With all of the zombie hysteria, we knew Hollywood would do anything to capitalize on the craze. But here, with “Warm Bodies,” it looks like the genre may have inspired an interesting film. The take here is bizarre and also interesting, with a zombie having some human feelings and then getting enamored with a living girl. The reviews so far on Rotten Tomatoes are excellent.
The Norwegian horror film, “Dead Snow,” came out of Sundance last year riding a wave of good buzz. It didn’t exactly sound like a cult classic, but the concept seemed strong enough to make for a fun midnight movie. Unfortunately, director Tommy Wirkola can’t even manage that, instead churning out a relatively dull horror film that fails to take advantage of its comic potential. The story is like so many others before it, with a group of medical students falling prey to a horde of zombies during a sex-and-booze-fueled weekend at a remote cabin in the mountains. What makes this film different, however, is the fact that these particular zombies also happen to be Nazis. It’s a match made in horror-comedy heaven that could have earned “Dead Snow” a spot among the other zombie classics. But instead of finding the humor in the situation like “Evil Dead 2” and “Dead Alive” (both of which are referenced in the film), Wirkola’s movie is an absolute bore until the final minutes when it suddenly turns into the silly romp it so desperately needed to be. Had the blood-gushing, chainsaw-slicing antics started sooner, “Dead Snow” might have won me over, but as it stands, it’s far too little, too late to make any real impact.
It’s no secret that the zombie genre has experienced quite the renaissance over the last decade, but with that kind of overexposure, it was only a matter of time before the well began to run dry. If you look hard enough, however, there are still a few undiscovered gems lurking about, and the Canadian horror-thriller, “Pontypool,” is proof of that. Set almost exclusively inside an abandoned church-turned-radio station, the film stars Stephen McHattie as Grant Mazzy, a former big-city shock jock who now hosts the morning show in the small town of Pontypool, Ontario. When reports start coming in of locals exhibiting strange behavior and brutal acts of violence, Grant and his fellow co-workers (Lisa Houle and Georgina Reilly) hole up in the building relaying news updates over the air. To say what is actually causing the infection would ruin the tense atmosphere that director Bruce McDonald has created, because even though it offers a unique spin on the genre, the very thing that makes the story so original is also what undoes the film in its final minutes. Audiences will still enjoy the ride thanks to some great performances from its three leads, but the clumsy ending prevents “Pontypool” from living up to its full potential.
A few items worthy of your attention this evening.
* A new study predicts that the Redbox video kiosks will be taking over 30% of the DVD market before the end of 2010. There’s no stopping this and you can’t really argue with success, but I fear this will only narrow the already narrow marketing of films further, as the kiosks can only rent a very limited of inevitably mostly recent and blockbuster titles. It’s really the opposite of Netflix, which is a godsend for those who want to broaden their movie/TV horizons.
* Also via The Autuers/Mr. Hudson’s invaluable Twitter feed, comes this interesting comparison of the late John Hughes and the even later master of forties screwball comedy, Preston Sturges. I personally would never really compare the two but it is slightly spooky that they both died on August 6th and were almost the same age, and there were some similarities to their respective careers, but not to their sensibilities. Of course, that also happens to be the day the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan and my sister’s birthday, draw whatever connections you want. (My sister is, however, way nicer than an atom bomb or a writer-director’s untimely death.) I will say that, to me, Sturges movies are much, much funnier and a lot more interesting.
Considering the downgrade in quality that the “Resident Evil” film franchise has experienced with each successive installment, it isn’t entirely surprising that the latest movie based on the popular survival horror game has been given the direct-to-DVD treatment. Granted, “Resident Evil: Degeneration” isn’t associated with the live-action films, so it’s probably better not to compare the two. For starters, this “Resident Evil” adventure could very well be considered official canon, as it reunites series favorites Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield to fight back against a terrorist-controlled zombie attack at the Harvardville Airport. When the leader of the terrorist group injects himself with the unstable G-Virus, however, a new monster is unleashed that must be stopped before the infection spreads any more. Filmed entirely in CG with the same methods used for “Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within,” “Resident Evil: Degeneration” looks like one, long video game cutscene – which is fitting, since it’s intended more for fans of the game than the movies. Those same fans will no doubt love “Degeneration” for the same reason they love the games, but while watching Leon and Claire blast through waves of zombies is a nice distraction until the release of “Resident Evil 5,” it’s still not as fun as doing it yourself.
First Look Studios is one crafty little company. Attempting to piggyback on the success of Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead,” the indie label greenlit a remake of George A. Romero’s third zombie flick, “Day of the Dead,” and even went so far as to cast Ving Rhames in a supporting role. It was all done in the hope that fans would believe the film was a follow-up to the 2004 remake of “Dawn,” and since it’s a pretty shady move on their part, I have no problem spoiling the fact that Rhames (playing a completely different character) dies within the first 20 minutes. The rest of the film is spent following a group of soldiers (led by Mena Suvari and Nick Cannon) around a small Colorado town trying to escape a virus outbreak that has turned certain people into flesh-eating zombies. Passed around like a bad cold, the new virus angle may sound like an interesting twist to a familiar tale, but it’s actually much worse. Somehow, this outbreak is only affecting one city, and though some victims turn into zombies after being bitten, others don’t. WTF? As for the zombies themselves, director Steve Miner has decided to stick with the newer, faster versions, but in order to produce their superhuman speed, he resorts to amateurish tricks like speeding up the tape. It’s all pretty lame stuff, and though an action sequence midway through offers gory headshots aplenty, it’s the only shining moment in a poorly made cash grab more than deserving of the direct-to-video treatment.