I'm still doing that zombie thing, whenever I can:
SWISS ARMY MAN:
By strict definition Swiss Army Man is not a zombie film. One of the two central characters is however a (possibly) animated, talking, farting corpse - so I'm going to run with it for now. I wanted to see this when it was on cinema release but it disappeared before I could catch it. I will say from the start that this is one of the best new films I have seen in a while. Lots of my friends will be getting this for birthday's and Christmas this year whether they want it or not - its that kind of film!
A film that features a farting corpse might not be an easy sell as anything other than a really gross comedy but this is so much better than that - even when the farting corpse is being ridden like a jet ski. Paul Dano plays a man who has been trapped, isolated on an island (ironically after running away because he felt so isolated and lonely within his own life). We see him on the brink of taking his own life as the film opens - and then we meet Daniel Radcliffe's character - who is already dead. Dano discovers that the corpse has certain 'powers' (like being a fart powered jet ski) but is also conscious to a large degree. The film then follows the pair as they set about finding civilisation/rescue. On the journey Dano tries to teach Radcliffe about the really good things that life can offer (meanwhile also convincing himself) and as they progress they learn more of the corpse's wonderful 'powers'.
The film is shot in such a way that you can believe that the man has found an animated talking super powered corpse or alternatively that the man has pretty much lost his mind and is carrying a found corpse with him as he journey's towards rescue. A good portion of the film is played for quite broad, silly comedy (and it does well with this) and part is character led drama (and it does well with this too). Most of all though it is unashamedly heart warming and amazingly hits that target successfully despite containing fart and erection jokes.
I have thought quite hard about this: if I was going to show this film as part of a double bill, what would I show it with? The answers I generated surprised me and hopefully reflect well on the film. First and most obviously would be 'Horns' to make a fairly outlandish Daniel Radcliffe double. Alternatively I would try either 'Shaun Of The Dead' or 'Fido' to play out the zom-com elements. More surprising perhaps would be a pairing with either 'Harvey' (to play out the possible invisible friend/mental health angle) or 'Little Miss Sunshin'e (to emphasize the overall feel good factor).
As far as I am concerned that's some pretty illustrious company to be keeping and a pretty good isea of where this film is coming from.
There is a very good British zombie film by this name but this is an American TV series and a very different beast. The titular zombie has taken a job in a morgue to get access to brains without having to kill victims. Any brain she eats though gives her flashes of memory from that persons life (as well as temporarily hiving her certain abilities and character traits). This enables her in the case of murders etc. to help solve the case and bring the murderers to justice. Each week there is a different case, a different brain and a different set of character traits and abilities for the hero to absorb. Think 'Buffy' but with zombies and you wont be far wrong. Given the tone and the subject matter as well as the perky female lead I think that might be pretty much what they were aiming for. I have only just caught the first series (I assume there are more coming) and it's not bad. It has none of the grit of say 'The Walking Dead' as all of this takes place in a world which is barely aware of zombies much less fallen into apocalypse - but remains quite good fun throughout.
I took some of my service users today to see 'The Girl With All The Gifts' a movie they chose themselves without me leading them - though to be fair most of them wanted to see 'Deepwater Horizon but that doesn't come out until next week.
Their response was pretty positive, but my personal reaction was much more positive. Smart and original zombie movies are few and far between. This (based on I gather a very well received book which I have yet to read) takes a strong biological basis for the virus and adds some interesting characters. The premise is that the z-disease in this case is a kind of parasitic plant/fungus that affects the hosts behaviour to improve its own distribution but this is only the first stage of that organisms development - there is more to come! Throw into this mix some grumpy soldiers, a ruthless scientist intent on making a vaccine and some children that were born infected (their mum's were infected while pregnant) and have become a kind of mutant sub-species of zombie-human. There is a decent smattering of action and the tension is held well throughout. I think zombie films are generally brilliant fun but I recognise when a particularly good one comes along that transcends the genre and this film is one of those.
Two of my female colleagues also attended, were overwhelmed by the (fairly mild) Horror - they aren't used to it - and spent the rest of the day moaning that we should have gone to see the new Bridget Jones movie instead! This was an option my service users were offered but declined - I for one am glad that I was there to defind their wishes and their 'fragile minds'!
This week I have been mostly reading: Your Servants And Your People' by David Towsey. This also features zombies. Its part of a series of books aimed at 'Young Adult' readers faturing zombies and set in the American 'Wild West'. Also not bad.
