Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sam Raimi Dragged Me To Hell...

...And I had a blast. I saw the movie yesterday and it was pretty damn fun. Definitely back to Raimi's Evil Dead roots with the style of movie that it was. It was very intense at parts, funny at parts, and entirely ludicrous at other parts. Seeing Alison Lohman dig up a grave and then have a head stone fall on her was quite entertaining. I don't really want to give anything away by saying anymore, but I will say that everyone should see this as soon as they can! Even if you don't really like the movie all that much, it's fun to see it in the theater atmosphere.

On another note, I got a package in the mail very similar to the one that Johnny got one day in his mail. More on that to follow...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What Happens When Superheroes Go Bad?

You get Marvel Zombies!

I figure most people have heard of this by now, but I just wanted to give a quick shout out to this fun little series. The idea is that a zombie outbreak occurred but it targets superheroes. The heroes feast on the world and eventually deplete all of the humans on Earth and need to look elsewhere for food. It's a disturbing comic, especially when you see Hulk reach into his own belly, pull out the bits of person he just ate, and eat them again to keep the hunger at bay. I have the first three collections now and the Army of Darkness crossover as well. I highly recommend them for anyone who is a zombie fan and especially if you are a Marvel comics fan as well. The Army of Darkness crossover is particularly fun because you get to see Ash take on some of your favorite superheroes. The reason this is coming up now is because I just re-read them all last night (quick reads) and figured I would give a shout out to them now.

Go buy them and read some great zombie mayhem!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Master of Horror: George Romero

Time for another entry in my ongoing review of the "Masters of Horror" that people seem to revere as horror gods. Today I am going to tackle one that I think might stir up some controversy: George Romero. I like zombie movies quite a bit, but this is the father of the modern zombie movie. Can he stack up?

*Again, this isn't a complete filmography, that is here.*

Night of the Living Dead (1968): As is the theme with most of these "Masters", he starts right off with a bang. This is the single best zombie movie of all time. It's gritty, raw, engaging, and socially pertinent. The fact that it was made on a shoestring budget in black and white still amazes me. It looks a bit dated, but what do you expect? It's inspired all kinds of filmmakers and movies since its inception and it's the reason people know Romero's name.

The Crazies (1973): A good sophomore effort, The Crazies allowed Romero to prove he could do movies other than zombie movies. It was a nice little cult flick in the 70s and still has the ability to get people hooked today. It is being remade (the remake is due out next year), so that's usually a good sign for a movie. The movie has its flaws, but it's quite enjoyable and can still shock people even now.

Martin (1977): I happened to see this movie once a few years ago (a friend found it and rented it randomly) and I must admit I didn't pay attention to it very much. It wasn't bad or anything, I just wasn't drawn into it. What I saw from it was good but not really riveting. I think I need to revisit it, but it seems to me to be quite good. I would ask for other people to chime in with what they think of it in the comments.

Dawn of the Dead (1978): What can I say about this movie that hasn't already been said? It's a classic, from beginning to end. It's nearly as good as Night of the Living Dead. In fact, the only reason it's not as good is because it didn't come first. It's beginning to show its age a bit now, but still very good by any standards.

(1982): Creepshow is a personal favorite of mine. It hearkens back to the days of the pulp comic. Co-written with Stephen King, it's a fun ride through some campy yet creepy stories. It's a riot to see King as the farmer overgrown by a killer moss or seeing Leslie Nielsen stalked by a drowned ghost. I remember seeing this on TV as a kid and had to pick it up on DVD one day to see if I liked it as much now. The answer is yes, I do like as much now. It's a blast to watch something like this every once in a while.

Day of the Dead (1985): I know that many will disagree with me on this one, but I don't like this movie. This is where Romero's zombie movies jumped the shark for me. They went from clever, nuanced criticisms to blatant, overwrought commentaries. As Night dealt with issues of race and Dawn laid into consumerism, Day tries too hard to comment on the armed forces and the struggle for power therein. It just didn't work for me and I felt it was overrated. It's unfortunate to say because I want to like it, but I can't do it. Also, it had a talking zombie. Nope, didn't like that.

Monkey Shines (1988): I thought this movie was pretty forgettable. A guy with a helper monkey doesn't resonate with me as particularly creepy. It wasn't that I disliked this movie, it was that I just didn't care. A resounding "meh" for Monkey Shines.

