A Ku Indeed!

Zombie Addiction

Posted in Fun, Life by Chris on September 21, 2008

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?

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12 Responses

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  1. Mark said, on September 21, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    I’m a total zombie addict. I haven’t seen all those movies (I’m a young’n), but zombie movies are by far my favorite in the thriller/horror genre. My obsession started around the same age in the same way, but I started with the 1990 Night of the Living Dead. Creeped me out so bad.
    My ranking, so far, is a bit different.
    1. 1990 Night of the Living Dead
    2. 2006 Dawn of the Dead (especially the beginning sequences. Purism aside, running zombies are freaky)
    3. 28 Days Later. Amazing film, though I’m not sure they’re technically zombies
    4. 1968 Night of the Living Dead. Sketchy film-making (and a bit boring for my generation), but the plot was pretty solid and the social commentary was awesome.
    5. Resident Evil series. Growing up playing the video games, those movies were a dream come true.
    Though we have entirely different zombie philosophies, it’s cool to see another enthusiast.

  2. Chris said, on September 21, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    28 Days Later isn’t a zombie flick, it doesn’t count, since they aren’t dead — they’re just infected by a virus.

    2006 DOTD is just a bad, bad film. You must rent the original, which is top-notch. The 2006 version is like a hollowed out version of the 1978 one, superficial and without content, but with a bigger budget.

    I’ve never seen the Resident Evil stuff, so I can’t comment, though my ranking here was just meant for the Romero stuff, so I left out the oodles of other noteworthy zombie flicks out there that rank high on my list.

    By the way, it is without question that fast zombies are a no no, and the reason why you youngin’s dislike the original “Night” is because you are action junkies with little appreciation for actual plot/theme development. 🙂

  3. Alexus McLeod said, on September 22, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    Hi Chris–
    so there are others!!!
    I’m a zombiehead myself. I pretty much agree with your ranking of Romero films, the only difference is that I would put the ’78 Dawn of the Dead first. That thing is one of my favorite movies of any kind. I also agree that the 2006 version was pathetic. I felt personally affronted at the fast zombies, and the whole thing just felt more like a music video than a zombie flick. In addition, the ’78 Dawn was nearly a perfect zombie flick, so the very idea of remaking it seemed silly. I guess it was to make it appeal to a younger generation–but I was born the year the original Dawn came out, and I still love the thing!! I can’t adequately express my hatred for the Dawn remake.

    I also agree with you about Land of the Dead–though I would use less kind words than the ones you used to describe it. It was a horrible disappointment, coming from Romero. It seemed more like another director trying to be like Romero than Romero himself. In interviews, though, Romero himself has said that there was inside pressure to make the film more “commercial”, and he wasn’t satisfied with the end result. Apparently, that was one of his reasons for making Diary of the Dead. I got pretty depressed when this one came out, though, because the concept seemed silly to me, and I loathed the “Blair Witch Project”, from which such films as Diary arose. Every time I go to Blockbuster I walk by Diary of the Dead on the shelves, but inevitably turn away, thinking that my heart can’t possibly stand another disappointment by Romero. From what you say, it seems I was right to avoid it.

    By the way, one of my favorite Zombie flicks, up there with the ’78 Dawn of the Dead is the 1979 Italian film “Zombi 2” (called “Zombie” in the English version). It was a total B-movie attempted cash-in on the success of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, but I loved it anyway. It got more into the primal, evil voodoo magic side of the zombie than Romero’s movies did. Still, Romero was the master.

  4. Alexus McLeod said, on September 22, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Also, I liked “Day” a little better than the 1990 remake of “Night”.

  5. Mark said, on September 22, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    I’m okay with you guys ripping on 28 Days and the running zombies (as intense as they are), but I’ll never condone Land of the Dead (2005). Not only was it a bad zombie movie, it was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. With thinking zombies, pimp midgets, and a Mexican guy named Cholo, I think they hit bottom. I’ll agree that the rest of the new Dawn was not good. After they made it to the mall, it got really, really bad.
    I’m glad there are different kinds of people out there, though. It takes all kinds to make the world go ’round.

  6. Chris said, on September 23, 2008 at 7:58 am

    Mark,

    I think Alexus and I agree that Land was bad (Dennis Hopper? Why?). It was (Asia Argento was good, though). I think the last two (Diary, Land) are forgettable. Maybe Romero has run out of gas. Which is too bad, because I could imagine lots of places to take the basic story.