A zombie triple:
This is one of the best zombie films I have seen in ages - and for most of the film there are hardly any zombies in it. Set after the world has fallen to zombies, two friends (from the same baseball team) are surviving as best they can on the rural back roads and countryside. One of them loves and is quite suited to the outdoor life, the other hates it and wants nothing more than a return to some of the creature comforts he knew from before the apocalypse. The dynamic of this friendship and the tensions which pull it in contrasting directions are what power this story. The performances are note perfect. There is humour, drama and now and again - zombies! As more than just a footnote - as it greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the film the music is brilliant and really highlights the moods and settings of the film. There are some brilliant song choices but also the score is perfectly atmospheric. (The last time a film's score, rather than soundtrack, got under my skin this much was Ry Cooder's score for 'Paris Texas'). As far as zombie films go, this is a 'must see!'
PRIDE & PREJUDICE & ZOMBIES:
I read the book that this movie is based on when it first came out and think much the same of the film as I did of the book - it is a fantastic concept and it kind of proves that just about anything can be improved by the addition of proper zombies, but it would have worked just as well as a short. The opening monologue (possibly the most recognisable piece of Jane Austen's writing), the "It is a truth universally acknowledged" speech is adapted to fit a world where zombies are a very real problem and that pretty much sets the tone for everything that follows. The film (and book) take the very famous Jane Austen story, hit most of the major plot points (the romance of two people who very much get off on the wrong foot, the importance of finding a good match for marriage, etc) and just nudge the setting into a world where zombies are a very real problem. I am not a fan of Jane Austen but the idea is quite a clever one and the execution of it (book and film) is very good - but I think a ten minute version (or short story) would have had a similar effect in terms of this being a 'zombie story' without it having to be quite as dragged out as a full on Jane Austen story.
How much you enjoy this film may well depend more on how much you like Jane Austen than it does on how much you like zombies. (Presumably if you don't like zombies at all you wont bother with this at all). I would have been equally satisfied with a much shorter, punchier version - but that would have been a zombie movie with a Jane Austen theme. This movie tries and I think succeeds in balancing the zombie elements with the Austen elements more or less equally. So, like I said it may well depend on how much you like Austen.
GOAL OF THE DEAD:
A zombie football movie? Based on my experience with 'Shanghai Soccer' I had high hopes for this movie. They were not completely dashed but they were complicated by the edition of the film which I ended up watching (a French film where there was no option for either an English dub or even English subtitles). I stuck with the film anyway on the assumption that the plot would not be that complicated (it wasn't) and with my painfully limited French I would muddle along. There were some good gags but a surprising amount of dialogue where there didn't seem to be much humour, much football or even many zombies. The major story point seemed to be about one of the footballers who moved from his local small town team to a major league team with big money involved. This was regarded as a total betrayal by the small town fans. With so little football and so few jokes or zombies this seemed quite a stretch for the two hours of the film's duration. There were good moments but a lot of it seemed quite dull. Maybe if I get to see the film in a language I can follow I will get more out of it but it was a little disappointing. It seems bonkers to not have English subtitles (at least) given that the film is being sold in the UK with an English title but this is where we are.
This week I have been mostly reading: Zom-B Underground and Zom-B City (both) by Darren Shan. These are the second and third books in the 'young adult' zombie series, Zom-B. They dont quite pack the same kind of punch as the first book (which tackles racism and domestic violence even more than it tackles zombies) but they are still really good fun to read and are doing a very good job of world-building for the rest of the series that are still to come.
This week I have been mostly reading: Zom-B by Darren Shan.
This is the first book in a series of Zombie novels aimed primarily at the 'Young Adult' market. They have been around for a while and honestly, I do not know why I waited so long to pick it up. The book rattles along at a cracking pace, has great characters, a total capacity to surprise and in the best Romero tradition, the zombies are only part of the problem. Characters are dealing with racism and domestic violence long before the zombies shamble fully over the horizon. The horror is pretty graphic too. I would have lapped this stuff up as a kid. I'm lapping it up now - the next book is already lined up.
This week I have been mostly reading 'The Hunted' and 'The End' by Charlie Higson.
