14 October 2012

October 14th

Casper (1995) directed by Brad Silberling
We made it through just 20 minutes of Spooky Buddies yesterday before my oldest freaked out and left the room.  A Disney movie starring talking golden retriever puppies and featuring goofball Harland Williams as the bad guy was too much stress for the poor 4-year-old.  So, I wasn't expecting to make it very far into this one today, either.  Surprisingly, outside of some swearing I wish wasn't there, this one's pretty harmless and the girls got a kick out of it.

As an adult, I thought it was definitely a step above the aforementioned Buddies movie.  The Looney Tunes-like ghosts were pretty funny and the cameos kept me entertained.  I love Father Guido Sarducci -- what ever happened to him? -- popping up as an exorcist and Dan Aykroyd appearing for 5 seconds as Ray Stanz.  Plus, Clint Eastwood, Rodney Dangerfield, Mel Gibson and the Cryptkeeper showing up in a mirror when the ghostly uncles possess Bill Pullman was unexpectedly cool (and weird as hell).  Not a bad kids' Halloween movie.

Watched: bootleg (if it were available to stream, I would've rented it.  You lose, Universal).

Day of the Dead (1985) directed by George A. Romero
Always my least favorite of the original dead trilogy.  Partially, this is because of the setting.  The underground shelter built into a mine, especially when compared to a mall, is pretty boring.  It's not a place I can relate to.  I've been in small farmhouses and malls; I can imagine the challenges of being barricaded in those.  Underground facilities: not so much.  The story doesn't have too much going for it, either.  The film ends with the zombies taking over the facility, the asshole army guys eaten, and some of the good guy civilians escaping.  You can more or less predict this all happening after the first time we meet the not-so-nice military guys underground.  But: Bub, Dr. Logan and Tom Savini.  Two fictional characters and a special effects guy make the movie entertaining for me.

When I think of "zombie," Bub is the face that comes to mind.  Sherman Howard does a great job giving Bub personality and manages to make the undead killing machine sympathetic.  Also, a lot of his movements look ape-like; I swear I've seen a nature special in which a gorilla plays with a phone in the same way that Bub does.  I wonder if he was doing this on purpose?  It's a great fit with the idea of trying to civilize / evolve the zombies.

Speaking of, you've gotta love nutty Dr. Logan and his wacky experiments.  I don't think it's necessary to explain anything about how the zombies work in these films -- they aren't, or at least shouldn't be, the point of the story -- but I can't deny it's some fun stuff.  You've got a zombie with everything in his head gone except for a still-living brain, a zombie with all of his internal organs disconnected who still wants to eat, a severed head that still blinks, and a zombie baby submerged in water.  Also, though it's not remotely subtle, I like the fact that the only thing civilizing Bub really accomplished was to give him the ability to kill people with a gun instead of his teeth.

In Day, Savini is at the top of his game when it comes to the gore.  Some of stuff at the end, in which the zombies are tearing the army guys to pieces, even had me wincing a little.  Dr. Logan's experiments are beautifully accomplished.  When the zombie sits up and all of his internal organs spill onto the floor... now that's horror poetry.  Even the traditional zombie neck bites are done extremely well, with the zombies somehow looking like they've bitten a chunk out of the actor's neck.

A sometimes fun zombie movie, but not at all in the same class as Night or Dawn.

Watched: blu-ray from Anchor Bay.

The Walking Dead 2.01: "What Lies Ahead" (2011) directed by Ernest R. Dickerson & Gwyneth Horder-Payton
Not having cable, I'm always going to be a year behind with this series as I catch it streaming on Netflix every October.  That's fine with me; I'm in no rush.  This first episode of season two picks up with the gang on the road after the disaster at the CDC in the final episode of season one.  This is more of what I thought the later parts of season one might be like: traveling in the camper and running into trouble on the road.  Quests to scientific facilities happened way too early.

Watching this right after Day of the Dead, I was bothered more than usual by the CGI gore in the show.  I hate computer-generated blood and guts.  It always looks like a cartoon and it's never animated right.  I get that it's a huge time- and money-saver, but it still makes this part of the show look worse than a low-budget movie from 1985.  On the other hand, I can't fault the zombie make-up jobs the crew is doing.  The zombies look great and would not look out of place in a real zombie film.  I particularly liked the horribly thin actor they cast as the zombie who terrorizes Andrea in the camper.

I don't think this episode needed to be extra-long -- it kind of dragged a bit -- and parts of the show are too soap opera-y for my taste, but I'm still curious to see where they take things next.


  1. "Day of the Dead" has grown on me with repeated viewings. It's certainly not as scary as "Night" and not as much fun as "Dawn," but as "Land of the Dead" made abundantly clear, it's as close to a proper conclusion to the Romero-verse as we can ever hope for. The military guys are all massive jerks, which makes the movie hard to like but, I can't help but feel it might be a little more interesting on a subtextual level then the previous two movies, maybe. It's a lot more conceptual complicated then the obvious, though hilarious, "shoppers are zombies!" premise behind "Dawn." Anyway: I like it is what I'm trying to say here.

  2. Well, I wouldn't say that was the meat Dawn's premise... more like an observation that tickled Romero so much he kept referencing it throughout the film.

    Now that you mention it as a conclusion of the trilogy, I actually think I like Day slightly less. The three survivors escaping to an island and apparently living happily... I don't know. That doesn't seem to fit with the utter hopelessness that came before. The Romero that made Dawn should've indicated that feeding yourself and finding fresh water on an island like that ain't so easy. Or a final shot of the zombies walking underwater towards the island. Or something. The film as is seems like a reversal of what he was getting at in Dawn.

  3. Each of the original three have a more hopeful ending. Night is totally bleak. Dawn is at least sort of hopeful, since the two get away, even though the world is still full of zombies and they certainly aren't safe or anything. It seems like a natural progression that the third film would have the most positive ending.

    And, yeah, I was being a little unfair to Dawn. The whole movie is an indictment of commercialism.