Zombie Movie Afternoon Special Edition

Zombie Shakespeare’s family is out of town this weekend and he was bored, so we decided to knock out a few more flicks yesterday.  It really is an endless list of zombie movies and we will never finish if we don’t sneak these specials in sometimes.

First up was Deathdream, a 1974 classic (?) which according to imdb, is a re-working of The Monkey’s Paw.  I get that.  Boy dies in a war, but then inexplicably returns home anyway.  He is clearly not himself as he is grumpy, introverted and has very little in the way of social skills.  He is, in fact, a zombie.  Or a vampire.  Or some kind of monster who needs the blood of the living to keep himself looking and feeling lemon fresh.  I’ll go with zombie because vampires usually have more, ahem, sparkling personalities.

The film doesn’t really work as a horror film for me; it’s just too distractingly a 70’s movie.  The little snippets of violin that are supposed to cue the suspense sound more like an alien mating ritual and are so sporadically placed within the suspenseful scenes that I started to laugh more than I was scared.  Especially when the violin goes off at the exact same moment a guy turns his neck.  It also doesn’t help the movie’s cause that it was the middle of the afternoon and I still almost fell asleep during what were supposed to be tense moments.

What Deathdream does well is the family dynamic.  How far into denial can a mom immerse herself?  Something is so very clearly wrong with Andy that it becomes just as facinating to see Mom put the blinders on.  Dad is more skeptical and angry at his son’s behavior but even he can’t go through with actually turning him in once the point of plausible deniability has been passed.  What would you do as a parent if your son turned out to be evil is an interesting question that the movie handles nicely.  This really is a better character movie than horror.  And for trivia fans out there, this was Tom Savini’s first work and once Andy starts decaying for good, it does look pretty good and holds up better than the rest of the stuff in Seventies-ville.  It landed kind on in the middle of the pack of our rankings, but I still give it a B.

After that, it was Last of the Living, which adds New Zealand to our countries list.  Or maybe it was already on the list; it’s getting tough to remember.  Anyway, the premise is simple: three slacker buddies survive a zombie apocalypse and embrace the new found freedom by living in mansions, scavenging for anything they want and killing zombies for fun.  Then they meet a beautiful scientist who may be able to find a cure.  They agree to help her reach her destination.

The film’s biggest flaw is that it can’t decide what it wants to be.  It wants to be a slacker buddy comedy but often the stakes become too high for their antics.  And when it wants to start getting serious, it throws in a fart joke.  They set up a potential love triangle that never resolves itself; characters are given the opportunity to grow but the plot then just as quickly takes the chance away.  The last act definitely goes off the rails when characters start dying and we are treated to one of the bleakest endings we’ve ever watched.   The moment screamed for a big final laugh, but instead they go for the wildly inappropriate ending, tone-wise.

Having said that, most of the jokes range from decent to somewhat amusing and the characters are fun to hang out with.  The acting and direction are all above average for a zombie flick and even the soundtrack full of original music is surprisingly not annoying.  Both movies we watched landed pretty close to each other on the list, so I have to award another grade of B.

Zombie Movie Night: Feb ’12

Oh boy.  Tonight’s theme, partially intentional and partially unintentional, was “worse and worse.”  The three movies we watched declined in quality from one to the next, but also within the films themselves, it seemed no one could stick the landing on this night.

First up was The Signal which is not a zombie film in the undead sense, but if you go by my very loose definition of “an infectious state where a human’s essence is radically shifted and they wish only to do harm to others”, then it counts.  Those affected by THE SIGNAL are zombies in the same way that the crazies in The Crazies were zombies.  Maybe slightly less so even.  Anyway, who cares, right?

Basically, all televisions, radios and phones within the city of Terminus begin transmitting THE SIGNAL.  This is an unexplained happening that causes everyone who is exposed to it for too long to essentially go crazy.  Their reality becomes skewed and they turn paranoid, delusional and insanely violent.  In some ways, this situation is potentially even more frightening than a zombie apocalypse.  At least when a zombie is shambling toward you with ill intent, you can tell.  During the signal-y apocalypse, there’s no “us vs. them” to go by.  Every single person could be normal or crazy from one minute to the next.  Every character has been exposed to THE SIGNAL in some way, so even the viewer is never sure exactly what reality actually is.

