Friday, November 2, 2007

Halloween Crappy-Film-Fest Roundup, 2007

My typical Halloween tradition, in lieu of braving the slutty-nurses-on-6th-Street scene, is to rent a few crappy horror movies and then bitch about them. Now that I have a blog, I can bitch to the whole world! And besides, Halloween is such a liberal holiday, don't you think?

A quick side note: in my opinion, there is only a handful of genuinely good horror movies, but that is a subject for a future post.

This year's set consisted of 28 Weeks Later, The Insatiable, and Flight of the Living Dead. Watch out for spoilers up ahead.

1. 28 Weeks Later.

Let me first say that 28 Days Later (2003) is probably going to be included in my list of good horror films, whenever I get around to writing it. The sequel seemed to have all the components of a good action movie, but the whole is somehow less than the sum of its parts. Here's what the original had going for it: a gritty, low-budget look that somehow made it more real to the viewer; and real characters that the audience got to know and care about. A good sequel needs to do at least one of the following: (1) delve deeper into the characters first introduced in the original, or (2) continue the story begun in the original in a gripping and intelligent way. A good sequel does at least one of these (e.g. the "Dirty Harry" sequels), while a great sequel does both (e.g. Godfather 2, Aliens). A bad sequel does neither (e.g. The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions).

28 Weeks Later has exactly none of the original cast returning, so there is no delving to be done. Does it continue the story intelligently? Let's see--Americans enter Great Britain to start the reconstruction process once all the "zombies" have starved to death, allowing Brits to return to controlled areas a few dozen at a time. One survivor turns out to be a Typhoid Mary for the rage virus, she infects her husband, he infects a few people, the military starts shooting and blowing up everything that moves, and it is difficult to remember what the various characters' names are or what they are doing. So I guess the answer is no. The movie also wastes several highly underrated but very talented actors (e.g. Rose Byrne, Idris Elba), and uses its one almost-big-name actor (Robert Carlyle) as a Patient Zero (so he has very little dialogue except grunting.)

All in all, very disappointing. The special effects, given the grittiness of the original, were actually too good. If we learned anything at all from Blair Witch 2, sometimes a big budget is not a good thing.

Here's what I would've done: After holing up in a remote farmhouse for several months, the leads from the original (Cillian Murphy as Jim, Naomie Harris as Selena, and a more grown-up Hannah played by Sienna Guillory) lead a NATO expeditionary team back into post-apocalypse London, braving the few stragglers who somehow managed to survive, and facing the mutated, airborne version of the rage virus. Eventually, they have to blow up a bunch of shit, but we (the audience) actually care if one of them gets blown up as well. I'm working on a screenplay. It will be as if this last sequel never happened (cf. Halloween H20).

2. The Insatiable.

First, you have to believe that one of the original Boondock Saints is a pathetic loner, which is about as likely as Sandra Bullock or Rachel Leigh Cook being pathetic loners. Must be a movie thing.

Next, you have to believe he can steal $32,000 worth of equipment from his place of work to build a steel cage in the basement of his (rented) apartment building, that no one else will find.

The point of all this is that he traps a ridiculously hot female vampire in the cage and then tries to keep her alive by feeding her rabbits.

He also has a ridiculously hot blonde neighbor who is always flirting with him and inviting him over for dinner. Of course, when you think he has finally come to his senses and tries to kiss her, she becomes enraged, leaving him with no one except the hot vampire.

The only particularly memorable scene is the denouement, after he has allowed hot vampire to bite him. We see that she has niot killed him, but rather turned him. He knocks on blonde neighbor's door and asks "Are you ready to feed me now?"

Hardly a progressive ending, but I guess the nerd wins out in the end. All in all, this movie was crap--Netflix said I might like it, presumably because I told it I like vampire movies.

3. Flight of the Living Dead.

Maybe the funniest part is that I am not making this up--this movie actually exists. It's basically 28 Days Later meets Executive Decision, except Steven Seagal doesn't die in this one, alas.

I actually quite enjoyed this one. It doesn't take itself seriously, it is actually fairly well-paced, the acting is suprisingly good, and it didn't strain credibility any further than was absolutely necessary. I went into this one with perhaps the lowest expectations (I still have not seen last year's highly anticipated movie with the snakes, but I hear it didn't go over so well), so maybe I am just filtering it through that sort of lens. But really, it has the bully from the 80's classic Three O'Clock High playing a TSA agent, and the old guy from "Heroes" plays a sort-of mad scientist character who gets his face ripped off.

Horror movies (here I go making a list again) should do one of two things: (1) scare hell out of us in thoughtful, unexpected ways (e.g. Psycho, The Exorcist); or (2) entertain us with not-to-be-taken-too-seriously scary hijinks (e.g. Halloween). This one accomplished goal #2 in abundance.

I have to give my award for best crappy horror movie for Halloween 2007 to Flight of the Living Dead. Sorry, British zombies.


Anonymous said...

Re: the 28 Days Later thing. Beat you to it. Sorry. Oh, and 28 Days is neither as good, nor is 28 Weeks as bad, as you think. How Danny Boyle and Alex Garland manage to blind everyone for a ten-thousand-mile radius I'll never understand. The plotholes in Days make the plotholes in Weeks look like surface scratches....

Anonymous said...

What in the world would persuade Selena, Jim, and Hannah to return to London (or even England itself), let alone lead a NATO task force (and does NATO just hand out task forces to pharmacists, bicycle couriers, and teenage girls?)...? My immediate answer would be NOTHING. They've lost all their families and friends; they're not connected in terms of power or politics, so they have nothing to gain by returning. Their first loyalties would be to each other, and their first priority would be to keeping each other safe. To have them return to the "war zone" would make no sense whatsoever. I wrote them an "out" in a fic I did; I liked how the producers handled "28 Weeks Later." And I'm sincerely glad martyr-boy Alex Garland didn't write the script!

cryptic_philosopher said...

Dear anonymous,

It's people like you that make being a movie geek no fun at all. Since I don't know who you are, I can't mock you any further than that, alas.

Thanks for reading my blog, though!