27 September 2012

September 27th

The Crazies (2010) directed by Breck Eisner
I never expect much when I sit down to watch a horror remake, so color me pleasantly surprised that I found this one to be better than the original.  Though I like the 1973 Romero film just fine, it's one of his lesser efforts.  In it, Romero repeats himself a bit, expanding his exploration of the breakdown of society from Night of the Living Dead's small farmhouse into an entire town.

While society still breaks down in this remake, it mostly brings the disaster down to a really personal level; for the most part, we're shown how devastating this outbreak is to just two of the characters.  I really liked this approach.  David and Judy fight hard to survive the situation, but often question what the point of their struggle really is.  Everything and everyone they know is destroyed by the outbreak.  Their plans and hopes for a life in their small town are annihilated over the course of a couple of days.  Perhaps worse, everything they thought about the society they live in is also destroyed.  In the end, they're going to be raising their future child in a country whose decision-makers are so inept and amoral that they resort to nuking a city just to deal with their screw-ups.

Not that this is a completely successful movie.  Even though it tells a different story than the original, nothing much that happens in the film is a surprise.  When David and Judy finally arrive back at their house, it is no surprise there is a crazy hiding upstairs.  The same applied for when they reach the truck stop and find a crazy or two there.  That the deputy ends up infected comes as no shock.  I found myself bored with many of the stock crazies/zombies scenes.

On the other hand, some were very well done and original. The scene featured on the poster with the crazy principal and the pitchfork was excellent.  There's some nice tension as he drags the fork along the tile of the school, looking for the next tied-up person to stab through the chest.  Of course, it was obvious David would arrive in time to save Judy, but the same couldn't be said for Judy's employee Becca.  Also great was the scene in the carwash.  I think a lot of us have very old fears from when we were very young about automated carwashes.  Something about going through one them, to a child, is simply terrifying.  I've never scene anyone exploit this strange fear until this film.  Very cool.

Remakes of Romero movies have a great track record for some reason I can't fathom.  He should probably tell poor John Carpenter the secret before someone gets around to crapping on They Live.

Watched: blu-ray from Anchor Bay.

Stigmata (1999) directed by Rupert Wainwright
It's rock-and-roll Exorcist, featuring the music of Billy Corgan!  At least, that's what this sometimes feels like.  Stigmata follows atheist Frankie Paige who one day begins to develop the stigmata.  It's an interesting premise.  What if these wounds started to appear on non-believer?  What would that mean to them and what would that mean to the church?  This film delivers -- amid beautiful photography and energetic editing -- truly dull answers to these questions: "it would freak her out" and "they would try to cover it up."

The artfilm-like style of parts of the movie and the scientist-priest character played by Gabriel Byrne had me fooled.  I thought this film might be into exploring some harder questions regarding Catholicism.  For one, what kind of a deity's ideas of miracles are bleeding statues and holes in people's bodies?  Instead, it takes the easy route and tells yet another tale about the creepy, old Vatican trying to retain its power.  Frankie is experiencing the stigmata not because she's been touched by God; she's merely possessed by a dead priest who really wants to get the word out on a secret gospel of Jesus.  What's the secret of this gospel?  That you don't need the structure of a church to find God.  Or, exactly what the Protestants came up with centuries ago.  Whoop-dee-do.

Pretty to look at and listen to, but completely disappointing story-wise.

Watched: stream from Netflix.

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