These two books represent the final installments of Charlie Higson's zombie series which started several years ago with 'The Enemy'. All of the books are set in London and to be more accurate feature 'infected humans' rather than 'zombies' but the effect is much the same. The entire adult population has become 'infected' leaving children and young teenagers to fend for themselves in a zombie-like apocalypse. Primarily the books are marketed towards the teen/young adult readership but they are rattling good yarns, as gripping and suspenseful as anything else I have read in the genre - and spanning seven books (and a large cast of characters) the series has gathered a quite epic scope. The fact that almost all of the locations in the books are famous landmarks, each with a distinct personality that rubs off on the children who stay there only adds to the pleasure.
The final two books in the series run more or least concurrently, with the events in the penultimate book happening more or less simultaneously with the events in the final book is quite a nice touch (and one I was not aware off until I picked up copies of both around the same time). They also manage really nicely to bring back the key surviving players from all of the previous books - even if they haven't been mentioned for quite some time, thus tying up all of the disparate stories in quite a neat little bow.
This series is too good to be left to just the teenagers!
This week I have been mostly reading: Ex Heroes by Peter Clines.
This was a present from my friend Kate nad it loving brings together two of my great geek-boy loves - Super Heroes and Zombies. This isnt exactly a new concept, Marvel Zombies did this years ago and was brilliant. This is a novel rather than a comic and the emphasis is very different. The 'heroes' exist in a world where that is a new phenomenon and the ret of reality is quite normal. Where Marvel Zombies showcased beloved fan favourites (and lesser characters) succumbing to the zombie virus, Ex Heroes looks at a small group of 'heroes' helping to defend one of the last groups of surviving humans. It's a different spin on the zombie apocalypse and it's good fun so very welcome in all respects.
These were the last three films in my Halloween movie challenge this year. (Watch and review 31 new horror films during October) I have posted this entry both on my own journal and in the 'moviebuffs' LJ film community.
29. SICK BOY:
There are things about this film I like but sadly they are outweighed by what I don't like. What I like is that this is a zombie film by the back door. For a large part of the film nothing 'zombie' happens. For (possibly too) much of the film we follow a fairly ordinary person going about her daily business. Even after things start getting a bit creepy and weird there is none of the usual 'outbreak stuff' and certainly none of the 'apocalypse stuff'. I like that it is different. I also like the titular 'Sick Boy.' Zombie kids are cool!
What I don't like is the poor quality of the writing which seemingly spoils everything else. The central character is annoying beyond measure. It's okay to have an annoying lead character (some of the best ones are) but the female lead in this is frequently annoying just because it helps move the plot forward - not just once but time and time again. The 'zombie virus' doesn't follow any accountable pattern. Some people turn over the course of days (or longer) and are able to sustain conversations, some go full zombie within a minute of being bitten - whatever suits the movement of the plot. When the action eventually starts the police soon arrive on the scene to find a small boy pinning a young woman to the floor and acting in a very aggressive way. The police reaction isn't to physically intervene but to shoot the boy without warning! Really? In a rich white neighbourhood the police first reaction is to shoot an admittedly aggressive but still unarmed prepubescent child? Normally in a zombie film that kind of quick thinking is to be applauded but at this point it isn't supposed to be a zombie film. This is where the outbreak starts and the police have never seen a zombie. These last two points (about the virus and the police) in themselves are fairly small criticisms. I have overlooked much bigger faults in films in the past - I mention them to illustrate the sloppy writing which is willing to stretch the reality of the film beyond any credibility just to move the plot forward. I am sure that a better writer could have found ways to move the plot forward that were not so cheap, obvious and continually annoying. Its a bit of a waste, really.
30. ZOMBIE FIGHT CLUB:
This Taiwanese zombie film is shot partially in in English and partially in Mandarin (with English subtitles). There are two distinct sections of the film. The first depicts the outbreak of the virus starting in an anonymous tower block with a batch of 'infected tablets'. This section of the film reminded me a lot of 'The Raid' as a small number of survivors had to battle their way through a building that filled rapidly with infected zombies. The second section of the film deals with events after the zombies have gone apocalyptic. Governments have fallen and crime bosses rule various territories, pitting prisoners against zombies (or each other) in gladiatorial combat just for the sport. The two halves are linked by two of the survivors (who are now prisoners and forced to fight) and another survivor who has now become a crime boss (despite previously being a college lecturer!) who has kept his infected daughter at his side like a demented pet. There is plenty of action in this film ranging from gun-play to martial arts and zombie killing set pieces. In the second half of the film you almost forget there are zombies involved, so much does the emphasis shift to the gladiatorial setting of the post apocalypse.
