With the loss of horror great George A. Romero earlier this week, I thought I’d “dig up” this old review of one of his last zombie flicks…
After an unpleasant experience filming Land of the Dead with a big studio, Romero returned to his low budget roots and applied the camera POV style to his latest zombie opus. He starts from scratch telling the story of a new zombie outbreak through the camera of a group of film students making a horror movie…when the real horror begins and the dead begin to rise. It’s not perfect, but it is successful at making the zombies scary again by viewing them through the eyes of the terrified students. There is the trademarked gore and the gritty low budget style suits Romero far better then Land’s big budget gloss. Romero can be preachy at times with his social views and if you’re not a fan of the POV style films, this probably won’t win you over, even if it is far less shaky than most. It’s a return to form in many respects for the master of horror, though not quite a classic like the films of his original dead trilogy. Stars Michelle Morgan, Joshua Close, Shawn Roberts, Amy Lalonde, Joe Dinicol, Scott Wentworth, Philip Riccio and Alan van Sprang whose rogue soldier character returns in the follow-up Survival of the Dead.
With the zombie/infected sub-genre being overplayed right now, it is at least somewhat refreshing when a movie tries to do something a little bit different with it. Sadly, focusing on survivor drama is also getting played-out and this film tries hard, but really didn’t offer anything new. The story finds Ann (Lucy Walters) now alone after loosing her husband (Shane West) and baby during some kind of viral outbreak which has produced the usual vicious zombie-like infected. She survives alone in the woods until she comes across fellow survivors teen Olivia (Gina Peirsanti) and her step-father Chris (Adam David Thompson). Now the three must try to learn to trust each other and bond as the threat of infected attack is always just outside their campfire.
Flick is well directed by Rod Balckhurst from a script by David Ebeltoft, and really tries to add a different slant to a very tired sub-genre, but just doesn’t quite give it a unique enough spin to make it completely engaging. We have three survivors of a situation that is very overplayed, trying to learn to trust each other after suffering their own loses and pain. We get to know Ann through flashbacks to the beginning of the outbreak and then the deaths of her husband and child. We understand why she may be hesitant to get attached to new people. Her survival routine is well portrayed as she tries to outwit the infected who inhabit a nearby house filled with canned food. Then she must deal with Chris and Olivia, including feelings for the man and jealousy from teen Olivia. It’s all well-done, but sadly nothing really new enough to really keep one’s interest for the almost hour and forty minutes. There is some intensity in the last act, as there is the inevitable confrontation with the infected where Ann must make a choice between her feelings for Chris and her motherly instincts towards Olivia. It plays out dramatically well, as Blackhurst appears to be a solid director and the acting is good, too, but what comes before is just a somewhat toned done version of what can basically be seen on Walking Dead each week. A nice effort, but one that falls short due to familiarity of a sub-genre currently…and ironically…being beaten to death.
(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)
Book based horror is an interesting and intriguing addition to the overcrowded zombie sub-genre. In this tale, a fungus has turned most of the world’s population into crazed carnivores seeking human and/or other living flesh for food. A small group of soldiers and scientists are trying to seek a cure through a group of infected children whose aggressive behavior is surpressed and only becomes volatile when they are hungry and in the proximity of prey, or the scent of the living. One such little girl, Melanie (Sennia Nanua) is the most intelligent and controlled of the subjects…and thus of the most interest to lead scientist, Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close). When the “Hungries” overrun the base, a small group of survivors, including sympathetic teacher Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton) and Caldwell, take Melanie on the run to find a safe haven, as the young girl may be mankind’s last hope. Along the way they find armies of Hungries and groups of feral children like the ones back at the base. Melanie now has a choice, to help save humanity or find a home amongst her own “kind”.
British flick is a mix of Day Of The Dead and Lord Of The Flies and thus keeps us interested with it’s focus on the “second generation” children of a zombie outbreak. The film is very effectively directed by Colm McCarthy from a script by Mike Carey, based on his book of the same name. Girl creates a very sympathetic and likable character in Melanie and this has us quite endeared to her despite the fact that there is a monster lurking beneath the skin. McCarthy also gives some intensity and chills to some of the more familiar sequences, even though fans of the genre have seen hordes of hungry zombies in action before. The fact that we have some likable characters in the mix like Miss Justineau, helps involve us with scenes like the Hungries overrunning the base and when the characters are in danger. The film has some clever ideas, such as the interesting slant of Melanie basically being able to walk amongst the Hungries unscathed, as she technically is one of them and thus goes from basically a prisoner to valued member of the team. Once the film switches gears from George A. Romero to William Golding, it becomes quite interesting as Melanie starts to wonder whether this is infection or evolution and realizes that the team needs her more than she needs them. There are also some very familiar clichés such as the self-serving scientist and the soldier with a grudge (Paddy Considine) along with many familiar zombie tropes. There are, obviously, some gruesome moments and some brutality, though McCarthy makes them effective by not overdoing it with the well-rendered blood-spattering. When it comes, it’s startling. There is also a really good score by Cristobal Tapia de Veer that adds atmosphere and the film is shot well by Simon Dennis, especially effective when the film changes settings to a London abandoned and overgrown with vegetation.
