I'm in! I've been accepted as member of the Large Association of Movie Blogs. One small step for zombies, one giant leap for credibility? Nah, but excellent nonetheless!
Wednesday, 18 December 2013
Contains mild spoilers.
Alien Parasites. They're nothing new to the zombie myth and I've reviewed my fair share of films that saw little grubby predators weasel their way into the living and dead to take control. I'll admit though to always feeling a little wary when it comes to little green, err, things infiltrating and mimicking the native population, while all the while working towards the ultimate goal of global dominion. I mean, where the parasites take control of cadavers it's easy to shout zombie; they're reanimated dead and they look the part. What about when the hosts are still alive with their pre-parasitical personality suppressed or even joined with? What if the parasite has introduced a new uncontrollable desire or drive like sex (procreation) or hunger (survival); does an insatiable all-consuming addiction constitute enough of a loss of self, will, ego, being to semantically at least proffer the idea of zombie?
Director James Gunn's horror / comedy / alien parasites land on earth and look to take over zombie flick Slither both tasks me to ask this question while at the same time lets me off the hook completely. Three quarters of the way through the film after watching the very foreign parasite take its first victim, the town big shot Grantford Grant (the brilliant Michael Rooker), successfully find a mate and procreate with Brendalynne Gutierrez (Brenda James) and finally look to step things up spewing thousands of slug like throat guzzling parasitical spermatozoon on the world, Slither did the decent thing and allowed the hosts to die first. The resulting dead controlled by the will of the shared single conscious alien super disease are as close to the modern zombie as one is likely to get; their old selves, other than perhaps access from the new host to memories, are gone; they stumble about like something from a Romero film and they like to feast on flesh.
Slither lists itself as a horror comedy but I always felt the tension, gore and scares outweighed any desire for outright laughter. Ok, alien parasitical take over stories are out there and the film is chock full of audaciously brilliant set pieces that could certainly be seen as uncomfortably funny but there's no throw-away gags or cheap easy farce. The film takes its subject matter seriously but isn't afraid to be playful in a non detrimental way to the core story and atmosphere and it works brilliantly. Nathan Fillon as town sheriff Bill Pardy is the dry wit and hero of the film and arguably does have the lions share of one line quips but again they're never out of place or jarring; in many ways he's the Indiana Jones or Han Solo lightening the mood now and again but never at any expense.
The film has a comfortable cohesiveness, a singular vision, and flows with an effortlessness that signifies a cast and crew who were not only professionally invested but were actively enjoying the ride. All the sequences work, there's no dead dialogue or scenes and all the themes played with work; Gunn has cut and shot the film to perfection. Pacing is on point and the climax is satisfying and not drawn out and even though the central idea of the film is ludicrous it somehow manages to avoid any thoughts that it might be; it's a clever trick and shows it knows what it's doing.
As to the earlier question of whether the increasingly 'alien' but alive Grantford Grant is a zombie I'm happy to leave it up in the air. He's definitely had his self repressed but there's definitely a bit of the old person still there. It's all deliberately vague and disturbing, hinting at a precariously easy malleableness to a definition of self we consider so resolute and absolute. Also, if I start at this juncture including alien possessed films where do I stop? Species and The Thing are obvious starters, but I'd soon move on to any and all films that had someone temporarily possessed by someone / thing else and I'm not sure I'm ready to throw Wrath of Khan with Chekov and Terrell succumbing to Khan's indigenous eels into the mix just yet.
Slither is a triumphant alien parasite spectacular with first rate acting, a tight on point story that never languishes and lavish over the top special effects that manage to avoid ever degrading to farce. I'll admit to enjoying this far more than I expected and I was surprised I'd no memories of ever watching it before which is odd as it's the sort of thing I would have actively sought out. An alien parasite film, with tenderness, scares, laughter and zombies, this is definitely an extra-terrestrial recommendation, 8/10.