31. PRO-WRESTLERS VS ZOMBIES:
I had expected this to be a deeply cheesy movie even before I found out it was a Troma production. Cheap and cheesy just about sums it up. At no point does this movie even pretend to take itself seriously and that isn't a bad thing. I wish it were funnier. Many of the jokes that are in the film do little for me. Maybe actual wrestling fans (I am not) would get more out of it in that regard, but the movie sets out to be a silly bit of zombie fluff (with wrestlers) and it achieves precisely that. I know little about wrestling but the one wrestler I had wish they had got involved (because it would have such a good thematic fit) is 'The Undertaker' but this is a Troma production, famous for knocking out cheap movies on the quick. I suspect that his fee alone would have been more than the whole budget of this film. In the unlikely event that someone with serious money wanted to do a zombie/wrestler movie they could take that idea on. Obviously, I am not holding my breath in that regard!
Here are brief reviews for four zombie movies:
Arnie stars in a zombie movie - but this one is far from obvious. The zombie outbreak has started, but people take weeks to turn. The emphasis of this film is not on the rampaging zombies but a more personal and emotional tale of how families cope (or not) when one of their loved ones is infected. The evacuation centers are little more than death camps so families try to keep their loved ones at home for as long as possible, walking a terrible tightrope. They want to spend as long as they can with their dying loved ones, but left too late and their loved ones turn completely and become a danger to others. Arnie gives a surprisingly subtle performance alongside a brilliant turn from Abigail Breslin as his infected daughter. I was hoping this would be good - its actually brilliant.
REICH OF THE DEAD:
I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this movie as the cover of the dvd featured people in death camp uniforms as zombies. I have no problem seeing nazi zombies (Dead Snow for example, was great fun) but there is a world of difference between seeing the perpetrators of the holocaust in the role of zombies compared to seeing the victims of the holocaust in the role of zombies. Luckily the film actually managed this fairly well. Yes, it was prisoners that were cast in the role of zombies (due to some horrific Nazi experiments) but we quickly come to see the zombies as brutalized victims rather than scary monsters. The films ending is a little bit anti-climatic and even a little ambiguous but it is a reasonable attempt to do something a little different with the genre.
A period zombie movie! Set in the Napoleonic war, the movie bills itself as 'Sharpe meets The Walking Dead'. I don't know about The Walking Dead part, they could have just said 'zombies' and it would have been more accurate, but this is actually pretty good. The films painfully low budget is revealed during the battle scenes (something is lost of the grand scale when you only have a couple of extras and everything is shot in quite tight close ups) but the rest of the film is pretty convincing. A British soldier tries desperately to get back to his commanders because he has uncovered a plot by the French to resurrect their fallen soldiers from the failed Russia campaign with the use of blood from infected humans - a device it turns out that the British are already familiar with.
Most of the scenes are designed to be shot with a relatively small cast in good locations and small sets. These scenes work really well and the originality of the idea deserves a lot of credit. Mostly the film works very well indeed. With a bigger budget and lots of extras and effects the battle scenes could have been as epic as the film deserved. Somebody give these film makers more cash!
This is a really enjoyable British zombie film. The biggest criticism I have is that it share a lot of superficial similarities with the movie 28 Days Later. This is only a small criticism though as a) the similarities are only superficial, b) 28 Days Later is a brilliant film to emulate on any level and c) Darkest Day is one of the most ambitious and competent indie zombie films I have ever seen.
The film is shot almost entirely in Brighton by a group of people who worked for free at the weekends over what turns out to have been several years. (They claim that the total budget for this whole movie, including it's catering came in at less than £1,000). The film starts with a man coming to consciousness on a beach. He has no memory of any recent events and quickly discovers the apocalypse has happened and the streets are deserted apart from wreckage, 'infected people' (as opposed to zombies) and a small group of survivors who reluctantly take him in.
Much of the first part of the film takes place in the group's 'safe house' and features largely improvised scenes which show the outlines of the characters and the group dynamics. The main action in the film kicks off when the group are forced to flee from both the infected and the British military who begin to take a very lively interest in the group. The devastation of the apocalypse is neatly captured by some deft (mostly early morning) camera work, but there is also a lot of production value added by some very competent CG work. This is used very cleverly not to create huge effects but for adding extra soldiers and equipment (including trucks and helicopters) to the scenes. The illusion of a much bigger cast with many more serious props and vehicles that you would normally find in a film like this is very effective. Full credit should go to the people who made this film - it is effective on every level it needs to be to make a very enjoyable film and the fact that they have managed something this good is quite staggering.