    The new Dawn (which I unfortunately own) was ridiculous. As Alexus says, and I agree, Dawn is either the best or close to the best zombie movie ever made. You don’t redo it just to put more money in the production (which is what they tried to do). It was hollow and lacked any of the larger cultural message of the original, which is part of what made the original so good.

    Running zombies, I’ll say it again, are a no-no invented for a generation of movie viewers who can’t stand it if things are moving at 100 mph across the screen at all times.

    By the way, I found myself laughing through 28 Weeks Later. I flipped over the disk container at some point because I wanted to see if it was a spoof or if they were attempting a partial comedy. Wow it was bad.

  7. Chris said, on September 23, 2008 at 8:00 am

    Alexus,

    “Day” is good, but the weakest of the original trilogy for sure. The whole “Buddy” thing got on my nerves after a while to be honest (note that this theme is returned to in “Land”).

    The remake of “Night” is, in my opinion, amazing. I felt that he ratcheted up the level of background commentary to the right level, and it was filmed very, very well (perhaps the best of any zombie flick I’ve seen). And Tallman, as I noted, I thought was particularly good in it. Solid all around.

    At some point, by the way, I’ll have to make a post about my other secret movie horror addiction…Phantasm. 🙂

  8. Ben Watt said, on September 26, 2008 at 8:49 am

    My favorite zombie movie by far is the original “Night.” I also loved the original “Dawn,” with my only complaint being that towards the end he seemed to be introducing the whole idea of zombies “remembering their past lives,” and setting up for “Day;” which I honestly did not like. I never saw the remake of “Night” (but I might have to now). I did see the remake of “Dawn,” and it didn’t even come close. I very unfortunately saw “Land,” and I hated it so much I couldn’t even bring myself to watch “Diary.” Just awful.

  9. Chris said, on September 26, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Ben,

    You’re right that the “remembering things” theme does spring from the old “Dawn”. I’d forgotten, but that’s the whole point of the movie; that the zombies want to come back to the place that they spent most of their lives (and hence the strong social criticism of American consumerism Romero peppers you with in the movie).

    You need to see the “Night” remake. It’s good. Let me know what you think when you get a chance to view it.

  10. Alexus McLeod said, on September 26, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    That’s why “Dawn” is my favorite of them all–the criticism of consumerism. It was brilliant, and sad. No denying it–if I were a zombie, I’d be at that mall too. “Dawn” had a personal resonance with me that none of the other films had. The way it was shot, the music, everything–you really sympathized with the mall zombies, who are us. And it wasn’t a facile “we’re all braindead consumer drones” play–the protagonists are always shifting. Sometimes it’s the living, sometimes the zombies. Even the empty mall shots themselves were loaded with meaning and feeling. “Dawn” was incredible.

    By the way, there’s a great XBOX360 game called “Dead Rising” that came out a few years ago, loosely based on “Dawn” (you’re fighting zombies in a mall, a group of hoodlums attacks–same basic plot). That game is the reason I bought the 360 system.

  11. Chris said, on September 27, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Alexus,

    Did you know that the original “Dawn” had an alternative ending? I think the alternative ending was better, but as usual the never-ending desire of studios to end things on happy notes (well, in this case, as happy as it can get) always wins out.

  12. Alexus McLeod said, on September 28, 2008 at 11:47 am

    Hey Chris–
    yeah, I know about the “Dawn” alternative ending– this can be a pretty touchy subject among horror movie people! Personally, I liked the original ending better, because I tend to like endings that give a glimmer of hope rather than total despair. The original ending seemed to me a good message, the “I was about to quit, end it all, and realized that even if there’s nothing left, I’m going to fight it out and try to survive.” I like that. It’s rugged and survivalist. The alternate ending story is way too nihilistic for my tastes. Also, the original ending makes things more uncertain. We know that the protagonists escape the mall, but we don’t know what happens after that. Do they crash? Do they get somewhere else and live happily ever after? It could have gone for the finality of the ending of “Day”, which seemed to me way too “happily ever after”. At the end of “Dawn” we’re not guaranteed that the protagonists will “win”, we’re just guaranteed that they’re committed to fighting for survival. I like the guarantee of the further fight, as in the ending of “Dawn”, while I don’t like the guarantee of the win, as in “Day”. I don’t think the alternative ending would have been horrible or ruined the movie (I can see the point of ending it that way, and it still would have been good), but I do like the original better.

    By the way–I think I’m going to finally rent “Diary”. At least now, after reading your review, I’ve been able to lower my expectations, and so my disappointment probably won’t be as great as it otherwise would have been.


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