Posts Tagged ‘George Romero’

This week’s releases all feature death as a significant element in the stories’ plots, whether it’s caused by vigilante justice, psychotropic murder, zombie hunger or vampiric necessity.

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The Crazies marks the return of survivalist horror to the big screen in the vein of zombie and outbreak films such as Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later.

Ogden Marsh is a small town with a law-abiding population of a little more than 1,200. Suddenly overnight, the residents of the once picture-perfect community dive into violent madness. Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) tries to figure out what is infecting his town, while having to use lethal force to prevent his friends and neighbours from killing him. As the nonsensical hostility escalates, Dutton bands together with his pregnant wife, Judy (Radha Mitchell); Becca (Danielle Panabaker), an assistant at the medical center; and Russell (Joe Anderson), Dutton’s deputy and right-hand man to survive the insanity. To add to their difficulties, the government has restricted all communication and access to the town in an attempt to contain the infection. (more…)

the_craziesThe Crazies marks the return of survivalist horror to the big screen in the vein of zombie and outbreak films such as Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later.

Ogden Marsh is a small town with a law-abiding population of a little more than 1,200. Suddenly overnight, the residents of the once picture-perfect community dive into violent madness. Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) tries to figure out what is infecting his town, while having to use lethal force to prevent his friends and neighbours from killing him. As the nonsensical hostility escalates, Dutton bands together with his pregnant wife, Judy (Radha Mitchell); Becca (Danielle Panabaker), an assistant at the medical center; and Russell (Joe Anderson), Dutton’s deputy and right-hand man to survive the insanity. To add to their difficulties, the government has restricted all communication and access to the town in an attempt to contain the infection.

The movie is a reinvention of George Romero’s 1973 film of the same name. However, this cannot be considered a remake by definition as the key difference between the films is the overall story: while Romero’s picture split the focus between the failure of the military to be effective in the situation and a small group’s attempt to evade capture, the 2010 version directed by Breck Eisner presents the military as a faceless power and centres on the group’s survival against various attacks. Even though the driving force of the film and a few key elements remain intact, the approach is changed. The modernized representation of the military as a uniform, anonymous power invading without explanation is compatible with current views and they follow the contemporary movie standard of government cover-ups.

If categorized, The Crazies would be characterized as a survivalist zombie flick – more similar now to Romero’s niche narratives than the original. It holds a few good jump-worthy moments as well as numerous close calls that raise the intensity of the film. It’s not a thrill ride by any means, but the film keeps a steady pace from beginning to end.

Except for Anderson, the main cast members are veterans of the horror genre having run and killed their way to the end of various movies, including Scream 2 and A Perfect Getaway (Olyphant); Silent Hill and Rogue (Mitchell); and Friday the 13th (Panabaker). They are more than adequate doing more of the same here as Mitchell exhibits automatous strength through most of the movie and Olyphant brings thoughtful courage to his character; though Dutton’s deduction abilities may be embellished to push the story forward, the rest of the events flow as you would expect.

Without being overly complicated, The Crazies delivers all the expected elements – while the major plot points may be predictable, it remains engaging.

Combining two elements that have been seen excessively in cinema is not the recipe for a good film.

Zombie Diaries follows the general scenario of an unknown epidemic sweeping rapidly across the country – in this case England – that animates the dead and creates flesh-hungry monsters. The first group is a documentary crew attempting to record the progress of the outbreak. Of course, it has spread much faster than they anticipated and they are trapped in the middle of it now. The next section picks up a month later. A couple and a hitchhiker scavenge local areas trying to find enough supplies to stay alive a little while longer. In the meantime, a ragtag group of survivors hole up at a farmhouse, protecting their territory from the zombie horde. In the end, it turns out the real terror comes from within not without.

The story is interesting enough but it is conveyed entirely through handheld camcorders. This is a great device for low-budget storytelling but it is difficult to get right and will inevitably fail in comparison to The Blair Witch Project. That said, at least this flick avoids the nauseous movements of its predecessor. The introduction of the camera only makes sense in the first instance since the group is actually a film crew; however, its endless documentation of the other events seems impractical. This divide is pushed further when the camera operator invades the sanctity of a bedroom to capture a particular moment or hangs back in a zombie attack to record the feeding frenzy.

The acting is not bad and the attack sequences are realistic enough; even the zombies look pretty good. However, there are too many characters and most of them are never explored or expanded upon. Consequently, it is impossible to connect to or sympathize with any of the individuals before they meet their demise.

In any case, horror master and zombie originator George Romero has already employed this approach to the undead tale.

The DVD provides two feature commentaries: one with co-writers/directors/producers Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates and another with the cast. Each is a lively, different account of the shoot. The hour-long “making of” featurette does not follow a logical course and is not as insightful as one would hope. Finally, the 15-minutes of deleted scenes are completely omissible.

This is another case of a movie using a recognized title for a “reimagining” but employing only minimal elements from the original. Some advice: if you want to make a different movie, have the creativity to come up with your own title.

A small town in Colorado is under quarantine due to the pervasive outbreak of a virus with flu-like symptoms. Cpl. Sarah Bowman (Mena Suvari) is recalled to her hometown to serve in the military lockdown under Captain Rhodes (Ving Rhames). She is teamed with privates Bud Crain (Stark Sands) and Salazar (Nick Cannon) to manage the crisis. As the situation worsens, Sarah goes home to ensure the safety of her mother, brother Trevor (Michael Welch) and incidentally his girlfriend Nina (AnnaLynne McCord). Things get ugly unbelievably quick as the infected suddenly and simultaneously become flesh-eating monsters that take over the town.

