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.