Thursday, June 7, 2012

ZomBlog Review: "The Dead"

“The Dead”
Stars: Rob Freeman, Prince David Oseia, Dan Morgan, Glenn Salvage and David Dontoh
Dir: Howard and Jonathan Ford
105 minutes

It is always refreshing to see a movie with originality, be it zombie-based or not.
I could easily gush over “The Dead,” but I will refrain.
For now.
“The Dead” is a stone-cold stand out in this era of zombie-fueled retreads, wannabes, and remakes.
Lt. Brian Murphy wants nothing else than to get home. His desire is spoiled by an unfortunate plane crash off of the West Coast of Africa. Huddling and using them as a flotation device, he finds a crate of supplies, washes ashore, and immediately starts looking for ways to get away. Once on the beach, he seems feeble and helpless, but an approaching horde of slow-walking zombies kicks him into action. He gathers his needed supplies and races into the jungle. He is an engineer, a fixer. He certainly is not a fighter, although he certainly is a veritable foe for the (unexplained) zombie counterparts. He finds a ride in a crappy old truck, fixes the seemingly obvious problems with it, and heads down a road, the destination not fully formed in his head. He finds himself stuck in the road and a savior in the form of an African soldier (Oseia) appears; Murphy is then reluctant to move forward without help. And he does not, as the soldier also recognizes safety in numbers.
And, there, my friends, is just the first few moments of a movie which could have dragged on. Except, it did not: It very evenly fell into the three-act personification. And it was certainly better for it.
To say any more would be to ruin it. The characters are set in stone: Murphy wants out; His military friend wants to find his son; They form an uneasy alliance in order to complete those duties.
It is a buddy-cop zombie movie on the surface. But, wait. There is more.
“The Dead” is taken so seriously, I was nervous to laugh at certain scenes. It is an intense film. Very, very intense. Be prepared.

Romero Rules Followed: Fully applied. These are the blueprints of Mr. Romero’s zombies.
Gore factor: Very, very gory. The zombies waste no time or effort in ripping apart their prey.
Zombies or Wannabees? Zombies
Classic, fine, or waste of time: Classic
Additional comments: While I tend to gush over solid entries into this genre, I really wanted something made recently such as this to show me the genre still had life. Betwixt this and “The Horde,” I feel the future of the zombie genre lies across the ocean.
Prove me wrong, America. Prove me wrong.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

ZomBlog Review: "Aaah! Zombies!!"

“Aaah! Zombies!!”
Stars: Matthew Davis, Julianna Robinson, Michael Grant Terry, Betsy Buetler, Colby French, Jack Orend, Richard Riehle, Tracey Walter
Writers: Matthew and Sean Kohnen
Dir: Matthew Kohnen
90 minutes

As the zombie genre continues to become overly saturated with attempts at homages, remakes, and retreads, it is welcoming to see something different come along. Different, in this case, does not mean “great.” It means “pretty good.”
I did not know what to expect with “Aaah! Zombies!!” because the title itself is awful. I read that it had won a couple of small festival awards, but reading the synopsis, I found it to be uninteresting and quite possibly a waste of time. While I was not entirely wrong, I will say this: It was original to a point.
So, stop me if you heard this one before: A military experiment goes wrong and the government tries to cover it up. At the start, the audience is shown black and white footage of an Army recruit accepting a serum (serum that is glowing green a la the “Re-Animator” reagent) that is supposed make him a “super soldier.” After a matter of seconds, the soldier dies and reanimates as a powerful zombie. The clip ends, and the creator of the experiment, Dr. Richter, is shown placing baby formula labels over barrels of what the audience knows to be the undeadly reagent. The barrels are loaded onto a truck and shipped out of the military compound, the truck followed by a mysterious biker. While the two truck drivers argue over directions, they nearly run over the motorcyclist, and barrels of the reagent fall off the truck and roll through a California town.
A barrel stops and decides to dump its contents on a box of soft-serve ice cream mixture that just so happened to be waiting outside of a bowling alley. The mixture is brought inside and immediately dumped into the soft-serve machine.
That’s a lot of set up for the first five minutes of any film. In this case, it is needed to set up not only the rest of the film, but also this review.
So enters our cast of characters: Tim, the dorky, insecure bowling alley worker, his misfit, goofy best friend Mike, the ditzy object of Tim’s unrequited affections, Cindy, and Mike’s plucky ex-girlfriend, Vanessa, all hanging out alone in the bowling alley before league night. Tim unknowingly dumps the reagent-laden soft-serve mix into the machine while Mike gets the great idea to mix beer into the soft-serve machine, and then serves it up to his friends as a taste test.
Here is where the premise of the movie took hold. Up until this point, the only color allowed by the filmmakers was of the glowing green serum (and then the soft-serve ice cream). After consuming the ice cream, the tasters appear to turn into the undead — but then, everything is in color and they appear to be normal, save some gastrointestinal discomfort. They talk to each other, they discuss what they are feeling inside, (Mike is damn hungry for something but can’t figure out what), and decide to head to an emergency clinic for help. It is when they are hopping into the car that animal-loving Cindy accidentally kills a cat, one she picked up hoping to keep it from being run over — and it explodes. The foursome heads toward the clinic, where they then run into a man, claiming to be a soldier who informs them that the populace has been infected by a military experiment, giving up some plot points as to what is going on, until the main characters realize he has half of a motorcycle handlebar protruding from his stomach. Yup, he is the mysterious biker, apparently not suffering any pain from being creamed in a motorcycle accident. With a few unfortunate circumstances happening to the motley crew of friends along the way, they realize they are actually the infected and try to find a way to avoid not only capture, but certain death at the hands of the descending military.
And, yes, some of this is rather funny.

