"I'll just get my gear."

Posts Tagged ‘zombies’

Clive Barker double feature: Haeckel’s Tale / Transmutations

Tuesday, October 26th, 2021

You know how it is, you love Clive Barker-based movies but you’ve seen HELLRAISER, NIGHTBREED, CANDYMAN and THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN a million times each, you’re not quite ready to try again on LORD OF ILLUSIONS, you even watched BOOKS OF BLOOD last year, but you want a little of that Barker movie kick, so it’s time for a Clive Dive. You gotta try some of the lesser ones out, see if you missed a good one, or if one you didn’t like back in the day is any better than you thought at the time.

So I tried one of each. The one I’d missed was the Masters of Horror episode Haeckel’s Tale, from 2006. It’s adapted by Mick Garris (THE FLY II) and directed by John McNaughton “in association with George A. Romero.” According to Wikipedia that just means Romero was supposed to direct it but had a scheduling problem. Around that time he was starting DIARY OF THE DEAD and announced a thing that never happened called SOLITARY ISLE, so it must’ve been one of those. (read the rest of this shit…)

Army of the Dead

Tuesday, June 1st, 2021

I’ve been waiting for Zack Snyder’s ARMY OF THE DEAD since it was first announced in 2007, at which point he’d only directed DAWN OF THE DEAD and 300. Snyder would’ve produced and they had commercial director Matthijs van Heijningen (who later did the THE THING premaquel) set to direct. My understanding of the premise was that Las Vegas was walled off to contain a zombie outbreak, a team of mercenaries were hired to go in for a heist, and the hero was really trying to rescue his daughter who was stuck in there.

14 years later it exists in what could only be an entirely different form, since it’s directed by Snyder himself, rewritten by a guy who was 13 years old when it was announced, starring a guy who was a WWE wrestler and hadn’t even been in a David DeFalco movie yet, made with technology that didn’t exist, distributed on a service that didn’t exist. As always, Snyder is unpredictable. I definitely wouldn’t have guessed that I’d be happier with his 4 hour redux of JUSTICE LEAGUE than the zombie movie I’d already been waiting several years for when he did MAN OF STEEL. But here we are.

ARMY OF THE DEAD did not live up to my hopes, so I will share many complaints about it. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it – it’s an entertaining movie, especially for straight-to-Netflix. I recommend watching it if you’re into this sort of thing and won’t pull your hair out that it’s either surprisingly sloppy or prioritizes setting up anime spin-offs and fan theory speculation over telling a good story. (read the rest of this shit…)

Train to Busan Presents Peninsula

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

TRAIN TO BUSAN PRESENTS PENINSULA is, of course, director Yeon Sang-ho’s sequel to his excellent zombie hit TRAIN TO BUSAN (itself a live action sequel to his less-widely-known animated movie SEOUL STATION). Although PENINSULA is officially a TRAIN TO BUSAN presentation according to the American title, these are sequels in sort of the George Romero tradition: same world, different sets of characters. Different things that happen to people in South Korea trying to survive a fast-zombie outbreak. So, although I recommend all of them, you could watch them in any order.

This one starts maybe a little bit after the other two movies. Jung-Seok (Gang Dong-won, ILLANG: THE WOLF BRIGADE) uses his station as a captain in the Marines to get his sister and her family a spot on an evacuation ship. But of course a guy on the boat starts twitching weird and next thing you know there’s running and screaming and biting. This is just a pre-credits sequence but, like TRAIN TO BUSAN, it captures a deep sense of loss as Jung-Seok and his brother-in-law Chul-min (Kim Do-yoon, THE WAILING) see their loved ones turn into monsters. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Return of the Living Dead (35th anniversary revisit)

Monday, August 24th, 2020

August 16, 1985

THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD is a movie that I already reviewed thoroughly for Halloween 2015, but it’s such a classic I felt it would be wrong to exclude from this retrospective. So feel free to click on that link for a straightforward piece about some of the reasons I love the movie, but this one will zero in on a few aspects I feel are interesting in context with other movies we’ve discussed from the Summer of 1985 movie season.

As a horror-comedy that’s more of a real horror movie than a parody, RETURN arguably has a kinship with FRIGHT NIGHT. But obviously its closest comparison is its brother from another producer, George Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD. Earlier in the summer I wrote about some of the ways DAY fit the specific moment of 1985. RETURN does it in a totally different way. Romero’s takes a grey, grim approach to railing against the Reagan era, while RETURN writer-director Dan O’Bannon does the EC Comics and punk rock version. Like so many of the movies we’ve been looking at, it’s a very soundtrack-oriented movie, embracing music of the time. But it’s not Huey Lewis, Cyndi Lauper or even Oingo Boingo – it’s punk rock bands like T.S.O.L., The Cramps, The Damned and The Flesh Eaters. (read the rest of this shit…)

Blood Quantum

Thursday, April 30th, 2020

I keep having to write this same exact preamble, so here’s the short version: yes, we all think we’re sick of zombie movies, but here’s another really good one. (See also: TRAIN TO BUSAN, THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS.) The fresh spin on BLOOD QUANTUM – a Canadian one that opened the Midnight Madness portion of the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival and got a surprise release on Shudder this week – starts with it taking place on a First Nations reserve (or Indian reservation as people here call it).

