoa, well, that was one way to end a mid-season finale. Through eight episodes of Season Three of “The Walking Dead” you can tell that AMC has taken the gloves off, and their wallets out, and told Robert Kirkman and his crew, “Look, “Breaking Bad” is ending, “Mad Men” only takes places in an office building, here is the cash that you need, and deserve.” Basically, two-and-a-half seasons of preparation is coming together and come February 2013 I believe all Walking Dead fans will be very happy with AMC as they are finally figuring out a show that seemed to be aimless a year ago.
If you’re a comic book reader, which I’m not, I’m sure there are many things that you might like or dislike about this season, but as simply a TV watcher, I’m thoroughly enjoying myself and like the way the journey is shaping out. The secrets of the prison are slowly being unraveled, and speaking of unraveled, the sanity of Rick seems to be heading in that direction after the death of his wife Lori, and birth of his daughter who I’ll just join Daryl in calling, “Asskicker.”
We finally meet The Governor, played by David Morrissey, and he lives up the hype as one of the greatest villians in comic book history. He runs the town of Woodbury with not so much an iron fist, but a smile and brass knuckles behind his back. He’s charming enough for you to trust him, but one misgiving and he’ll be feeding you to the”biters” or collecting your head to save in his zombified fish tank trophy room. I did find myself feeling sorry for him when his daughter was killed by Michonne, which tells you how effective Morrissey is at playing the sociopathic Governor, but then you remember that he was one move away from raping Maggie while Glenn listened in the other room.
Merle Dixon also makes his grand appearance after his mysterious disappearance in Season One. He’s almost in more piece and is now rocking a spiffy hand knife that would make Captain Hook blush. What’s interesting about Merle is that while he is a blood thirsty, racist, psychotic redneck he still cares for his wayward brother, Daryl, and never gives up hope of finding him. Given the way Episode 8 ended, will Daryl and Merle’s bond become stronger or will it break as the two brothers are forced to make a decision that will change one of their camp’s lives forever. Even better is that fact that neither exist in the comic books so even die-hard fans don’t really know what will become of the Dixon brothers going forward.
What got me excited is the introduction of another gang of survivors lead by Tyreese, played by Chad Coleman, who you might remember as Cutty from “The Wire.” I remember hearing the casting choice and I thought it was spot on just reading about the character from the comic book, but not really knowing what will become of him in the future and if his and Rick’s camp can co-exist, given the looming menace of The Governor.
Overall, the first half of the season has been solid. With a budget, good writing, and strong performances from all characters, even Carl, who I’m starting to warm up to now, the next eight episodes should be something to behold. I hope you’ve been preparing for the zombie Apocalypse, because it should be a hell of a ride.
Fun Fact: This isn’t Chad Coleman’s first rodeo with the undead. He provided the voice over talent for the character “Coach” in Left for Dead 2.
Dawn of the Dead (2004) – Run
The bane of the horror genre for the past decade has been the remake. Hollywood has gotten so lazy and they’ve treated the horror genre like a dumping ground for bad updates on generally good horror fare. I understand the point; horror is cheap for a studio to produce, they can introduce fresh new actors (namely females that will bring in the male audience) and generally, they will at least break even no matter how bad the film. Not to say there aren’t exceptions to the rule, and 2004’s “Dawn of the Dead” remake is an example of a horror remake gone right.
Before I go into the actually movie I’m going to say this: I do not like Zack Snyder. I’m not really impressed by his body of work, and I think he bites off too much, thus, his work suffers. That is the problem with “visionary” directors like Snyder. Take “Dawn of the Dead” and compare it to something like “Sucker Punch.” “Dawn” is great because the concept is simple, effective, and done very well (while I may not agree with everything in it, but I’ll get to that later). “Punch” was for prepubescent boys, and it included girls in cosplay costumes, a paper-thin plot, and a severe case of style over substance. I understand this is his style, but when big ideas are only half-realized its hard to take him serious as a director when I’m taking him as a one trick pony.
While I don’t really enjoy Snyder’s other films (see above), I did enjoy “Dawn of the Dead.” While on the surface it’s a remake, there are things that are done well, and other things that tweak me.
The premise is the same as the George A Romero’s original; The zombie apocalypse is in full swing and a small group of survivors head to the mall to buy some Dockers and make their stand. While the mall provides the group with everything they need, from food to recreation, they begin feeling trapped by the zombies outside the mall hungry for their flesh. As its been told over and over, ad nauseam, the film’s setting, a mall, along with the zombie invasion, is an allegory for consumerism and how we, the “zombified” public, feel the need to endlessly consume and spend. While Snyder’s remake does have a mall where survivors are holed up, the meaning behind the film is lost and is essentially a zombie action film.
What Snyder does right is pay homage, in part, to some of the original actors. Both Ken Foree and Tom Savini have fun cameos as a preacher and a sheriff, respectively. He also, as opposed to his other films, keeps the slow-motion to a minimum and tries to flesh out his characters with somewhat of a back story. The actors look like they are having a good time, and while cheesy at times, the acting is solid for a horror film. As a Troma fan, I also appreciate the fact that James Gunn wrote the original script of “Dead.” An independent dude makes good. Now, let me explain why run is the word of the day.