Romero Rules Followed:  Get bitten, become one; the hunger for brains is there; and one of the crew mentions that zombies cannot run. Some points for that.
Gore factor: Hardly any, despite a few limbs falling or being hacked off.
Zombies or Wannabees? Zombies
Classic, fine, or waste of time: Fine
Additional comments: Again, while the filmmakers decided to take the story from the point of view of the zombies, and inject comedy, that does not make it a great film. It is just OK. There were several gags that I noticed paid homage to other flicks (the dismembered self-sufficient hand screamed “Evil Dead II,” and the toxin-filled barrels were an obvious “Return of the Living Dead” reference), but, I’ve seen these too many times now. If filmmakers could stop with simply paying respect to stone-cold classics and find more ingenious ways to inject life into the genre, it would be appreciated. Telling the story from the zombie point of view was a step in the right direction, and I know it would be difficult to do so in a serious manner. But it has been done, yet no one has got it right yet. Come on, guys. Try harder.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

ZomBlog Review: "Fido"

Stars: K’sun Ray, Billy Connelly, Carrie-Anne Moss, Dylan Baker, Henry Czerny
Writers: Robert Chomiak, Andrew Currie, and Dennis Heaton (based on an original story by Dennis Heaton)
Dir: Andrew Currie
93 minutes

It’s the middle 1950s and you need to have a servant if you are anyone of status. The times and a cosmic radiation cloud have presented you with a great fortune: a zombie butler.
So begins the premise of “Fido,” where we, the audience, are presented with a very sympathetic, mindless form to satisfy indentured servitude. Despite that overly written, drastic damnation, “Fido” is far more a condemnation of servitude as a whole rather than a commentary on slavery. And, past that, it is more of a condemnation of complacency, distance, and, moreso, a very well-handled parody of the 1950s idea of a perfect family.
Timmy Robinson is a normal kid living in a post-apocalyptic world. Zombies arose and were, for the most part, defeated. What was left of the great “zombie war,” was a company, ZomCom, and a bunch of smart guys took over. They found a way to domesticate the zombies through a controlling shock collar, eliminating the zombie desire to devour the living and, therefore, turning them into mindless servants of the living.
Ellen Robinson (Moss) , realizing her family is the last on the street to not own a zombie servant, purchases a zombie, much to the dismay of her zombie-fearing husband, Bill (apparently, he had to kill his zombie dad, and it is a very, very touchy subject).
Timmy initially hates the new, bumbling, non-verbal servant, until said servant interjects into what could have been a tragic beating/shooting by a couple of bullies. The zombie servant therein earns a name, Fido, and begins a friendship with Timmy and his mother — but not Timmy’s evasive, obscure, and distant father.
After an unfortunate accident involving Fido and a neighbor (well, Fido went all bitey on a nosey old woman), Timmy fights to protect Fido’s “life,” and what ensues is simply ludicrous. And very entertaining, if you like your horror mixed with satire and gratuitous references to obvious films/TV shows.