It has a vivid weird-day-unfolding feel, like a serious THE DEAD DON’T DIE, rolling out the odd characters in town through the point of view of Red Crow reserve chief of police Traylor (Michael Greyeyes, DANCE ME OUTSIDE, FIRESTORM, Fear the Walking Dead, True Detective). But it starts on his dad, Gisigu (Stonehorse Lone Goeman, a sturdy, bald old badass with no other acting credits) gutting a bunch of salmon he caught. The fucking things won’t stop flipping around like they’re in that Faith No More video. (read the rest of this shit…)

Seoul Station

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

By now most horror fans have experienced or heard about the greatness of TRAIN TO BUSAN, the 2016 South Korean fast-zombie-plague movie. If you’re in the latter category, I know it’s easy to believe the hype but still feel no urgency to see it, because yeah, I get it. Zombies on a train. So I’ll just say again that while it’s impressive that it made me think “Okay, it turns out I do want another fucking zombie movie,” the real achievement is making me so attached to the characters and attuned to the tragedy of their horror movie circumstances that I produced actual tears near the end. Have I ever cried from a horror movie before? Not that I remember.

When I went to write the review I was surprised to learn that writer/director Yeon Sang-ho’s previous movies were all animated. He’d been doing animated shorts since the ‘90s, before the features KING OF PIGS (2011), THE FAKE (2013). Even more interesting, TRAIN TO BUSAN is sort of a sequel or tie-in to an animated feature called SEOUL STATION that Yeon did immediately before it. I didn’t realize it had come out in the U.S. until I noticed it streaming on Shudder. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Dead Don’t Die

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy THE DEAD DON’T DIE is… I mean, it’s a zombie comedy by Jim Jarmusch. Which is unexpected. When the trailer came out I couldn’t tell if they were trying to mislead us or if Jarmusch had made something totally different from his other movies. The answer is in the middle, leaning toward the first one. It feels closer to normal Jarmusch than to, like, SHAUN OF THE DEAD. It’s high on oddness and quirk, low on concept, plot structure or traditional resolution. Compared to ZOMBIELAND or TUCKER AND DALE or something the humor is bone dry and the pace is molasses slow.

But by LIMITS OF CONTROL standards it’s an action packed thrill-o-rama. It has a whole bunch of zombies digging out of graves like Thriller or RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, pulling out people’s intestines for a snack, and getting their heads chopped or blown off. They’re respectable zombies, too – o.g. slow shambling style, some personality to them, one played by Iggy Pop (DEAD MAN, THE CROW: CITY OF ANGELS). There’s one pretty distinctive touch in that they emit puffs of dust from their wounds. I imagine Jarmusch worked with more FX people on this than on all his other movies combined. (read the rest of this shit…)

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead

Monday, October 15th, 2018

How many times will I have to write a variation of this: “Yeah, I know, I didn’t think I wanted any new zombie movies either, but here’s another one I liked”? No one knows. WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD (2014) feels a little bit more like a normal zombie movie than THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS or TRAIN TO BUSAN did, but it has an energy that I really like. It’s Australian and proud of it, oi oi oi, by which I mean that when a quote on the cover calls it “MAD MAX meets DAWN OF THE DEAD” it’s not that far off.

It starts right around the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, the morning after a freaky meteor shower, when most but not all people have gone ghoul. It centers on a small group of survivors, flashing back to show how it started for each of them. The lead, Barry (Jay Gallagher), kept reminding me of Scott Adkins, and though not a martial artist his character is a fighter, as in he gets in fights. In fact, early on, when a zombie is blocking the road and Barry’s companion (Yure Covich, FEED) is saying he “just can’t get used to” them existing, Barry says “Fuck it, I’m gonna fight ‘im,” gets out of the car and starts punching the thing. (read the rest of this shit…)

Night of the Living Dead

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

An obscure kind of conspiracy: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is on a long list of the movies that I mention all the time in reviews and then when I go to add a link I realize that I’ve never officially written it up. It’s one of those classics that so much has been said about that it’s intimidating to even approach it. Seems presumptuous to think I might have something new to say about it.

It’s also a movie that I felt I had worn out at a certain point. I remember a Halloween some years back when I put it on and when it was over I felt I hadn’t gotten as much out of it as I used to, so I put it on hiatus. But now the Criterion Company has given us what could be the definitive release of the abused-by-public-domain film, which is as good an excuse as any to finally revisit the movie, discuss different aspects of it and see how its themes apply to these fucked up times we’re living in fifty years later. (read the rest of this shit…)

Night of the Comet

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

NIGHT OF THE COMET is like OMEGA MAN reborn as a vividly nineteen-eighties movie. To me it feels like a cousin of RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, and an acquaintance of MIRACLE MILE, CHERRY 2000 and A BOY AND HIS DOG. The tone is a little cartoony, but not silly; it has zombies, but the bigger threat comes from the government. It’s a good salty-sweet mix of bleak and cynical with sweet and fun.

The young leads, Reggie (Catherine Mary Stewart, NIGHTHAWKS, THE LAST STARFIGHTER) and her little sister Sam (Kelli Maroney, SLAYGROUND, CHOPPING MALL) are called “Valley girls” on the box, but luckily that means no more than where they live. Maybe they say “I’m so sure” or something, but they’re serious characters, not the goofy-talking stereotype we know from the Moon Unit Zappa song. Still, centering around youths of the ’80s, NIGHT’s primary locations are a movie theater, a radio station lit by neon art, and a mall. (read the rest of this shit…)