Posts Tagged ‘George Romero’

SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD is a case of wishful thinking.

May 15, 2010

SPOILERS AHEAD!

I want to preface this review by stating that I’ve been a GEORGE ROMERO fan for quite some time now. I consider his original zombie trilogy of NIGHT, DAWN and DAY OF THE DEAD to be the best that genre (which he invented) has to offer. I even enjoyed his fourth highly anticipated zombie sequel, LAND OF THE DEAD a lot. From the vintage UNIVERSAL logo to the dozens of Iraq war and George W. Bush metaphors, I thought LAND was a great return to form from the old master. His non-zombie movies are pretty damn good too! MARTIN, KNIGHTRIDERS, CREEPSHOW and MONKEY SHINES are all excellent films, that show there’s a lot more to the man than zombies. I can also truly appreciate the fact that he works almost completely outside the Hollywood system and usually makes all of his films independently. Unfortunately, it seems the only way he can get money to make a movie as of late, is if there’s a “OF THE DEAD” at the end of every title.

I went into the advanced screening of his latest zombie movie SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD with an awesome amount of trepidation. I utterly hated DIARY OF THE DEAD. I thought it was a useless reason to make a movie and added nothing to the series or the genre in general. It didn’t even seem like it was made by the same guy. I’m happy to report that I found SURVIVAL to be a big improvement over DIARY. But, it’s still not that great of a movie.

SURVIVAL is not a mock-doc like DIARY was. It has a straight narrative like his previous films. It is however a “sequel” in the way that it follows a minor character from DIARY in their own storyline, during the same zombie outbreak. Sarge “Nicotine” Crocket (ALAN VAN SPRANG) is leading a small band of armed national guardsmen through the zombie-apocalypse of Philadelphia. They come across a message posted on the internet by an old guy named Pat O’Flynn (KENNETH WELSH), who is offering boat rides to a nearby island. Turns out it’s an ambush, but the bushwhackers are no match for the guard and Sarge and company take their boat. The old guy from the internet manages to get on board too and convinces Sarge to help him take back the island he’s from. Turns out that he’s been exiled from the island because of a difference in opinion with another resident named Seamus Muldoon (RICHARD FITZPATRICK), over what to do with the dead. O’Flynn prescribes to the notion of shooting them all in the head. Muldoon wants to keep the zombies around and train them how to do chores and eat animal flesh. So far, he hasn’t had much success and before you can say “Monroeville Mall”, everyone’s up to their armpits in zombies.

SURVIVAL has a strong BIG COUNTRY vibe and plays like a western at times. The social commentary that ROMERO’S going for in this one (according to him), concerns the huge split we’re seeing right now between the Left and the Right in our country. The two feuding Irishmen represent both sides refusing to listen to each other and work out the problem that faces them both. This is the part of SURVIVAL that I like the most and it echos the “man is his own worst enemy” thread from the other DEAD movies.

I didn’t like the “more of the same shit” feeling I got from the rest of the movie. There’s a lot of things about SURVIVAL that remind me of a cheap, less scary version of DAWN OF THE DEAD, only on an island instead of a mall.

I also thought the acting was pretty sub-standard throughout and I didn’t really like any of the characters I was supposed to like. The main guy Sarge is pretty poorly performed and most of the Irish accents sound awful (especially KATHLEEN MUNROE’S).

But, the worst thing about SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD is the dead! They’re fucking boring and not in the least bit frightening. Also, as with the case of DIARY, the gore scenes are mostly CGI and it’s BAD FUCKING CGI! There are two really creative zombie kills that are ruined by the use of CGI and made to look almost BUGS BUNNY style cartoonish! Shitty!

After the movie was over, GEORGE ROMERO came out to do a Q & A with the sold-out  crowd at the L.A. Film School. He talked about how if SURVIVAL is successful, he wants to make two more DEAD movies that also follow minor characters who were introduced in DIARY. If he does, I’ll hope for the best. He said that basically he’s been ripped off financially for all the old DEAD movies (especially NIGHT which is public domain) and I think that’s one of the reasons he decided to reboot a new series of DEAD movies that are separate from the others. It makes sense, but I wish this new series was a lot better.

