And You Thought It Was Safe(?)

Diary of the Dead (2007)
October 29, 2009, 8:43 pm
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Brains!I don’t know whether Diary of the Dead was an honestly bungled attempt to move the zombie movie forward as a format…or a flagrantly half-assed attempt to make up for Land of the Dead. I can’t see George Romaro’s heart. Anything is possible. Making a decent zombie flick only seems an impossible task, thanks to my relative inexperience with them. Dawn of the Dead was the last great hope, and that was 1978. The wave crested, and it’s been rolling back ever since we left that mall. Why can no one admit that mall was the last good idea George Romaro had? Why must we have Diary of the Dead?

Framed as a documentary-within-a-movie, titled The Death of Death (“a film by Jason Creed”), Diary is, as far as I’m concerned, exactly the type of film George would’ve made had he put together a Dead movie in the 1990s. Full of young, pretty people who’ve never seen zombie movies before, Diary ends up being much less than we’ve come to expect from ol’ George. {More}


I Am Legend (2007)

My eternal friend, the beloved Colonel Giddens, has horrible taste in movies. I swear, I love the girl. As human beings go, she’s the pinnacle of  evolution. We’ve shared many films together, each inflicting untold horrors on the other. Payback is a bitch, and one of these days I’m going to find my old copy of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and the Colonel will pay (oh yes, she will pay) for her enthusiastic recommendation of Michael Bay’s Transformers.

Another day, another drunken stupor.

In the meantime, you and I can hash out the Colonel’s latest recommendation: I Am Legend, a film I dismissed out of hand once I learned the identity of its star. Nothing personal against Mr. Smith; I’ve never met the man. And if, on some planet, on some distant day, I ever have the occasion, I won’t let the fact I that he’s now an adherent of  a certain batshit-insane religion get in the way of being polite. But let’s face it: most of his movies are forgettable trash at best (Wild Wild West), roaring monstrosities at worst (Bad Boys). Memories of his reign as the Fresh Prince of Bell-Air will forever hobble his attempts to be a “serious actor.” What is a man named Smith to do? Another Men in Black sequel? Perish the thought. {More}

Shaun of the Dead (2004)
June 26, 2006, 2:52 pm
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The House of Commons gets more unrully every day...I may have reduced myself to a monthly reviewing schedule, I may have gone through the interminable burnout of academic paper writing, and I may have surrendered for a while there to myopic self-defeatism (“Oh, god, what can I possibly do? What’s the bloody point to it all if nobody cares anyway?”) but, by the lightning, I’m still here. And I still believe in the Cause. You need people like me. You need me to play the fuckin’ bad guy. Well say, “Hello” to the bad guy because, as I mentioned, I am still here.

Billing itself as, “A romantic comedy. With zombies,” Shaun of the Dead presents a fascinating case study in modern horror. Not that it’s any particularly hot shit…but what is these days, eh? It certainly is not an original masterpiece of independent film making…except for those times when it is. It is miles above the Dick and Fart Extravaganza that passes for mainstream comedy in these dark days. But perhaps I am a little biased in this. The most prevalent form of humor in the film is nerd humor, aimed specifically at me, and that goes a long damn way toward buttering me up. {More}

Night of the Creeps (1986)
October 16, 2003, 2:44 pm
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I had a plan…really, I did. I was going to blow the roof of this whole Month of the Living Dead thing. I was. Because I had a plan. Sitting on my ass, watching Friday the 13th Part VII (again), it hit me. Zombies, you say? Hell, son, who’s a more famous zombie than Jason mothafuckin’ Voorhees? And didn’t they just make another one of these damn films? Hell, I thought, Why not just review the rest of ‘um all at once. Back to back to back to back…

Things didn’t turn out that way. For one thing, I sobered up. For another, I saw Night of the Creeps staring out at me from out of the Horror racks.