Another element that makes this work so well, is the cast. Young Sennia Nanua gives a simply amazing performance as Melanie. We see a girl who is intelligent, thoughtful and compassionate to the point of total compliance with being a test subject. We watch her slowly begin to realize just how important she is and then assume a position of dominance as she comes to the realization that she may be at the top of the food chain, as both predator and leader. In all aspects of her character, Nanua is captivating and in the last act she exudes a strength that grabs you. Her relationship with Arterton’s Miss Justineau is also crucial, as she is the anchor to which Melanie’s humanity is tethered. The two actors have a genuine chemistry that makes the friendship work and the affection seem genuine. Gemma Arterton once again proves she is more than a pretty face with a strong turn as the caring teacher who sees her students as more than monsters…even to a fault. Veteran Glenn Close is also strong as scientist Dr. Caldwell. Sure the character is cliché, but the veteran actress gives her some depth, even when she becomes the cold, ruthless, scientist we expect from the role. Rounding out is Paddy Considine who is also good as the soldier with a hatred for the Hungies and who treats the children like the monsters he feels they are. The character has a bit of depth, especially when we find the root of his anger. Cliché but effective thanks to a solid actor in the part.
Overall, I really liked this flick despite feeling the zombie sub-genre needs a much needed break. The film has some familiar elements, but also does it’s own thing with a fascinating lead character in Melanie and an interesting Lord Of The Flies slant in it’s second half. We have a solid script from Carey and some very effective direction from Colm McCarthy. The cast are all very good, with young lead Sennia Nanua really making an impression with a layered and sometimes powerful performance of a unique little girl in an unthinkable situation. Not a completely original zombie flick, but one that has enough of it’s own ideas to make it effective and refreshing enough in an overcrowded sub-genre.
Zombie outbreak flick is a mildly entertaining diversion that has a doctor (Rachel Nichols) being taken by a small squad of soldiers (Alfie Allen, Mekhi Phifer and Missi Pyle) into a contaminated area to search for a missing team and the uncontaminated survivors they supposedly found. The mission goes awry, stranding the team and putting their lives in danger…as it does the doctor’s own secret, personal agenda.
Written by Dustin T. Benson and directed by John Suits this is absolutely nothing new in the zombie sub-genre and certainly adds nothing to freshen up it’s story in the current over-saturation of living dead movies, shows and books. It is well made for a low budget flick and moves along quickly enough with some decent action, but nothing innovative. The constant use of POV shots from the team’s helmet cams may amuse some, but if you’re not a gamer, it will probably just give you a headache. The cast are fine and Nichols makes a solid heroine with her own secret and gives the movie a little emotional weight. If you just want a little entertainment to go along with your beers, you could do worse than this SYFY-ish zombie flick.
THE DEVIL COMPLEX (2016)
Absolutely awful found footage flick has student Rachel (Maria Simona Arsu) hiring a small crew (Patrick Sebastian Negrean and Marius Dan Munteanu) to enter Romania’s supposedly haunted Baciu forest to film a documentary. Sound familiar? As we know from the professor that opens the movie (Adrian Carlugeo), the trio disappeared and we are now watching their laughably Blair Witch-ish footage that looks like a home movie filmed in one afternoon on a dare.
Directed by Mark Evans who co-wrote with Caroline Riley this is bottom of the barrel found footage nonsense that is not only terribly boring, but is so blatant a Blair Witchrip-off that it could almost be a remake…and a horrible one at that. The dialog between them is awful as we meander around the snowy countryside following these idiots as their nut job of a guide (Bill Hutchens) disappears and they get lost. They then start to loose there minds when they can’t find their way out and feel something evil is stalking them based on finding a teddy bear and a shoe…all with some heinously bad dialog that is equally ineptly acted. There is a scant bit of bloodshed in the last act, but it is with little effect and at that point we just want this inane flick to be over with. Leading lady Arsu was kind of cute, but no amount of beauty would make this watchable.
Interesting looking Schwarzenegger flick has the Austrian Oak playing a Midwestern father trying to protect his daughter (Abigail Breslin) who has been infected during a zombie outbreak. Film is directed by Henry Hobson and written by John Scott 3. Maggie opens 5/22/15.
