Posts Tagged ‘zombie movie’

DEAD SNOW [Død Snø]

2010/04/10

http://www.deadsnow.com/

NORWAY 2009  Directed by: Tommy Wirkola  Produced by: Tomas Evjen, Terje Stroemstad  Written by: Tommy Wirkola, Stig Frode Henriksen  Cinematography by: Matthew Weston  Editing: Martin Stoltz  Music: Christian Wibe Cast: Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen, Charlotte Frogner, Lasse Valdal, Evy Kasseth Rosten, Jeppe Laursen, Jenny Skavlan, Ane Dahl Torp, Bjoern Sundquist, Oerjan Gamst

Let’s say it once more: there’s hardly anything more entertaining than a good zombie flick. And it’s great to see the genre isn’t dead yet, despite Romero recently contributing the least original works to the wave of new zombie movies.

One of the more interesting entries of last year was DEAD SNOW: a bunch of ruthless Nazi soldiers went hiding and then missing somewhere in the Norwegian woods during WWII. After torturing the local villagers and steeling their silver and gold the villagers finally were fed up with the occupying force and took revenge, killing as many Nazis as they could find. The Nazi core group led by Oberst Herzog however escaped into the forest and decades later rumor has it that the Nazis are back – as zombies, looking for their lost treasure. And just as THE EVIL DEAD and its epigones would want to have it a group of students spending their Easter holidays in a remote log cabin deep in the Norwegian forests accidentally run into the zombie soldiers – the rest is horror movie history.

It’s amazing how differently we look at zombie flicks today compared to the good old days of Lucio Fulci, Sam Raimi or Peter Jackson. One of the characters of DEAD SNOW is wearing a T-Shirt with a BRAINDEAD motif: while this is not exactly original even within the context of a not-so-serious zombie movie it instantly reminds us of the times when zombie movies were dead serious and censors around the world saw them as the personified evil.

The zombie movie has come a long way since then. With Raimi and Jackson taking violence to a new comical level with their later works the zombie movie lost it’s fear factor: violence wasn’t frightening anymore, the Grand Guignol cathartic effect changed to comic relief. DEAD SNOW just like many other movies plays it safe as the black comedy that it is: no matter how many limbs are torn, heads crushed or chain saws stuck into zombie stomachs, DEAD SNOW can never be taken seriously. It seems that today movies that hardly show any violence on-screen can affect us much more than splatter movies can. If you want to shit your pants watch David Lynch, blood and gore are simply fun.

DEAD SNOW is entirely formulaic as far as plot threads, setting and dramaturgy go. The only original ingredients are the zombie Nazi soldiers and the winter landscape which provides a great canvas for spilling as much of the red juice as possible. Many scenes are really funny, some are pretty unique and a lot is just average. Overall DEAD SNOW is well done though and despite adding nothing new to the genre it feels fresh and funky. A film by fans for fans, yet without vision or the will to single-handedly change the world of the flesh eaters.

That should also make discussions dealing with the question if Herzog is supposed to be Hitler (what an absurd thought), or if we should be upset about the idea that Nazis are being zombified for entertainment purposes, or the general political correctness of DEAD SNOW obsolete. It occurs to me that tastelessness – or at least the opposite of good taste – is a prerequisite for successful genre movie making.

It’s safe to say that DEAD SNOW caters to those who are in it for the action: despite, or because of a slow beginning it manages to create a creepy atmosphere that makes the story more believable, right before turning into an all-out students-vs.-Nazi-zombies splatterfest. Its entertainment value, humble attitude and realistic self-assessment earns DEAD SNOW more kudos than it might deserve, but we are more than happy to see some honest effort to create a good zombie movie.

There’s hardly anything more entertaining than…

J.


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SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD

2010/03/22

http://www.myspace.com/officialgeorgeromero

USA / CANADA 2009  Directed & Written by: George A. Romero  Produced by: Paula Devonshire   Cinematography: Adam Swica   Editing: Michael Doherty   Music: Robert Carli   Cast: Alan Van Sprang, Kenneth Walsh, Richard Fitzpatrick, Julian Richings, Kathleen Munroe, Athena Karkanis, Devon Bostick

Death isn’t what it used to be, and zombie movies aren’t either. As mentioned earlier, in this day and age zombie movies only have about two ways to go: the extreme splatter fest or a genre-transcending concept (that does not necessarily have to be a comedy of some sort).

George A. Romero’s latest installment of his zombie open-end-ology is a disgrace of his earlier works and the genre he has influenced for decades. Starting with a smart tie-in with his previous film, SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD follows the group of soldiers known from DIARY OF THE DEAD and their quest for an island that is said to be a safe zone, free from flesh eaters and inaccessible for any of them.

After no more than a few minutes we wish we skipped this entry and waited for the next. SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD is almost a remake of DAY OF THE DEAD, with the island replacing the bunker and a couple of crazy families experimenting with the zombies trying to train them replacing the scientists. So now it’s the military vs. the islanders instead of the military vs. the scientists. Oh, and the soldiers are now the good guys and the civilians are the bad guys.

SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD has such lousy dialogue, acting and timing that it is comical beyond belief without the intention of being funny. Most of the time it is a dreadful copy of the master’s earlier milestones. Now matter how you look at it you’ll wish for more remakes like THE CRAZIES 2010. Please someone take the zombies away from Romero until he recovers (unlikely, he’s obviously close to retirement).

It appears to me that Romero has most certainly lost it and DIARY was a last lucky fluke. I’d even rank many of the DAWN rip-offs from the early 80’s higher than SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD. The film has no relevancy whatsoever: it has nothing new to say (nothing at all actually), it has no charm, no character and it is not really entertaining. This is not about budget or resources; this is about lack of ideas. And a director without great ideas and a vision is nothing but a dork with a camera.

SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD is another sad example of the decline of a once-great director. The dead may come back, but the good old days don’t.

J.


THE CRAZIES

2010/03/11

http://www.thecrazies-movie.com/

USA 2010  Directed by: Breck Eisner   Written by: George A. Romero (Original), Scott Kosar, Ray Wright   Produced by: Michael Aguilar, Rob Cowan, Dean Georgaris, George A. Romero   Cinematography: Maxime Alexandre   Editing: Billy Fox  Music: Mark Isham   Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson, Danielle Panabaker, Christie Lynn Smith, Brett Rickaby

Looks like George A. Romero himself (now as executive producer of the remake) has finally rediscovered his own “lost” zombie movie. THE CRAZIES has never been considered part of Romero’s original zombie trilogy, and it’s about time this underrated gem gets back into the limelight.

I never really understood why CRAZIES was not part of the zombie club. At the end the reason the zombies become what they are has never been explained anyhow. Is it a meteor, or a virus, or the moon, or what? So it would have been legitimate to see CRAZIES as part of the zombie anthology. But they were crazies and not zombies, so I guess that simply didn’t work out.

Seeing that many so-called zombie films today are using viruses as reason for people turning into flesh-eating idiots makes CRAZIES look like the original virus-makes-zombie movie. Looking back Romero interestingly was ahead of his time once again, only he didn’t know it, he didn’t plan it, and he didn’t consider this a zombie movie. Nevertheless we have to understand CRAZIES as the blueprint and mother of all virus-based zombie movies.

THE CRAZIES, despite being a good and original movie, had its weaknesses and clearly lacked the impact of Romero’s other zombie films. It may well be the only one of his zombie films that deserves a remake. So let’s have a look at THE CRAZIES 2010.

As expected the storyline is entirely predictable and needs no detailed explanation here. What’s fun about most zombie movies is that they are indeed all completely predictable, so we can sit back and enjoy the show. Exploding heads are simply more fun to watch if we know what’s going to happen. THE CRAZIES is no exception, so even if you do not know the original you’ll have absorbed enough genre logic by now to watch THE CRAZIES without asking yourself any questions.

It’s the details that make a film like THE CRAZIES highly entertaining: the characters, the situations, the setting, the location, the deaths (eventually). Now, it’s not easy to beat a film like ZOMBIELAND that has fully understood that it’s all about these details and not about the story at all (kind of the only exception would be DAWN and maybe partially DAY OF THE DEAD; but otherwise there is no such thing as a story-driven zombie flick).

THE CRAZIES is trying to spice things up a bit as well. First and foremost by casting Timothy Olyphant as sheriff: I would have done the same just so that he can repeat his role from DEADWOOD. He doesn’t disappoint and performs pretty much with the same laconic coolness, dry humor and toughness like in HBO’s western series. Olyphant is pretty much spot-on and instantly elevates the film to a higher level.

Problem is that all other characters are not more than sidekicks as usual, people we do not really care about. Olyphant is carrying the film on his shoulders – luckily he succeeds in leading the audience through the entire film. Compared to other genre films THE CRAZIES therefore has the better cast because at least the lead actor is A.

What helps THE CRAZIES keeping the momentum is the war against two enemies, the zombies and the army. In CRAZIES the army is basically taking over the role of the bad guys (like outlaws) we know from other zombie films. Overall the pace is good and CRAZIES doesn’t cause fatigue, action and dialogue are well balanced and Olyphant has a few real killer lines and is entertaining us with his extreme mood swings.

THE CRAZIES is the proof that zombie movies today are (again) entertainment like anything else (just like they were in the good old days before someone came up with the idea of video nasties). THE CRAZIES is in a way aiming for a mainstream audience, with restricted onscreen violence and enough clichés that the average couple doesn’t have to leave their comfort zone.

Fans may complain about some shameless borrowing from genre legends, i.e. the bone saw scene from RE-ANIMATOR or the truck scene from DAWN OF THE DEAD. But that’s all water under the bridge if you bear in mind that THE CRAZIES is what it is and that it is what all the other zombie movies are: entertaining scenes that are edited in a way to give us the impression of chronological events whereas all that matters are the individual scenes and their originality.

THE CRAZIES features some good ideas, some great dialogue, some punchy action and a lead actor other zombie movies would wish for. Without Olyphant THE CRAZIES would lose its biggest asset and would most probably not be half as good. Having Olyphant on board though I must admit that THE CRAZIES works for me. It’s not a milestone, maybe not even especially good, but it’s kind of like an early Clint Eastwood movie that shines because of the hero.

J.