Thursday, October 9, 2014

28 Days Later (2002) - Review

28 Days Later (2002).  Starring Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson and Megan Burns

Three stars.


This film is one that some dispute arises in regards to its place as a zombie film.  Considering the impact it's had on the sub-genre ever since (including the obvious rip-off in Dawn '04),  I think it's now safe to say that this is a zombie movie.  Even despite the fact that the people are still believed to be alive.

For those who've not seen it, I'll sum it up like this:  a guy named Jim (Murphy) has been in a coma for a month (hence the title).  Unbeknownst to him, some really awesome animal rights activists freed a bunch of test critters from a lab in London. The problem is that one was a chimpanzee that carried a virus developed for biological warfare.  As a result, the entire island of Britain has been ravaged by people turning into maniacs with bloodshot eyes and superhuman powers.  This includes their ability to run faster than when they were healthy.

And that's what truly thing bothers me about this film.  Just exactly how many viruses give people superhuman abilities?  I mean, zombies being dead people who have come back to life suffer under the same fallacy, I understand that.  But at least the Romero zombies appear to have severe restraint as a result of having been reanimated.  And this certainly wouldn't be much different with a flesh eating virus.

That aside, the movie starts out exceeding expectations and takes off from there.  Jim attempts to wander the city, fighting off infected persons coming from everywhere.  Along the way, he hooks up with a girl named Selena (Naomi Harris), a former cab drive named Frank (Gleeson) and his daughter Hannah (Burns).  I love seeing Gleeson pop up in these roles and he's easily the most sympathetic character in this film.  I would love to see a director put him in one good lead role, something Oscar worthy perhaps.

The four embark on an road trip out of the city to find other survivors.  Along the way, Frank is infected and killed by a paramilitary group before he can attack the others. At first, the soldiers take Jim, Selena and Hannah for what appears to be benevolent purposes.   The suspense begins to build when Jim discovers the designs the soldiers have for the female members of the group.

It took me a long time to warm up to this film.  I actually hated it until I watched again a couple of months ago, the first time I had watched it since it came out on video.  Followed by a sequel.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Day of the Dead (2008) - Review

Day of the Dead (2008). Starring Mena Survari, Ving Rhames and AnnaLynne McCord.

One star.

A lot of people really hate this movie.  Many of these people are fans of George A. Romero's original Dead trilogy.  I'm one of these people.  The original 1985 film is a masterpiece of foreboding and bleakness that only offers a slight glimmer of hope at the end.  The 2008 remake is just bleak, in that, it throws out anything that made the old movie great and builds a horribly constructed zombie flick on its skeleton.

And maybe that's not the worst part.  This film is directed by none other than director Steve Miner.  That's Friday the 13th parts 2 and 3 Steve Miner.  That's Warlock with Julian Sands Steve Miner. That's House with William Katt Steve Miner.  To sum it up, Miner used to be one of the best horror directors around.

But by 1998, he started to go downhill.  Why that year?  Because that's the year he directed the Kevin Williamson-backed Halloween: Twenty Years Later.  However, Miner has to pay the bills.  So he had been dabbling in Network TV for income, working on whiny teen fare suck as Dawson's Creek  and Felicity.  As some of you know or have based your opinion, that movie was basically Scream with Michael Myers doing a cameo.  Since Miner sold out, he sort of bounced back with the original Lake Placid, but has since lingered with sub-standard productions such as Texas Rangers with James Van Der Beek, plus lame network TV that he has directed for a paycheck through most of his career.

That is until he was offered this movie.  I think it's no coincidence that Miner has not returned to horror in the eight-plus years since Day '08 was released.  And it's because it's a fucking capital offense.  The 1985 classic took years to earn respect in it's place with George Romero's original dead trilogy.  This is unfortunate, because I've always thought it far outpaces Dawn of the Dead.  Audiences at that time didn't agree, so it lingered on dusty partitions of old video stores for years until Dead fans finally started to accept the "paint the walls red" glory that was that movie.  Even for awhile, Romero stated that it had become his favorite.

To some other people, this necessitated a remake.  Nevermind the fact that Dead '85 had to suffer the indignity of a unofficial sequel that ripped off the old poster art.  Fuck no, lets do a remake with none of the original's plot, but instead reboot it as a stand-alone film set in some town in Colorado.  Lets forget that spooky and claustrophobic 14-mile-bunker in the Everglades that housed soldiers, scientists and zombies captured for exploratory surgery.  Instead, we have some stock piece script story about the military quarantining a town.

Now here's where things get interesting.  Mena Survari, aka the blonde teenage Kevin Spacey wants to bang in American Beauty, shows up as the lead actress in this movie.  Mind you, it was weird to see this actress after so many years had passed.  And she's supposed to be playing a badass too, in the form of the Sarah character.  Mores specifically, she's Corporal Sarah Cross.  We do get our Captain Rhodes in this thing too.  He's played by . . . Ving Rhames?  So that's too name actors in this low-budget travesty?  Sort of?

Now I had seen the press release for this movie when they announced Rhameswas in this film,  just not reprising his character from Dawn '04.  This makes sense, considering he dies at the end of that movie (sorry, SPOILERS).  But his portrayal of Rhodes goes completely in reverse.  He just plays a background character that eventually gets killed.  And I know damn good and well that he was cast to trick people into thinking this movie was in direct continuity.
 We get some more "in name only" characters in this film, including Nick Cannon as Salazaar, a play-off of mentally disturbed Miguel Salazaar from the original.  Only here, he doesn't have an emotional breakdown and release thousands of zombies into the compound.  Nope, we get to here him berate people and say things like, "Now that's gansta!"  We also get a soldier named Bud.  As you've guessed, he becomes a zombie like Bub from original.  Only here, he doesn't anyone because he was a vegetarian when he was alive.  I won't bother to point out the fallacy of that reasoning.