The Dark Half (1993): Again, Romero teams up with Stephen King, but this time it wasn't nearly as good. Creepshow had a lot of fun and heart put into it, but The Dark Half just isn't that compelling of a story (especially a King story). I wouldn't recommend watching this because the movie just isn't really that great. It's pretty blase when compared to Romero's earlier work, but it's okay.

Bruiser (2000): Romero took some time between movies this time and it didn't really seem to help. Bruiser is an interesting concept, but a poor execution. It doesn't feel like Romero really liked it as much as some of his previous movies. At least with things like The Dark Half and Monkeyshines, it felt like he had fun making them. Bruiser felt kind of stale and forced. But at least he came back after that with a return to the zombie movie, right? After this, he made...

Land of the Dead (2005): Romero returns to the world of zombies! Hooray! If only I could cheer this movie. Again, any subtlety is lost and the idea of social commentary is put in the forefront, instead of cleverly lurking in the shadows. You may as well have spray painted "Social Classes Are Bad!" all over the sets of this movie. Most of the acting was pretty bad and zombie make up didn't even look very good. It was a disappointing movie for me. Again, I don't like the idea of the zombies that are learning, especially zombies with weapons. See this article over at Freddy In Space for a good example of what this movie looked like.

Diary of the Dead (2007): Okay, we get it, Romero likes zombie movies. This time he decides to comment on modern press tactics and how we are obsessed with violence as a society. Again, it felt like there was too much pressure to do social commentary and not enough to make a good movie. It didn't totally miss the point, as there were some redeeming scenes in the movie, but the whole handheld camera perspective is starting to get clich├ęd now (though it can still be done well like Quarantine or Cloverfield). This movie was better than Land, but overall still felt pretty bad.

So the final tally for Romero is: 4 good movies, 3 okay movies, and 4 bad movies. For me, I don't think Romero is necessarily a master, but I will still watch most anything with his name attached to it regardless. He's in production with another "... of the Dead" movie and of course, I will go to see it with high hopes (though I am not really that excited after the last couple). I like him, but I think he started to make too much of a point for commentary in his zombie movies and not enough on the stories themselves. It's too bad, but I still have faith he can churn out another good zombie flick. After all, he's the father of modern zombie movies.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Remakes That Never Should Have Been

Johnny over at Freddy in Space wrote about what the best remakes of the last 10 years have been, and that got me thinking about what the worst remakes of the last 10 years have been. And this has led me to a few that I can think of offhand, which I will share right now!

The Omen (2006): As far as atrocities go, this was pretty bad for me. I hold The Omen as one of my all time favorite horror movies, even if it looks a little dated. For me, it's right up there with The Exorcist as one of the most groundbreaking horrors. It's just a great movie. This remake decided to step on the original movie's nuts with a stiletto heel and grind them into the dirt. For starters, Mia Farrow was laughably drugged out and impossible to take as menacing. Secondly, I have an aversion to Julia Stiles (her head is impossibly small and that's disconcerting to me), so that didn't help things. But mostly, the kid that they got to play Damien spent most of his time trying to look intimidating in front of the camera, but just came off as looking constipated. And throwing in the dream sequences with quick cut demons just sucked.

The Fog (2005): John Carpenter did a great film about ghost pirates in the 80s and actually made something that ridiculous seem scary. Then Hollywood got a hold of the rights, slapped the cast of the WB network in front of some cameras, and shot the crap that ensued. I'm not even sure this had a script. It was pretty poorly acted and unfortunately lacked the tension that the first did so well. It was too bad because if this had been done well, it would have shown the effects Carpenter wanted for his original. Instead, it was just another in the line of remakes that will end up being forgotten.

Day of the Dead (2008): I saw this and admittedly, didn't really think it was as bad as it could have been. That being said, it was not even in the same state as a good movie. It was stupidly overwrought with fast zombies that could not only run, but had super strength, intelligence (sometimes), and could climb up walls and ceilings. Plus Nick Cannon is a terrible actor and he was featured in this movie. It was pretty painful at times. And the worst part is that it's a remake of a subpar movie anyway (yeah, I don't like the original). Day of the Dead was a pretty bad movie in my opinion, so to remake it, you really had to screw up to make something worse. Well, congratulations go to the team of this remake because they did it.