George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead (1985) was the third chapter of the living dead series. It took place in an underground bunker post-zombie outbreak, where government scientists are attempting to understand and possibly cure the zombie epidemic. Their research reveals the creatures maintain residual elements of their pre-dead selves.

In this version, in which horror director Steve Miner states he wanted to make a different movie, there is a military presence, the infected do remember and the characters eventually end up in a bunker. However, the infected are not really zombies but victims of a government experiment gone wrong that was fatal but awarded them superhuman abilities.

This is a second-rate zombie flick without any real scares. The dialogue is repetitive and there are several unexplained holes in the story and character development. The cast performances are adequate but short of notable, with the exception of Sands. Fortunately, the special effects crew does excellent work creating nasty, creepy monsters.

There is an alternate ending among the DVD special features that is worth checking out and the interviews are faintly interesting but the rest (feature commentary, on the set) are lacklustre.

Diary of the DeadGeorge Romero began what was supposed to be a trilogy in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead; it became a tetralogy with the big budget Land of the Dead in 2005. And now, Romero has brought the zombie series full circle by returning to the beginning in Diary of the Dead.

A group of film students are shooting a horror movie in the woods when “the shit hits the fan.” News stations begin reporting incidents of the dead rising and attacking the living. Everyone’s first instinct is to deny the reports, calling it a hoax, but they soon witness the horror that has become their reality. As in all Romero flicks, the government and military prove unreliable very quickly and the characters must engage in a lone struggle to survive and get home. Jason (Joshua Close) swiftly turns the focus of his camera towards documenting the apocalyptic events and it is through his lens the audience witnesses the story.

All Romero’s zombie films have been rife with political and social commentary. As the 21st century is the information age, most of the characters’ knowledge is gained and shared via the Internet.

The DVD features commentary by Romero, director of photography Adam Swica and editor Michael Doherty; while Romero does provide some insight into the film’s creation, the trio is somewhat obsessed with pointing out invisible edits that don’t necessarily fit the documentary-style narrative. The unedited recordings of three of the famous voices in the film (Guillermo del Toro, Sam Pegg and Stephen King) are amusing but not as much as the five Myspace zombie film contest winners’ short films.

In addition, the confessionals bring a little more life to each character but is less effective after the film’s conclusion – a version with some of them included in the feature would have been interesting.

Unable to leave fans with the disappointing Land of the Dead, George Romero revives the flesh-eating deceased in Diary of the Dead.

The Toronto International Film Festival hosted the film’s world premiere to a standing ovation and record attendance by the undead, which shambled across the red carpet and into the seats prior to the screening.

His first independently produced zombie film in over two decades, Romero says, “doing this film was very liberating… [It was] getting to do a film exactly how I want to do it.” And he wanted to take audiences back to the very beginning – the first days the dead began to walk the earth.

As Romero describes it, the film is about a group of “college students filming a school project when the shit hits the fan.” The students are shooting a horror movie when details of the dead rising begin to appear on news stations. Their first instinct is to deny the reports, calling it a hoax, but they soon realize it is real and worse than they could ever imagine. Jason (Joshua Close) instantly begins to document the apocalyptic events. It is this documentary-style storytelling Romero uses to explore the panic that emerges.

As usual, the government and military prove inefficient to handle the situation. Their first instinct is deny, deny, deny: “It is believed to be a virus that causes mass psychosis.” When it becomes too evident to deny, they reassert their control over things and assure the population they will take care of it. That is the last you hear of them.

Romero diverges somewhat from the structure of previous living dead films by introducing a fair amount of comedy into an otherwise serious story. This change, however, was welcomed by the audience with laughter and applause. Furthermore, Romero is of the old school of thought when it comes to gore: [it is] “more affecting when it’s occasional.” Therefore, scenes of brains flying out the backs of zombies’ skulls are interspersed with the characters’ expressions of emotion and friendship as they journey to homes that no longer exist.

The previous living dead films were rife with political and social commentary. Romero says he “tr[ies] to do snapshots of what’s happening in North America right now.” The 21st century is the information age. Technology is everywhere, connecting everyone around the world. When people can no longer trust or look to authorities for help, they turn to each other. Jason argues his obsessive need to document everything is an attempt to save the lives of others by showing them the truth and what they can do to help themselves. “All that’s left is to record what’s happening for whoever remains when it’s over.”

Romero also chooses to return to another forgotten horror tradition: casting little known actors rather than big name celebrities. Shot in Toronto, Ontario, Canada the film features a lot of young, homegrown talent in Close, Joe Dinicol, Michelle Morgan and Shawn Roberts. In addition, listen carefully to the voiceovers in the film; cult directors, Guillermo del Toro, Sam Pegg, Tom Savini, and Quentin Tarantino provide some of the commentaries.

As Romero’s first film, Night of the Living Dead, ended by questioning the quality of the human race, so too does his latest. After viewing some footage, narrator Debra (Morgan) asks: “Are we worth saving?” I don’t know, but this film is definitely worth watching.