ROMERO said he’s also working on a zombie NOVEL! He didn’t elaborate any further than that, but said that he wanted to tell an even bigger “OF THE DEAD” type story that’s in the vein of MAX BROOK’S ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE. I’m looking forward to that.

There was also a lot of talk about the original script for DAY OF THE DEAD and the more I hear about what that film could have been like, the more I want to read it, because it sounds fucking EPIC! That draft never got made, because at the time it would of cost way too much money. It featured a fully trained and armed ZOMBIE ARMY that are used by the military guys to fight the other zombies! They were “rewarded” with “fleshy” snacks. The source of these snacks was to be a group of prostitutes, who are “used” by the soldiers to create a BABY FARM! The babies are the zombie snacks! How totally FUCKED UP is that? That idea was meant to be a comment of sorts on the abortion issue. WOW! Someone should have made THAT instead of the DAY remake they did a few years back. Oh well.

At one point, ROMERO talked about an original idea he had for a new horror movie. I won’t tell you what the idea was, but I will say it sounded very interesting. This is what I think is so sad about the man; he still has a lot of awesome ideas, but he just can’t get them financed unless there’s a bunch of zombies eating people in it. I hope he gets to make it someday and finally give the DEAD their much deserved rest. Nerd out!

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I was TRICK ‘R TREATing, all weekend long.

October 6, 2009

trick-r-treat

On October 5th, 2007 the first horror anthology movie in quite awhile was supposed to be released theatrically by the folks at the WB. It wasn’t. Why, you ask? Well, it’s not because the movie isn’t very good. On the contrary, it’s excellent. It’s not because the movie was too expensive and that they wouldn’t make their money back, because it cost less than 15 million to make. It’s not because there wouldn’t be an audience for a horror film that takes place on and is released near Halloween, who’s only real competition is the latest SAW sequel, because I believe it would have done great. So why WB? WHY!? Why are you dumping this film on DVD with no fanfare except the cult-like buzz it has gotten by the few people who’ve been lucky enough to see it? I don’t know the answer to this, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that studio execs are brainless idiots that are born without spines, guts, or balls. I mean, that’s got to be it, right?

The problem with TRICK ‘R TREAT is that it’s just too damn clever and a bit too original for a studio system that is only interested in marketing a pre-sold property. If TRICK ‘R TREAT was a remake or a sequel, or if it was based on a popular video game or graphic novel, then no problem. It would already be a franchise and therefore, a bankable property. But the WB can’t be expected to get behind something that’s new and original, because then they could possibly lose some of their precious money and then some executive douchebag might lose their job, which they don’t deserve anyway, so let’s greenlight that FRIDAY THE 13th remake/sequel instead and fuck what the people want, right? WRONG!

I saw TRICK ‘R TREAT a full year ago with a packed house of horror maniacs at a special screening held in Hollywood by the folks at AIN’T IT COOL NEWS and the reaction was phenomenal. I know others who saw it at the ’08 L.A. Screamfest and even before that at The Alamo Drafthouse’s annual BUTT NUMB-A-THON in ’07. After the success of these screenings, I thought for sure the WB would realize their error and release it theatrically the following October with all the bells and whistles. EPIC FAIL!

So now TRICK ‘R TREAT has finally seen the light of day on home video and I guess we should be thankful for that, but this a movie that really needs to be seen in a theatre with an audience, to be truly appreciated. Luckily, I live in L.A. and there were a few screenings of it at the two best revival theaters in the city, the New Beverly Cinema and the Cinefamily @ The Silent Movie Theatre, this past weekend. I attended both.

An awesome double bill @ The New Bev!

An awesome double bill @ The New Bev!

Michael Dougherty introducing his film to the Cinefamily.

Michael Dougherty gets a "hand" introducing his film to the Cinefamily.

Both screenings were a lot of fun! The Cinefamily threw a costume contest before the movie and I went as the DARK WIZARD (which won me 3rd prize and an autographed TRICK ‘R TREAT poster!), while my companion Grae Drake from The Popcorn Mafia went as a sexy ZOMBIE SCHOOL GIRL, with a pencil sticking out of her cheek. She looked awesome and did her own makeup too!

THE DARK WIZARD and ZOMBIE SCHOOL GIRL say, "Trick 'r Treat!"

THE DARK WIZARD and ZOMBIE SCHOOL GIRL say, "Trick 'r Treat!"