(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)
I have to admit, I am not the biggest fan of this flick. True, I was first disappointed because, I was expecting something far more serious from the co-creators of Night Of The Living Dead and Alien and instead got a silly horror/comedy trying a little too hard to be hip. But, over the years I’ve come to realize that simply not all of the bits work and it wears out it’s welcome and gimmick long before it’s 90 minutes are over. Sure it has some fun scenes and a few quotable lines and I understand that many consider this a cult classic and I respect that, but, to me the flick is mediocre at best.
The film uses the original Night Of The Living Deadas a springboard, as medical supply warehouse worker Frank (Poltergeist’s James Karen) tells newbie Freddy (Jason Lives’ Thom Mathews) that the film Night Of The Living Deadactually happened and and George Romero changed the details to keep the army off his back. The zombie outbreak was caused by a military chemical weapon called Trioxin that accidentally raised the dead and an army screw-up brought some of the containers here to Louisville, Kentucky. He shows him some drums that he claims contain the imprisoned zombies and… of course… one gets punctured and Frank and Freddy become infected and the zombie inside escapes. With Freddy’s friends on the way to pick him up and party in a nearby graveyard and warehouse owner Burt’s (Clu Gulager) misguided idea to cremate a re-animated corpse during a rainstorm, it all adds up to a night of terror for all involved as the dead rise with one thing on their hungry dead minds… BRAINS!
There is some witty stuff in director Dan (Alien) O’Bannon’s script from a story by Rudi Ricci and NOTLDco-creators John A. Russo and Russell Streiner but, a lot of it is fairly by-the-numbers, too and adding a lot of punk rock songs to the soundtrack doesn’t really cover up the fact that this should have been a lot more clever. It uses another classic movie as a springboard and while there is the initial clever notion that NOTLDactually happened and there was a cover-up, the film doesn’t really use it for anything other then another routine zombie siege flick. I do like the notion that they eat brains to ease the pain of death. That was a clever touch, but, aside from that, it’s just another board the windows and doors zombie movie with some only half-successful comedy and slapstick thrown in. O’Bannon directs the proceedings with a fairly pedestrian hand, translating the script to screen with very little style or finesse. The film could have used a director who was willing to really go for broke with the premise and doesn’t play it safe like O’Bannon. Even Scream Queen Linnea Quigley’s nude cemetery striptease is done quickly and over before you can blink without ever even trying to exploit the whole nude minx in a sacred cemetery angle. The gore and creature FX are well done but, stay well within the R-rated limits and the last act simply gets annoying as characters shout, curse and cry continuously about their dilemma but, accomplish very little. The slapstick reaches a fever pitch but, O’Bannon is not skilled or experienced enough a director to keep it down to a tolerable level and let’s his cast over-act and it just gets grating. The film basically showed us all it had in the first half and now just barrels along to it’s predictable conclusion. There are some fun zombie bits but, they are few and far between as the action remains focused on those trapped in the mortuary and warehouse… and splitting the characters up and thus our focus, doesn’t help things either. It’s no surprise when the film is discussed that the conversation and quotes are all about the zombies as the human characters never really register.
The cast all over-act a lot, especially Karen who you just want to shut up sometimes. Don Calfa as the mortician is in constant bug-eyes mode even before the zombie show up and Clu Gulager is shamelessly unrestrained the whole flick. Quigley is certainly fetching as nude punk rocker/zombie Trash but, her line readings are flat and her dialog, not much better. And the film sadly makes little use of it’s naked, curvaceous brain-eating sex kitten… again, O’Bannon playing it safe. Mathews spends most of his time shivering and whimpering as he takes over an hour to turn into a zombie and the rest of the cast play stereotypical Hollywood cliche’ punk rockers and hipsters… two groups that would never have hung out together in real life. Even heroine Beverly Randolph is reduced to a crying, shrieking mess and it gives us no strong characters to endear ourselves too or identify with.
So, in conclusion my original opinion remains. The film has some fun bits but, overall plays it far too safe and doesn’t really make good use of it’s premise. Anything clever the film has to offer is basically in the set-up and aside from a legitimately creepy dialog scene with a dead corpse, the film really doesn’t do anything new with the whole zombie formula except to make a joke out of it in an attempt to be hip. There is some fun nostalgia at this point and the flick is very 80, but, overall it’s an overrated attempt to get more gas out of a classic movie’s legendary status and needed a far more deft and clever hand behind the camera to succeed in what it set out to do. Watchable but, very overrated. Made enough money to warrant a number of sequels with only Part 3 being a recommendable watch…and one that might be actually better than the film that inspired it.