The story is told from three different intertwining perspectives, and interestingly enough, each of these segments had a different director.  The first segment is intense and well done and sets everything up nicely.  The second takes a radical turn and plays almost everything for laughs, including the insane violence.  The third act is a bit of a jumbled mess that doesn’t really capitalize on the intrigue the previous two acts set up.  But Part 3 doesn’t drop the ball enough to keep this from being one of the best things we’ve watched.  I really liked it a lot and I give it a grade of A+.

I have nothing to mock. This was a good movie.

There are two films named Forest of the Dead, so the only solution I could see to this problem was to watch them both.  The first of the two is actually called “Severed: Forest of the Dead” probably to avoid any confusion or association with the Godawful badness of the other one.  But we’ll get to that.

In Severed, we find the classic struggle between hippie-dippie treehuggers and rough and tumble, blue-collar loggers.  And in the middle is the scientist who is using a secret experimental chemical to regenerate trees at a faster rate or something like that…anyway, who cares, right?  The point is, one of the trees has a Blob-like substance on it and when a logger cuts himself and gets the goo in his bloodstream, he immediately becomes a guts-hungry, flesh-eating zombie.  Cut to (no pun intended)the logging company owner’s son who was sent to Logging Island to find out why production stopped.  Once there, he finds that everyone has been turned into a zombie except for the usual ragtag group of survivors.  To make matters worse, the logging company finds out on its own what has happened after an incident in the science lab and they’ve decided to go into containment mode.  Our heroes are trapped!

Had the movie ended when the final survivors made their escape, I could have recommended this as a halfway decent time-waster.  As such, the movie decides to not end but rather go off on a twenty minute side adventure where our heroes stumble into another logging camp where things have been reduced to a state of controlled chaos by logging men who have gone crazy from isolation and apocalyptic cabin fever.  Nothing in this unnecessary segment works at all and eventually everyone mercifully just dies.  What a shame.  I kept begging the movie to end, as with every passing minute, in my head, I could see it slipping and sliding down our rankings list.  That terrible ending knocks it all the way down to a grade of C-.  Only to be viewed by the so-called “zombie completists” like us.

Not to be confused with Forest of the Dead or the street dancing flick, You Got Severed

Finally, if your definition of “exciting” is as loose as our definiton of “zombie” then I have some exciting news.  There is a new reigning champion of worst of the worst.  I know you’ve made yourself comfortable down there on the bottom rung, Motocross Zombies From Hell, but put your boots on and climb up one spot.  “Forest of the Dead” is now the WORST MOVIE WE HAVE EVER WATCHED.

In the first half, a group of idiot friends go on a camping trip of doom and die mostly off-camera.  Then a second group of friends go to meet up with them the next day and die on-camera.  Anyway, who cares, right?

You can make the usual list of things that don’t work in homemade movies (dialogue, acting, editing, SFX, etc etc) but really the worst part about the movie is that pretty much nothing happens.  Like I said, the first group dies almost entirely off screen, so that means there was a 45 minute build up of watching bad actors badly acting with the bonus of all their characters being unlikeable idiots.  We then don’t even get the pay off of watching them die.  It’s never explained what starts the killing but everyone who turns into a zombie seems to become immortal, either by unexplained design or by terrible script; it’s hard to tell.  Zombies recover from decapitations and limb-chopping and can teleport to wherever they need to strike next.  But again, that’s only for five minutes.  95% percent of the run time is “meet idiots being idiotic”  and “here, meet some more idiots being even more idiotic.”

And perhaps the most disappointing thing is that the DVD sleeve mentions how this film was deemed “offensive to gay people”.  Well, don’t waste your time hoping for that either.  This movie isn’t offensive to gays for gay-bashing (which it doesn’t do anyway).  It’s offensive to EVERYONE for existing in the first place.  Grade:  FFFFFFFFFF   F!

I'm so disappointed in you, Canada. ...Eh?