Night begins with…alien midgets. Good God, we’re in for it now. Alien Midget #1 runs down a dimly lit corridor and through an airlock, gripping a canister in his (her? its?) hands. Alien Midget #2 orders #3 to blow the hatch, warning him (her? it?) that “The experiment must not leave this ship.”

Too late, Pinky. Alien Midget #1 promptly tosses the canister out the airlock and we’re off to… {More}

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
December 28, 2000, 9:51 am
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If I may paraphrase a respected Movie Scientist: Ed Wood is a warning. A warning to all of us. When mankind falls into conflict with reality, monstrous films are born. Shambling, pitiful things that beg to be put down harder than Seth Brundle. Wood is also one of the strangest celebrities of the twentieth century. Ignored in his own time, he became famous for the worst reasons two years after his death. In 1980, the right-wing fellow traveler and PBS movie critic Michael Medved named him the Worst Director of All Time, and awarded tonight’s picture the undeserved title of Worst Film Ever Made.

Wood’s generation was one of the first to grow up with the movies. An encounter with Bela Lugosi’s Dracula at age seven permanently warped the Poughkeepsie store clerk’s son, who had a movie camera in hand by the time he left high school. The War put Eddy’s dreams of being the next Orson Welles on hold for four years, but the end of his life he’d amassed the kind of resume that would shame other, better directors. Even now, at the height of his fame, only a bare handful of his films command any kind of notoriety. But this one, Plan 9, has managed to surpass its siblings and achieve a twisted sort of popularity, something Wood might even enjoy, wherever he is now. With Bela, surely. {More}

The Crow: City of Angels (1996)
October 11, 1999, 11:12 pm
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"Have you heard the good word of our lord, Satan?"This film might’ve had a chance, but I doubt it. Love may be stronger than death, but the love of sequels is stronger than common sense, particularly in Hollywood. So I’m not surprised this film turned out to be a pale imitation of its predecessor. Disappointed? Sure. But what did we expect from the man who wrote Dollman vs. The Demonic Toys? Or the man who directed…uck…the Cure’s music videos?

Conceived as an on-going comic book series, the first Crow film benefited from the cohesion a story must have if it’s to be a good film. Only an injection of syrupy, Hollywood sentimentality kept it from being a faithful adaption of its source, with all the problems that implies. Problems of nihilism, transcendental melodrama, and a worshipful respect for death that’s almost Mesoamerican. Problems that provide fertile ground for the true artists to do truly artistic things with J. O’Barr’s depressing little world. The Internet’s littered with them, and digging through the shin-level shelves of certain chain bookstores will also reward anyone in search of a good story set in this universe. You won’t find that here. But if you like gloss and hate originality; if you’re desperate to see a film the confirms all your worst expectations about what Hollywood is, and what horrible things it can do to even the best of stories…pull up a chair, brother/sister. Stay a’ while. {More}

The Crow (1994)

Have you accepted corvus corax as your Lord and Savior?I have a confession to make: as a Crow fan from way back. Before the Kitchen Sink Press Author’s Edition, I was there. Before the crappy TV series, I was there. Before Brandon Lee’s untimely and unfortunate death eclipsed almost everything else associated with this film, and the story it contains, I poured over J. O’Barr’s black and white catharsis of a comic.  And I loved it. To my teenage mind, this psychopathic little story seemed an expression of love. The kind of mournful, melodramatic love adolescents, and the perpetually adolescent at heart, believe is really all there is.

I even wrote my own piece of Crow fan fiction. And before you ask, no, you can’t look at it. It died a thankful and unceremonious death several computer crashes ago. I wrote it over the course of a month at age sixteen, the perfect time to write a violent revenge fantasy centered around the above definition of “love.” And in the course of writing it I discovered something O’Barr must’ve realized himself: that vengeance is not catharsis. In the end, it’s only vengeance. A ravenous, yawning beast that will not stop until its consumed everything it touches. Something this movie’s two screenwriters completely failed to realize. {More}