Back to the main story with Sarah.  The town being quarantined is her home town.  To make matters worse, her mother is infected with the plague turning people into zombies.  While trying to get her mother to the local hospital, she has to interact her douchebag brother and his girlfriend. A few more plot points aside and our heroes discover that some geek scientist is creating a supervirus in his underground laboratory out in the sticks.  To the end of the flicks, we're deal with SyFy channel grade CGI special effects and people making dumb mistakes.

What pisses me off the most is that this was probably Miner's last chance to redeem himself as a director.  Instead, he just sells out to making another buck and tarnish the reputation of a much better film.  What's worse is we have another reboot coming soon.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Automaton Transfusion (2006) - Review

Automaton Transfusion (2006).  Starring Garret Jones, Juliet London and William Howard Bowman.

One star.

Right off the heels of the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake, we get this movie.  It's shot on DVC and edited with something less than Sony Vegas.  And it has that slowed frame rate effect, which is aggravating as all hell.

The movie begins in a morgue with some geek ME probing bodies, and the next thing you know, orderlies are getting their limbs chewed off.  And yes, this has the 28 Days Later / Dawn '04 running zombies.

After the credits, we're then treated to a bunch of high-school-drama crap between some jocks and a group of outcasts.  The latter ends up being the heros of this movie.  The shit hits the fan when zombies ravage the homecoming party.  From there, it's your typical direct-to-video zombie flick.  This thing exists in the bowels of Hades, just above Children of the Living Dead.  I watched this movie because of its reputation when it was released seven or eight years ago.  The only thing it really has going for it is the practical effects.

Oh yeah, we're treated briefly to this scene where the heroes run into some random-exposition-Army guy.  He explains that the virus came from a Vietnam era military experiment.  When the movie ends, it says, "To be continued . . ."  I don't like it when bad horror films threaten me.

The Dead (2010) - Review

The Dead (2010).  Starring Robert Freeman, Prince David Oseia and Gaal Hama.

Three stars.

Okay, despite the flaws in character development and story line, this is perhaps the best zombie flick I have seen in many years.  Many of the zombies in this films were inspired by Fulci, which gave a menacing quality from their slow moving advance.  This film uses all practical effects, going as far using amputees to pull off some of the cooler effects.

What also makes this story fascinating is the location and simplicity.  Our protagonists, Lt. Murphy (Freeman) and local soldier Daniel (Oseia) are lumped together out of necessity in some unnamed West African country.  With the area suffering from outbreak and rampant zombies, the two form a bond to stay alive.  Murphy is an US Airforce engineer whose plane crashed on the coast.  Daniel returned to his village to find his wife dead, but discovers from a wounded survivor that his son was rescued and take to a base farther north.  The men team up, with Murphy agreeing to help rig electronic devices and vehicles to find Daniel's son.  In exchange, Daniel helps him to find shelter and a possible way out of the predicament.  The West African landscape gives a fresh and intriguing feel to a zombie story, one that's usually reserved for redneck backwoods and major cities congested to the point of having no survivors.

Throughout, this film remains pretty well action packed.  Be advised, this movie has a nihlistic, somewhat ambiguous ending.  I'll be able to expand on this further after I view The Dead 2, which is just about to be released.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Dead Girl (2008) - Review

Dead Girl (2008).  Starring Shiloh Fernandez,  Noah Segan and Cynthia Graner.

One and a half stars.

Rickie (Fernandez) is a Joaquin Phoenix clone that exists on the fringes of the social cliques of his school.  He, along with his outcast friend, J.T., decide to cut school and explore the nearby abandoned insane asylum.  In the bowels of this building, they discover a girl gagged and strapped to a gurney.  Being the imbalanced shitbag that many teenage boys are known to be, J.T. decides to use the girl as his sex slave.  This puts him at odds with Rickie, who leaves in disgust.

However, Rickie returns the next day to discover J.T. with a couple more of their friends.  J.T. discovered that the girl is actually dead.  So naturally, they rape and engage in necrophilia at the same time.  To make matters worse, J.T. wants to lure other girls to the asylum to infect them with the same virus.

From there, this movie pretty much becomes Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door with a zombie.  I think director Marcel Sarmiento wanted to come up with an original idea that explores different elements regarding the sub-genre of the undead. Ultimately, I found it to be rather tedious and repulsive.  Even the victims (with the exception of the zombie herself) are annoying beyond redemption.

Speaking of the female zombie, we are never given a clue as to why she's in the basement of this fucking place.  I think it's established that this facility has been closed for some time.  Yet, this female member of the undead appears to have not been there for very long.  I'm judging that from the fact that she's hardly decomposed.  Once again, I understand that some horror films works when certain elements are explained.  But here, it just screams lazy writing.  I mean, was there some mad scientist hanging out down there this whole time, kidnapping girls to experiment with?  As you watch, you'll notice that the place appears to not have much human activity anywhere nearby, save for a Doberman guard dog.  Yet, she had to have been placed there recently.  And apparently, the protagonists of this piece have seen enough zombie movies to understand the ground rules without question.

And here's the full movie: