For the past few days the wife and the two kids have been out of town (down to Arkansas for the birthday of her mom). You know what that means…craziness. Yeah, I got totally nuts. Threw all caution to the wind. Pushed the envelope. You know what that means…I crawled into my man cave and watched two zombie movies from Netflix that my wife would never watch with me.
I am a zombie movie addict. I have been for over 20 years. It all started with two movies — Night of the Living Dead (the 1968 original Romero) and Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972). Both of these movies freaked me out when I saw them at around 7 years old on late night television. Particularly Children — man that movie scared me silly. Who knew that it would lead to a fascination with zombie movies ever since. I’ve seen them all, and I’m a serious critic of bad ones. And no, they aren’t all bad. Though many are.
This weekend I rewatched Children just for the hell of it. I don’t own it (yet), and I’ve been meaning to “get back to my roots”. It was campy and somewhat badly filmed, I’ll admit. And in some places the acting is downright silly and the zombie costumes and makeup is not so good. But I was actually surprised at just how much of the creepiness of this film stood up, after not seeing it for 30 years. It’s a classic, and a must-see for the zombie enthusiast. I give it a B.
The other was Romero’s latest — Diary of the Dead (2007). I just don’t know. I wanted to like it. I really did. Just like I really wanted to like Land of the Dead his last one (2005). In some ways, Diary is a better story, but it just didn’t strike me as made all that well, and the “hold the camera” thing from Cloverfield didn’t translate as well into this film. The story was slow moving, and didn’t seem to cover much new ground in the series. True, it’s a “rethinking” of the Night story, but seen from a different angle, so it’s the same story retold, but I just felt that the characters could have been developed much more, and that the social commentary angle (which Romero is known for) could have been sharper. When you compare this to his remake of Night of the Living Dead (1990), it doesn’t hold up. The remake is, in my opinion, top notch in all respects, particularly social commentary and acting (Patricia Tallman is really good in it, I think). Diary is, of course, a must see for the Romero fan, but I give it a C+ with some disappointment.
Which leaves me with the task of “ordering” the Dead series now, as it stands, from best to worst. Here’s my stab at an ordering:
1. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
2. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
3. Night of the Living Dead (1990)
4. Day of the Dead (1985)
5. Land of the Dead (2005)
6. Diary of the Dead (2007)
I’m not entirely sure about #5 and #6. It’s close.
Oh, and by the way, I’m obviously not ranking that horrible remake of Dawn of the Dead (2006), one because it isn’t Romero’s, and two because it is just awful. I’m surprised Romero let them use the name and the idea for the film. It was pathetic. Fast zombies? Come on now.
Any other enthusiasts out there? C’mon, I know you exist.
Update: looking back, it’s clear that my ranking moves from the oldest to the newest Romero films (with the exception of the remake of NIght). Maybe that means I’m some sort of “zombie purist” — I like it better the way it was done “back in the day”. Perhaps. It does strike me, though, that the zombies in Night are far creepier, to me, than any of the souped up zombies that come later on with the bigger budgets. The girl zombie on the front page of this post is pretty creepy, and there really isn’t all that much makeup there. Sometimes less is more?