Romero rules followed: Nearly all, considering Fido was almost a tribute to Bub in “Day of the Dead”
Gore factor: Fairly moderate until the penultimate ending.
Zombies or wannabees?: Zombies aplenty
Classic, fine, or waste of time: Fine
Additional comments: I dare anyone I know to be handed a script and take Connelly’s role as Fido, and do more with it. Here is the description: You are a zombie. You do not say a word. GO! Connelly invokes far more emotion and evocations with a limited role than many Juilliard-trained actors do. He displays more emotion in seconds than many do with bloated, monologue-driven grasps at greatness.
 — ROB

Thursday, April 26, 2012

ZomBlog Review: "28 Weeks Later"

“28 Weeks Later”
Stars: Jeremy Renner, Rose Byrne, Robert Carlyle
Writers: Rowan Joffe, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Enrique Lopez Lavigne, Jesus Olmo
Dir: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
100 minutes

EDITOR'S NOTE: This week, I turn the reviewing duties over to my fellow zombie lover, Meghan Russell, and let her younger eyes tackle the sequel to the stone-cold modern zombie classic "28 Days Later." Enjoy.
Like its prequel “28 Days Later,” this continuation of the British zombie apocalypse is a crowd pleaser for fans who appreciate a high gore factor and psychological themes that tell us something about the human race and leave us thinking deeply hours after the film has ended.
I’m probably opening myself up to criticism in saying “28 Weeks Later” beats its predecessor in both blood and guts and its ability to trigger emotion, right from the first scene. If you do not respond emotionally to that heart-racing flashback opener, in which Don (Carlyle) makes the choice to leave behind his wife and save himself, then you, my friend, are a zombie.
The movie begins, as its title implies, six months after the initial “rage virus” spread through the U.K. These zombies, given life in the first film by Danny Boyle, are perhaps better and more commonly described as “the infected,” as they do not rise from the dead in search of brains, but rather their own minds succumb to the hell-bent desire to bite, scratch, maim and hurl on any humans they can get their hands on, to spread the infection. (For more background, read the review of “28 Days Later,” in which Rob painfully admitted these zombies are hands-down pretty effing awesome.)
The U.S. military leads the re-colonization efforts in London, and survivors are allowed to re-enter the city under specialized military watch. [*SPOILER ALERT*] Things seem to be going well until, in a unique twist I have not seen done in other films, an unknown “carrier” of the virus who exhibits no outward symptoms, through an ironic kiss with the hubby who once left her for dead, spreads a new wave of infection through the colony. Chaos and a series of internal battles between following orders and serving the greater good ensue.
A major theme that runs as rampant as the infected during the course of the film is the complexity of choice in deciding who survives and what the nobler cause is. While “28 Days” centers more strictly around man’s ability to survive, “28 Weeks” complicates it with emotional choices. Most obviously, Don chooses self-survival over what he believes would be the death of both him and his wife, while she is left behind after trying to protect a young boy from the horde. The guilt of that decision, however, stays with him like an infection of its own. Even when he gets the virus, his rage seems to take on its own purpose — a rare move in a zombie flick, as he becomes more than a mindless member of the horde and stalks his children, acting out against them, haunted by his guilty memories.
On a less personal, more humanitarian level, Scarlet (Byrne), a doctor with the U.S. Army, leaves her post to protect Don’s children knowing they might share the same DNA their carrier mother had that could be the key to an eventual cure. At one point she tells Sgt. Doyle (Renner), this hope for a cure is a greater good than saving her own life, or his. Doyle, in a dramatic scene where his orders as a sniper are to take out not only the infected in the streets down below, but the scores of survivors as well, also abandons his post for the greater good and helps the kids, and a small group of others, escape the city.
The only character who can separate emotions from duty is General Stone (Idris Elba), who chooses a different greater good to ensure the survival of the race, even if it includes sacrificing this first failed batch of colonists.
With frenetic camera movements that effectively mirror some of the more chaotic, claustrophobic scenes and keep your heart racing, and that constant fine line between hope for a future, for a cure, and impending doom, “28 Weeks” is a must-watch.

Romero Rules Followed: Their sole purpose is to find all humans and infect them, so I would say yes.
Gore factor: Blood, guts and zombie vomit abound, including a scarring scene where Don tears into his wife’s neck and then proceeds to drive his thumbs into her eye sockets. I may never be the same, but I’d say this sequel’s gore surpasses that of its parent film.
Zombies or Wannabees?: Despite their nontraditional way of going about it, they are zombies, through and through.
Classic, fine, or waste of time: A new kind of classic, as created by Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later.”

