Wednesday, April 20, 2011

George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead

Survival of the Dead

Starring: Alan van Sprang, Kenneth Welsh, Kathleen Monroe, Richard Fitzpatrick, and Athena Karkanis

Directed by: George Romero

Written by: George Romero

Production Companies Blank of the Dead Productions, Devonshire Productions, New Romero, and Sudden Storm Productions

Release Date: September 9, 2009

Let's face it...When we think zombie, we think George Romero. Even if someone doesn't think the name, the modern zombie exists because of Romero. He took it away from Haiti voodoo and made it something unique and beloved as horror movie monsters go. He also broke the monster mold by avoiding explaining how the whole thing began. No Haitian voodoo, no curse, no science, no evolution, no punishment from God, and while some have tried there own explanations in their own zombie tales, Romero zombies just are the reason for their existence is less important than what we do when the dead start walking. So it was with anticipation that I started Survival of the Dead.

And it was with disappointment that I turned off my DVD player at the end of the movie. I wasn't disappointed that the movie was over. I mean, I wanted the thing to be over about half way through. I was disappointed because I felt let down. Granted, I know that movie writers and directors aren't exactly concerned with my expectations and often times movies are ruined because of over consideration of what the fans want...but I think Romero went far off the mark on this one.

Survival of the Dead is about the family rivalry between the O'Flynn's and the Muldoon's. The fact that there is a zombie outbreak is pretty inconsequential. Seamus Muldoon wants to keep the living dead like pets, though it's out of sentimentality that they are not that different from the living, ignoring the fact that they have to be tied to keep them from killing everyone. Patrick O'Flynn wants to kill all of the zombies, so the ages old family rivalry continues on.

Meanwhile, Sarge Crockett and his men try, detached from an organized army, to survive and are drawn to Plum Island, where Muldoon has entrenched himself killing strangers brought to Plum Island by O'Flynn's broadcasts. Then the debate continues on about whether the zombies can be trained to eat something other than humans, with Muldoon's daughter Janet siding with O'Flynn.

A good zombie film is more about how people react than the actual zombies, but long stretches of movie went without any danger from zombies. In fact, it wasn't even a long stretch; it was the vast majority of the film where zombies were just background detail. The most endearing portion of the film was the relationship between Athena Karkanis's Tomboy and Cisco, with Cisco trying vainly to seduce the lesbian Tomboy.

An odd detail in this post-apocalyptic zombie film which made it difficult for me to really see things as dire was a scene where one of the soldiers is watching on his laptop a late night program with a host telling zombie jokes. Things can't be too bad if we can still get wifi in the middle of nowhere and we can watch streaming television shows.

My inability to sympathize with Muldoon's plan and the limited threat of zombies on Plum Island made this film seem pretty boring. Through in what looked like low cost film production and I felt like I was watching a B-Movie without the humor (often an element to Romero's zombie films) or tits.

I hate to give a Romero zombie film a bad review, but there wasn't much here that I saw as positive. Here's looking toward Romero's next one where hopefully we get back on track.

Related Trailers

Land of the Dead - Alan van Sprang's first venture with Romero and his zombies was 2005's Land of the Dead . Humans have lost the battle against the flesh eaters, and are barricaded in a walled city ruled by ruthless despots. When the zombies develop advanced military tactics, it's up to a group of mercenaries to save the living.

The Fog - Kenneth Welsh was on another small island with horrible things happening in The Fog. Selma Blair, Tom Welling and Maggie Grace star in this creepy thriller about an island town off the coast of Oregon that's forced to contend with some unwelcome visitors from its past: the spirits of lepers and sailors aboard a ship that the hamlet's forefathers had steered astray on purpose. Those aboard the doomed vessel all wound up lost in the fog forever. Now, they're back from the mist, eager to exact revenge on the descendants of their murderers.

The White Dog Sacrifice - Kathleen Monroe found herself trying to survive in the woods in The White Dog Sacrifice. Five young campers discover that a fifty year old legend of sacrificial killings is becoming their present day reality.

Bottom Feeder - Richard Fitzpatrick deals with rat creatures rather than zombies in Bottom Feeder. Vince (Tom Sizemore) heads a maintenance team sent underground to fix a mechanical snafu but discovers a much more dangerous problem when a mysterious creature starts hunting them down. As the terrified group searches for a way out, they learn that the bloodthirsty monster is the result of a military experiment gone bad. Seemingly impervious to all their attacks, the beast locks Vince in a desperate battle to save his crew from a gruesome fate.

Saw IV - Athena Karkanis dealt with the all too living killer Jigsaw in Saw IV. Picking up where its grisly predecessor left off, this Saw finds Jeff Reinhart (Angus Macfadyen) searching for his missing daughter, but a videotape from the dead serial killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is Jeff's only lead in his frantic hunt. The film switches back and forth in time throughout previous Saw films and ties up some lingering -- and bloody -- loose ends.