Pulse (2006): Yeah, the original was actually pretty good. It's one of many American remakes of J-horror that includes The Ring, The Grudge, Dark Water (another bad remake), and One Missed Call (originally a Miike movie). It's dull and lifeless, with a cast that is pretty bad at acting scared. That's kind of a big thing in horror movies. The ghosts were interestingly done, but not on screen enough. There was no sense of dread in the movie and after having read Stephen King's Cell (one of my all time favorite books, read it now), it just didn't have the impact.

The Eye (2008): Let me say one thing to start with: Jessica Alba is hot. That being said, she is a complete waste of film if she speaks on camera. The original is freaky, well acted, and well shot. The remake is pallid, weakly acted, and shot like your average MTV video. It was an unfortunate thing to have done to one of the best foreign horror films of the last few years. It's also too bad to think that most of the American moviegoers have no idea it was a remake and they think it's just a bad movie. For shame America.

That's all I can think of for now, anyone else have anything to add?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Straight to Video Gems: Dead Birds

Well, I've decided to do a second entry for the Straight to Video Gems series I hope to be doing (Note: some of the future entries may have gotten a limited release in theaters or a release in another country, but I'm going to count them as Straight to Video for this purpose). So, what's on tap for this entry?

A movie called Dead Birds! This was the other movie I was mentioning in my last Straight to Video Gems article about The Burrowers. It's another horror movie set in the old west times and this one is a personal favorite horror movie of the last few years for me! A quick rundown of the plot from IMDB:

"In Civil War-era Alabama, a band of outlaws takes refuge at an abandoned plantation after robbing a bank that held a cache of Confederate gold. Led by William, the group includes Sam, Todd, Annabelle, Clyde and Joseph. They intend to flee to Mexico, but nightfall and a thunderstorm force the robbers to remain in place. As the night wears on, each member of the group begins to have visions of the atrocities that occurred within the house. As supernatural forces begin to manifest themselves, the six turn on one another."

The cast is surprisingly good and fairly well known, from Patrick Fugit, to Isaiah Washington, to Henry Thomas, and even Mark Boone Junior, aka the guy from Memento and Batman Begins. The cast shows some great chemistry and really good performances, considering the budget of the movie. It's well shot and has some very well done scenery in it. As the scary stuff starts to happen in the movie, a real sense of dread is felt and the whole thing just starts going haywire with the actors turning on one another. From the beginning, there is tension among the group members about the shares of money they are going to get and the possibility of mutiny in the group. From the very start, you get that this group isn't entirely friendly with each other.

I think my favorite parts of the whole movie are the ghost effects and the general haunting parts. The ghosts are quite scary and show up just enough to keep the mystery about them. They don't over do anything with the effects, they just show them enough to keep you scared. It's refreshing to not have the effects in a movie thrown at you repeatedly, just flashed enough to put some fear in you. And my favorite scene in the movie is when Isaiah Washington finds a slave woman tied up in the basement. As she calls for help, he tries to release her. To his horror, the woman is eviscerated in front of his eyes, but you never see who is doing it! A large slit is made in her stomach by an unseen blade and her insides are pulled out by an invisible force as Isaiah watches helplessly. It's a particularly unnerving scene and one that shows just how you don't necessarily need a big budget to pull off some impressive effects.

It's not a perfect movie by any means, as some of the effects do show just how low budget they are, but they don't ruin the movie by any means. And the dialogue is hard to hear at times, so you may find yourself turning up the volume to hear the talking, only to turn it down during the action scenes. It shows that with a little ingenuity though, you can make an original horror movie without having a major production company backing you. It's yet another movie that makes me pleased to know we Americans can make some original horror!

As per usual, I recommend picking it up. I found it at Best Buy, but it's on for 10 bucks and you can get it from Netflix as well. It's a fun flick and I have watched it several times after buying it. Also, tell me if you have seen it what you think!

Monday, May 18, 2009

I'm Back

I just wanted to let everyone know that I am still alive and I am back from Japan. I was there for a couple weeks visiting my girlfriend who is over there teaching Engrish. It was a blast, but I am beat, so I won't be posting anything real today. I'll have something soon, I swear! I'll also update everyone on my trip. But for now, I am grinding away at work to try to catch up on missing two weeks! Hope you all are well!