What I can’t get behind, and the problem I’ve always had was this……the running zombie. Oy vey! I’m a purist first of all, zombies are shamblers, walkers, they might have a little giddy-up, but they are not sprinters. When you die you develop rigor mortis brain/body decay, which would have a major effect on the way that you move and react.
I’ll also say this; I love “28 Days Later.” There is an explanation why those “zombies” run. They aren’t zombies! They don’t die, re-animate, and come looking to eat your brains, this is because they are infected with a virus (a rage virus to be exact). If you’re going to be the “living dead” you shouldn’t be able to run, its physiologically impossible.
For as much of a problem that I have with the running zombies, I enjoy “Dead” very much, it’s just the little quirks that stop me from saying this remake is better than the original. It appeals to the ADD crowd with running zombies, slow-motion, quick cuts, and isolates the purists a bit, but overall, Snyder creates a neo-zombie film that gives the audiences everything they want; hardcore zombie gore, boobs (a little), and intense action. Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead” is worthy of your time.
Fun Fact: While the original “Dead” took place in the greater Philadelphia/Pittsburgh area, the remake takes place in Milwaukee, WI.
I know, I’m an anthology whore. It started when I first got the box set for “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.” Reading those stories had a profound affect on me and how I saw and understood horror in general. I still go back to those books every once in a while and re-live the good old days. What can I say, I love short horror stories, and it works perfectly for the horror genre. You really don’t see drama or action anthologies, it just fits with horror. From “Creepshow” to the under appreciated “John Carpenter’s Body Bags” it had been a while since a reputable horror anthology had come out, until “Trick r Treat” was finally released, on DVD in 2009.
I say finally because the film was a wrap in 2007 and it showed up at a few film festivals, however, Warner Bros. had no idea what to do with the movie for two years, kind of like MGM with “The Cabin in the Woods.” The travesty is that “Trick r Treat”never made it to the theaters, where I think it would have made a killing with audiences. But it did finally see the light of day in 2009 when it was released on DVD, and the cult following started from there. The movie has some credentials; it was directed by Michael Dougherty, who wrote the excellent “X2” and the sub-par “Superman Returns,” was produced by Bryan Singer, and we all know what he’s known for, and stars the likes of Brian Cox, pre-Sookie Anna Paquin, and the underrated Dylan Baker.
“Trick r Trick” is more so the “Pulp Fiction” of horror movies since the stories are interwoven as opposed to the separate stories with a wrap around formula, giving the film some teeth, and making it more thoughtful than your average horror fare. The basic idea of “Trick r Treat” revolves around Halloween tradition and mythology while introducing the audience to a brand new Halloween mascot “Sam.” He is the one constant in all the segments and, in my book, the most recognizable horror icon since Freddy Krueger (sorry “Saw” fans, Jigsaw doesn’t really rank up there for me).
The acting is solid, it has great atmosphere and, for my money, should become a Halloween movie tradition right up there with “Halloween” and “Creepshow.” “Trick r Treat” is tons of fun, without all the filler, and with the right distributor (I’m looking at you Lionsgate) could turn into a yearly (clever) Halloween franchise.
Fun Fact: “Trick r Treat” is based on a cartoon short created by Dougherty called “Season’s Greetings” from 1996.
V/H/S – Dizzy
Between you and me, I’m sick of found footage films. It all started with “The Blair Witch Project,” which, yes, was a very cool idea, and the fact that everyone bought into the fact that this really happened to three kids in the woods was amazingly effective, and in turn it still stands as one of the most successful independent films of all time. We’ve come a long (annoying) way from 1999, where it’s now chic to make every film, and even TV (see the failed ABC experiment “The River”), another found footage vehicle. First we had the torture porn phase, and we have transitioned to everything found footage, and horror auteurs wonder why people won’t take the genre seriously anymore. I know, this seems like a rant, well I’m done, but I do believe in the thought that if you’re going to do something that everyone else is doing you might as well make it good (sorry “Paranormal Activity” you’ve run your course). This brings me to 2012’s “V/H/S” and a slight ray of hope for the horror genre.
The premise is simple; five stories and one wrap-around that runs the gamut of zombies, haunted houses, aliens, and psycho killers. But I will admit, within the first three minutes, I was feeling dizzy. The camera just moves and moves and moves and moves. Warning to any viewer who might be sensitive to motion sickness, this film will mess you up.
Aside from the camera work, the stories are actually well constructed and fairly original. The highlights to me include the first story “Amateur Night” where some raucous party-goers looking for the old “in-out, in-out” run into the proverbial “quiet girl,” and the last tale “October 31, 1998,” directed by the film collective Radio Silence, create a haunted house tale with a twist. I can find something I liked in all the stories, but these two were the standouts.
Is “V/H/S” re-inventing the wheel….no, but it is a fresh look on the found footage genre that has been bogging down horror movies for the past few years. I’m all for independent spirit, especially when it comes to horror films, and the guys behind “V/H/S” have a bright future as long as they build on their success with “V/H/S,” buck the found footage trend, and lead the genre into a renaissance.
Fun Fact: VHS,short for “Video Home System,” was created in 1971 in Japan.