Thursday, April 19, 2012

ZomBlog Review: "The Horde"

“The Horde”



Stars: Claude Perron, Jean-Pierre Martins, Eriq Ebouaney, Yves Pignot, Doudou Masta, Jo Prestia, Antoine Oppenheim, Aurelien Recoing,

Writers: Arnaud Bordas, Yannick Dahan, Stephane Moissakis, Benjamin Rocher

Dir: Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher

97 minutes

Stop right now. Go to Netflix or any other movie site you frequent for streaming/renting films. Watch “The Horde.” Then, come back here and thank me.

Since “28 Days Later,” I really had not been so excited to review a zombie film. Sure, there have been several fine entries since “28 Days,” but they have been few and far between.

Then I discovered, by accident, this film.

“The Horde” delivers on such an epic level, so feel free to accuse me of gushing over it.

The story is so basic that anyone with any moderate level of cinema knowledge will instantly scream that this film is “Assault on Precinct 13” … WITH ZOMBIES!

Screw those rubes. This film is far deeper than that. It is a refreshing take on a very, very tired genre. I admit, I slogged away at this blog, as did my counterpart, just looking for a moment of ingenuity, and we came up lacking for the most part.

So, in the past few months, I found myself looking to “resurrect” the zombie blog. I have recruited a great level of talent in this endeavor, of which you will see very soon. And while my love of the undead has not waned, I needed such a film as this to kick me in the ass. And kick ass it did. In spades.

“The Horde” follows a group of four police officers, hell-bent on exacting revenge on a drug dealer, who is holed-up in an abandoned apartment high-rise. A member of their team was killed, and they want to make the Nigerian dealer and his gang pay with their lives. They launch an assault on the apartment building, and it goes horrifically wrong. Facing execution by said drug-dealer, a once-thought dead informant bursts forth from an apartment bathroom, taking out several of the drug dealers stooges, all the while a horde of the undead besiege the ground floor of the apartment building below.

As both the cops and the felons make their way to the roof, they discover all of France is burning, in what I can only describe as a purposeful use of CGI. The film was fairly low-budget, so, incorporating an apocalyptic vision of France exploding had to use a fair amount of CGI. In this case, it is very effective. I got chills seeing an entire city nearly decimated as the protagonists of this tale simply gazed in awe as to what was happening, without them knowing what was occurring. A few called it judgment day. Maybe it was. The beauty of this film is that, (SPOILER) you just don’t know. I like not being spoon-fed.

In order to make it out of the decrepit apartment, felons and policemen are forced to work together to make it down nearly 14 stories of undead, raging munchers.

It’s an uneasy alliance for sure, and many a plot point is made to ensure these people hate each other.

I suddenly realized I’ve gone far too long without giving you any description or make out of the characters, which, indeed, make this film work. Oussem (Martins) originally suggests the alliance on behalf of the outnumbered and outgunned police; Adewale Markudi (Eriq Abouaney, the second real star of this flick), the dealer, uneasily accepts, much to the protests of his violent and mistrusting brother, Bola (Masta). Add in Aurore (Perron, who has the intensity, bravado, and acting chops to shadow a young Sigourney Weaver circa “Alien,” which makes her the bona fide star here), Markudi’s other bodyguard Jo Prestia (who, in one scene, secures his vote for me as a guy I want to be fighting on my side come the zombie apocalypse), and Vietnam vet Rene (who comes across as a military man far too happy to have another chance to slay people, hence his accusations that the undead are “chinks,” and, once bitten, you become “a chink;” I’ve never been an advocate of blatant racism, but I laughed heartily once he came into play; and I don’t feel guilty for it).

Stunning action scenes (zombie beatdowns the likes I have never seen), fast-pacing, attention to character development, and just the right amount of attention to what we, as zombie fans want, makes “The Horde” stand out as a modern classic of the zombie lore. I loved this movie. I wish there were many more like it.

Romero Rules Followed: Get bitten, turn. As an added bonus, this one incorporated the “recently dead” just return from death due to some unknown force, so that is nearly 100 percent.

Gore factor: Very, very gory. And all warranted. What else can you expect from a movie that features a scene of one person against horde of zombies in a parking garage? (I got the biggest goosebumps ever with a single camera shot during that scene. That is how epic it is).

Zombies or Wannabees? Zombies

Classic, fine, or waste of time: Classic

Additional comments: I have read some of the reviews on Netflix regarding this fine, fine flick. To those assholes who want to continue to argue the running/shambling debate, get the fuck over it. Your ADBD (attention deficit brain disorder) caused it. If I can get over it, you can. Also, stop your bitching about subtitles. Do you think only good movies get made in America? Look at Hollywood’s track record of remakes/reimaginings over the past 20 years.

So, yeah, ingenuity lies across the pond. Deal.