George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead - George Romero wrote and directed George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead. While filming a low-budget horror film, Jason (Joshua Close) and his film school friends hear news reports of zombie sightings. As the living dead close in on the film crew, Jason seizes the opportunity to add real blood and guts to his movie. Meanwhile the American government promises to stop the violent uprising, but the relentless zombies gain an advantage by wiping out all forms of communication with the outside world.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Horror Movie Review: Case 39

Case 39

Starring: Renee Zellweger, Ian McShane, and Jodelle Ferland

Directed by: Christian Alvart

Written by: Ray Wright

Production Companies: Misher Films, Anonymous Content, Case 39 Productions, and Paramount Vantage

Release Date: August 13, 2009

Wide-eyed, idealistic social worker Emily tries her best to help children not being properly cared for by their parents, but it's hard, stressful work. Then she receives her 39th case. Case 39 is Lillith Sullivan, a little girl whose grades have dropped dramatically at school.

After some coaxing, Emily gets Lillith to confide that her parents are trying to kill her. Only Emily's tenacity finally leads to the Sullivans being caught in the act of trying to kill their daughter and getting Lillith away from them. Emily soon finds herself bringing Emily into her home as a foster child, but it's not long before she realizes something ominous is going on.

Case 39 is a pretty decent suspense-thriller with kudos going to Jodelle Ferland for her creeptastic performance as Lillith.

However, there's not much on the way of horror and I'm not sure why it was given an R rating. There are some blood splatters, some twitchy shots of a creepy girl, a barely seen fork-in-the-eye. I guess it's enough for a Restricted rating, but I suspect it wouldn't have taken much editing to get it to PG-13.

A potentially creepy scene with hornets coming out of a guy's ear, nose, eye, and mouth was ruined by Bradley Cooper's failure to react to the hornets coming from his body and instead reacting to their presence flying around him. Zellweger was fine, but her character was annoying until she stopped cowering in her bedroom and finally decided to do something with Lillith.

Interestingly enough, no explanation is given to why Lillith is an evil demon-child or whatever she's supposed to be. The idea that it was a recent occurrence gets dismissed when Lillith's father yells about living with her for ten years and trying to control her evil. Speaking of Lillith, he theorizes, "From the moment she came into being, she brought something with her. Something older, destructive. Soul of a demon." There is no confirmation of that theory, though and we're left deciding for ourselves what Lillith is.

Case 39 had a lot of potential with Jodelle Ferland as Lillith outshining even Academy Award winner Zellweger, but chose to mute the horror. There's room for a sequel and I'd be willing to check it out. Though I recommend uping the horror ante.

Related Trailers

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - The Next Generation - Renee Zellweger also stars in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - The Next Generation, also known as The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Everyone's favorite chainsaw-wielding psychopath, Leatherface (Robert Jacks), is back for more prom-night gore, and this time he's joined by his bloodthirsty family. Four stranded yet carefree teens are taken in by a backwoods family, clueless of their host family's grisly habits. The terrified youths, including sweet Jenny (Renee Zellweger), try to escape from Leatherface and his crazed clan, including the bionic Vilmer (Matthew McConaughey).

They - Jodelle Feyland also starred in They. Julia Lund (Laura Regan), a graduate student in psychology, has always harbored a nagging fear of the dark and is forced to confront her worst nightmare head on. When a scary real-life event triggers old memories, she begins to suspect that the things she feared were lurking in the dark when she was a child were -- and still are -- real. And what's worse, they might be coming back to get her.

The Midnight Meat Train - Bradley Cooper does a better job in The Midnight Meat Train. as Leon Kauffman, an ambitious New York photographer whose reckless search for a serial killer known as "the Subway Butcher" (Vinnie Jones) leads him down a dark and dangerous path that puts his own life at risk. Leslie Bibb, Dan Callahan, Brooke Shields and Tony Curran also star in this spine-tingling thriller from Japanese director Ryuhei Kitamura, a chilling tale based on a short story by horror giant Clive Barker.

Pandorum - Christian Alvart also directed Pandorum. Upon rousing themselves from hyper-sleep, Payton (Dennis Quaid) and Bower (Ben Foster), a pair of crewmen assigned to work on a spacecraft, discover startling gaps in their collective memory -- including who they are and what, exactly, their mission was in the first place. The plot thickens when they realize they're not the only ones on board the ship. Cam Gigandet co-stars in this gripping sci-fi thriller.

The Crazies - Ray Wright also helped with writing the screenplay for The Crazies. When a plane crashes in a small town, a secret biological weapon is released. As the toxic substance infiltrates the local water system, some residents become gravely ill, while others descend into homicidal madness. Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) attempts to set things straight, but soon the military becomes involved in containing the killer virus. Breck Eisner directs this chilling remake of George A. Romero's 1973 horror classic.