Monday, 16 December 2013
Now I'm not exactly sure as to the reason I felt the need for a couple of weeks zombie cinematic vacation but I'm sure putting myself through yet another undeniably mundane and mediocre, however well intentioned end of the world spectacular had something to do with it. The Zombie Diaries wasn't a bad film; it had an earnestness and a gritty realism that elevated it's rather poor production and pedestrian pacing to be something I felt wasn't as bad as it could easily have been. It was still a very average film however, and to learn that it felt deserving of a sequel with an equally low budget was surprising to say the least. Learning that it was also set in the same 'world' with the same look and feel and the same first person narrative left me perplexed but intrigued as for all its faults the first showed undeniable promise. Without giving away the punch line it would seem I was right to be cautious.
Directors Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates have returned to the bleak English muddy fields, slowest least dangerous looking undead shufflers ever seen on camera and obligatory shoehorned in morally bankrupt survivors as if insinuating should civilisation and authority ever crumble every young lad will immediately set off sadistically raping and murdering without a second's pause. The first instalment attempted an ambitious weave of a trio of survival narratives and while it didn't necessarily all work it was these small personal and desperate insights, and not the gun toting action finale that made the film work. The World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries 2 seems to disagree totally with my take however, dropping any delicacy and any ambition to instead tell a more straightforward corridor shooter story with a single group of armed soldiers fighting their way through one heavily scripted encounter after another. There's no real depth, no attempt at anything particularly fresh and an over reliance that having a lot of zombies on screen and plenty of rather lacklustre head shots could carry it all.
It's several months after the apocalypse. The countryside is awash with the undead and a lone group of part time semi-military types are forced to flee the relative safety of their barracks / bunker, because someone left the door open, and make it on foot to the shoreline where they've been lead to believe they'll be rescued and transported abroad where things are much better. Each of the characters has a reasonably coherent back story and the plot itself while wholly unoriginal is not the worst thing I've come across in an amateur production it's just the whole thing is so dreary. I understand that bleakness and desolation was the theme, and that a zombie apocalypse wouldn't be a cause for balloons and dancing, but having the rather stale and derivative posse quite so uninspired and miserable soon makes viewing unnecessarily weary.
If you've watched the first you'll understand the description, slow and non threatening, yet persistent and plentiful. For a group of armed and trained soldiers the near snail paced zombies pose a surprisingly major threat. In fact I'd go one further and really question how such a pedestrian and unassuming foe could so quickly and totally have overcome a far quicker, more mobile, better equipped and far more cognizant population. And here's the rub; I'm all for no direct monster post-apocalyptic dramas, but if you're going to go to all the trouble to fill it with gnarly undead flesh eaters that are purported to have been responsible for the untold murder of billions, one could at least try and present them in a way that might other than fleetingly appear vaguely dangerous. There is some nice blood and gore and some nice deaths, albeit all too often helped by the coincidental blurring / damaged film / interference from the hand held docu style capture but it never manages to ever completely shake off it's low budget restraints or dare I say lacklustre direction.
It's [REC], Diary of the Dead, Blair Witch all over again with one of the soldiers Jonesy (Rob Oldfield) seemingly intent to record absolutely everything that happens however ridiculous it would be that he wouldn't stop and put the camera down to say, run away or shoot back. I've seen far worse but still suffers the same contrivance accusations levelled at all films of this ilk. There's also an attempt to add tension and purposeful drive to proceedings with the inference that should they not reach the boats on time the country will be firebombed to oblivion though this too never feels any more than a tacked on convenient narrative contrivance.
The World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries 2 is an uninspired Romero-esque homage. Average acting performances, laboured dialogue and a plot that feels artificially stretched with unnecessary scenes added just to fill the gaps; it rarely offers anything for the viewer to ever get particularly excited about. There's a certain competence to proceedings and there's nothing pro-actively offensive, other than maybe an unnecessary and unhealthy fixation to include rape or torture, it just fails in all ways possible to stand out. Maybe I'm a tad jaded or maybe I've seen too many 'average' zombie films but The World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries 2 just didn't do it for me in any way, 3/10.