MICHAEL DOUGHERTY and ZOMBIE SCHOOL GIRL ate my beard!

MICHAEL DOUGHERTY and ZOMBIE SCHOOL GIRL ate my beard!

The New Bev featured TRICK ‘R TREAT on a double bill with one of the greatest horror anthology movies ever made, 1982’s CREEPSHOW. Both screenings included an introduction and Q and A from the director, MICHAEL DOUGHERTY, who seemed ecstatic over how well received his film was by both audiences.

Michael Dougherty introduces his movie at the New Bev.

Michael Dougherty introduces his movie at the New Bev.

The best way to describe TRICK ‘R TREAT is that it is an anthology film in the spirit of TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE, CREEPSHOW and THE TWILIGHT ZONE MOVIE, only presented in an non-linear narrative similar to PULP FICTION, that features interwoven characters and stories.

The first story centers on a school principal (played with dark humor by DYLAN BAKER), who happens to be a candy poisoning, child killer bent on teaching his son how to carve a pumpkin the “right” way.

I'd check that candy if I were you, kid.

I'd check that candy if I were you, kid.

The second story involves a prank thrown on an autistic girl that involves an old “legend” about a bus of mentally challenged kids that were driven off a cliff to their deaths. This segment is like THE GOONIES with a body count.

The WB execs had a hard time wrapping their skulls around this one!

The WB execs had a hard time wrapping their skulls around this one!

The third tale features a group of attractive, twenty-something girls who are throwing a costume party in the woods, so they can “feed” their animal instincts. ANNA PAQUIN is a virgin trying to find a date, dressed like Little Red Riding Hood. Virgins, vampires and werewolves. Oh my!

Four hot "bitches"!

Four hot "bitches"!

The final story is about a mean old man (BRIAN COX) who refuses to celebrate Halloween in any way, shape or form. No decorations, costumes or candy from him, just a lot of bad attitude. Unfortunately, SAM is a stickler for the rules of the holiday and makes sure they are being followed by all. This bizarre little creature serves as the film’s mascot (ala the Crypt Keeper) and in this story he proves to be a real menace to anyone who doesn’t want to play along.

Better get that candy ready, or else!

Better get that candy ready, or else!

TRICK ‘R TREAT is an instantly iconic horror movie for horror movie geeks, made by a horror movie geek. MICHAEL DOUGHERTY has created one of the most Halloween-ish movies about Halloween ever. Not even HALLOWEEN is as Halloween as TRICK ‘R TREAT! The incredible art direction by TONY WOHLGEMUTH and beautiful cinematography by GLENN MacPHERSON creates the most richly detailed setting I’ve ever seen. Every corner of the frame virtually explodes with amazing images of pumpkin patches, costume parades, and lavishly decorated neighborhoods where every house has a carved Jack-O-Lantern and all the kids are dressed as pirates, monsters and ghosts.

There is also a great deal of gore and a pervasive tone of mirth and malice that reminded me a lot of the kind of horror movies I grew up on in the 80’s. And that’s where those dummies at the WB had their biggest problem with the film. MICHAEL DOUGHERTY kills off 15 kids in this movie and I admire the balls it took to do that. We live in an age where the very thought of harming a child in a movie is considered taboo, even if the kid really deserves it. What puss-ified times we live in. It’s just a movie, people!

Following the TRICK ‘R TREAT screening at the New Bev, was a screening of the classic GEORGE ROMERO and STEPHEN KING collaboration, CREEPSHOW. I loved seeing it again so much and it complimented TRICK ‘R TREAT beautifully. CREEPSHOW still has a great deal of SCARE power left in it, as there were a lot of screams from the audience. The term, “they don’t make ’em like that anymore” would fit here, if it wasn’t for the fact that MICHAEL DOUGHERTY did do just that.

creepshow_ver1

To hell with renting TRICK ‘R TREAT, just go ahead and buy it. It’s worth it and trust me, you’ll be watching it every Halloween from now on. Just be sure to watch it with all the lights turned off and don’t forget to follow all the rules, or you might find yourself in trouble with SAM! Trick ‘r treat!

That's SAM hanging out at the New Bev's TRICK 'R TREAT screening.

That's SAM hanging out at the New Bev's TRICK 'R TREAT screening.