Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When There's No More Room In Hell...

Our October Scary Movie Marathon continues. For the last week, we've been watching the zombie movies of George Romero (pictured at right) - and some of the better remakes and rip-offs.

• We started, of course, with 1968's Night Of The Living Dead. I don't know how many times I've viewed this, but it still has the capacity to truly creep me out. The stark, black & white photography, the old-fashioned stock musical score... it all works. My DVD is the out-of-print Elite Entertainment "Millennium Edition," released in 2002. Beautiful, rock-solid, crystal sharp transfer.

• The next night was 1978's Dawn Of The Dead. Not as creepy, but the film manages to sustain this air of despair that's palpable. Few movies are as bleak. We watched the "Extended Cut" from Anchor Bay's, massive, 4-disc, 2007 "Ultimate Edition." This one has a few more scenes expanding on the characterization of the survivors, but seems to be missing a few brief bits that I remember from the theatrical version. I'll watch that one next year.

Day Of The Dead is, for reasons I can't quite explain, my personal favorite of the original trilogy. I wouldn't go so far as to call it the best movie, but I just like it best. The zombie effects are the finest (and most gruesome) that Tom Savini ever did, I like the cast and characters, and find the scenario particularly tense. The conflict between the characters under extreme pressure is marvelously portrayed - this one always puts me a bit on edge. We watched the Anchor Bay "Divimax" edition from '03. The transfer on this one is gorgeous, and much improved over the earlier DVD release.

• Next, we watched George's 2005 return to the genre, Land Of The Dead. A lot of fans don't like this one, and I have a few minor problems with it myself, but for what it is - which is Romero's "action" film - it's not bad. It has some great bits, the cast is good (especially Asia Argento and the big Samoan guy), and it moves fast. We've got the unrated DVD from Universal.

• The multitude of fans that don't like Land are outnumbered by the ones that outright hate Diary Of The Dead - but Brandi and I aren't among them. We actually like it. The Blair Witch-influenced, subjective "camcorder" conceit is handled pretty well, I think, and gives the zombie attacks a certain extra punch. Admittedly, this is the most annoying bunch of characters to yet appear in a Romero film - this is the only one focusing on modern horror's requisite cast of irritating young dolts - but that just makes it more fun when they get chomped. The DVD from the Weinstein Company is fine, with some decent features.

• As Romero's next zombie flick hasn't been released yet, we moved on to the 1990 remake of Night Of The living Dead, written by Romero and directed by Tom Savini. This is one of the rare remakes that is actually good - extremely respectful of the original, but with some new twists and surprises. I'm not sure it would have turned out as well if George hadn't been involved, though. The decade-old 1999 Columbia DVD holds up well with a beautiful transfer.

• Last night, we watched Zack Snyder's 2004 remake of Dawn Of The Dead. Another decent remake, with a clever script by James Gunn that takes the basic premise but spins a completely different story from the original. This one features "fast zombies" and some great action sequences. Since I generally distrust remakes, I probably would never have bought it back when it came out, but I read an interview somewhere where George praised it. I don't think it's as memorable or thoughtful as the original, but it's pretty good.

• Tonight, we'll be watching Dan O'Bannon's Return Of The Living Dead from 1985, and tomorrow, it'll be Edgar Wright's Shaun Of The Dead from '04.

After that, I plan on spinning all four installments of Don Coscarelli's Phantasm series - since Universal finally released part 2 on DVD....


Charles Gramlich said...

I actually really liked the 2004 remake with the fast zombies. I thought it was very well done.

El Vox said...

I recently watched the documentary, Dawn of the Dead: Documentaries (1978).
This companion video to George Romero's classic zombie horror flick includes behind-the-scenes features meaty enough for even the most rabid fans. First and foremost is "The Dead Will Walk," an all-new documentary that includes interviews with original cast and crew members. Other highlights include filmmaker Roy Frumkes "Document of the Dead," which was filmed while the movie was being made, on-set home movies and a Monroeville Mall tour.

If you are a fan of Romero and his movies, you'll want to check it out. What a fun look back at the time he made Dawn.