Because I’m going to be submitting a dissertation proposal that involves zombies as part of my application to the University of Hawaii Department of Theatre’s Ph.D. program, I’ve started watching a bunch of zombie movies that I’ve been meaning to see. Now, my proposal doesn’t look at zombies in film per se because I’m more interested in comparing the phenomenology of performing zombie-hood with the Japanese performance/dance form of Butoh. Still working on the details of that . . . but in the meantime I figure it can’t hurt to watch some zombie movies.
Friday Night: Zack Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead
I really, really like Sarah Polley and have liked Jake Weber since his work in American Gothic. That afternoon I had read an academic article that dealt with this movie and had hopes that it would be taut, suspenseful, and scary.
I wasn’t scared, though there were a few moments of intensity and suspense. I didn’t really care about the characters despite liking some of the actors, and, while almost all zombie movies contain some paint-by-numbers elements, this film felt like someone simply ticking off a checklist of story elements with no real passion or finesse. There wasn’t much more than a token attempt at any kind of real character development, and even that felt half-assed. It did cross my mind that maybe I wasn’t scared because I was watching in on my computer. But I watched Dead Set on my computer and was completely freaked the frak out by that series, so I know that genuinely scary writing, compelling characters, and suspenseful filmmaking can translate to a good thrill-on even when watching on my Mac.
Ultimately, a movie as empty and vacuous as the mall that the characters hide out in for most of the time.
Saturday Night: Night of the Living Dead (the 1990 remake)
Again, a protagonist played by an actor I like with Patricia Tallman stepping into the role of Barbara and actually surviving the night. The zombies were of the classic, slow moving kind and there is something far creepier about slow zombies. They may not have the flash and initial fear factor of the fast ones, but their very slowness, their very inevitability is settle into the pit of your stomach scary.
But my god, there as a lot of nailing in this movie. Oh, get your mind out of the gutter, I’m talking about nailing up boards over windows. Felt like it went on for nearly half the movie as characters scurried around the house nailing doors and pieces of wood over windows. There must have been something like 20 windows in that place!
Overall a bit creepier than Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead and I liked the ending quite a bit, but the acting was certainly on the B movie side of things, the conflict between Ben and Harry seemed forced—as if the characters were there to simply serve a points of conflict instead of having the conflict arise from the characters—, and the pacing was a bit slow at times. Certainly worth watching as an interesting remake that has a few fun twists, but it won’t knock your socks off.
What I have noticed after watching both of these movies is that even if I don’t think the movie is all that good, zombie flicks are good for giving me very vivid and action packed dreams!
That’s it for the first installment of Zombie Watch. A friend is visiting tonight and we are going to have a zombiefest and see if we can get through Romero’s oeuvre in one night as I have Night, Dawn, Day, Land, and Diary of the Dead cued up and ready to lumber. We may not make it through them all tonight, but I’ll give you an update on my thoughts tomorrow on the ones we do manage to get through.
Remember, aim for the head.