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Non-Review Review: Return of the Living Dead

Return of the Living Dead is a fairly strange beast. Something of a black comedy spin-off from George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, the film is a ridiculously campy exploration of trashy low-rent horror… and yet somehow has been picked up and embraced by popular culture. After all, this is the movie that introduced the idea that zombies weren’t just satiated by consuming large quantities of meat (most often from humans) – this was the film which introduced the idea of zombies stumbling forward, repeatedly droning “braaaaains!” It’s a concept which has been so throughly incorporated into pop culture’s definition of zombie (although it’s rarely the case, we still expect it and recognise it), so it seems strange that it came from a spoof.

No bones about it...

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Non-Review Review: Land of the Dead

Welcome to the m0vie blog’s zombie week! It’s a week of zombie-related movie discussions and reviews as we come up to Halloween, to celebrate the launch of Frank Darbont’s The Walking Dead on AMC on Halloween night. So be sure to check back all week, as we’ll be running posts on the living dead.

Zombies, man. They creep me out.

– Kaufman

Land of the Dead is something of a delayed epilogue to Romero’s “dead” trilogy. The first three films were produced roughly once every decade, with The Night of the Living Dead appearing in the sixties, Dawn of the Dead in the seventies and Day of the Dead in the eighties. There was no zombie movie from Romero during the nineties (save a remake of his original film – and even then Romero didn’t direct it – his frequent collaborator Tom Savini was behind the camera. Land of the Dead is a somewhat more controversial film than the first three films Romero produced, perhaps because it’s the first time that it feels like Romero gives his zombies more development than the human survivors. It also plays with the audience’s expectations a bit more than the first three films – and, whiel I’m not convinced that this sort of toying around with the formula works, you have to give the director credit. It isn’t as strong as the earlier films, but it still feels like a director who has something to say about the state of modern society. And that is about good enough for me.

Hopper-ed up...

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Non-Review Review: 28 Weeks Later

Welcome to the m0vie blog’s zombie week! It’s a week of zombie-related movie discussions and reviews as we come up to Halloween, to celebrate the launch of Frank Darbont’s The Walking Dead on AMC on Halloween night. So be sure to check back all week, as we’ll be running posts on the living dead.

It’s strange. 28 Days Later felt strangely British, with its almost quaint surroundings and “island fortress” mentality. Filmed in High Definition with an intimate approach, the movie felt somehow more tangible and organic than most of these films, managing a genuine emotional impact that it’s easy to lose sight of in these fantastical narratives – its small scale and quirky design (along with hyper saturation) lent the movie a very distinct feel, the sensation that this was a “guerilla” zombie film – shot in the early morning on abandoned streets rather than closing off sections of town. In contrast, 28 Weeks Later feels a much more managed affair, and a much more conventional one. It’s shot like any other zombie movie, and clearly intended to reach an even wider audience than the original cult hit. It’s a great movie, but one can’t help but get the sensation that the fine polish applied to it undercuts some of the impact.

The army had to find something to keep themselves occupied...

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Non-Review Review: Day of the Dead (1985)

Welcome to the m0vie blog’s zombie week! It’s a week of zombie-related movie discussions and reviews as we come up to Halloween, to celebrate the launch of Frank Darbont’s The Walking Dead on AMC on Halloween night. So be sure to check back all week, as we’ll be running posts on the living dead.

Day of the Dead is the third in Romero’s classic “dead” trilogy and perhaps the last film he produced that has been universally accepted. While he has, to date, produced three more zombie films (and there are those – including myself – who appreciate some of those to a greater or lesser degree), Day of the Dead is considered something of a closing note on Romero’s epic zombie apocalypse saga – perhaps the other three acting as appendices (with Land of the Dead an epilogue and Diary of the Dead a “reimagining”). Either way, it’s a strong little film which holds together relative well. It will never be iconic as the two earlier films produced – The Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead – but it still feels like a fitting companion piece.

He's got him undead to rights...

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Non-Review Review: Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Welcome to the m0vie blog’s zombie week! It’s a week of zombie-related movie discussions and reviews as we come up to Halloween, to celebrate the launch of Frank Darbont’s The Walking Dead on AMC on Halloween night. So be sure to check back all week, as we’ll be running posts on the living dead.

It’s strange. For all the huge cultural impact that George A. Romero’s The Night of the Living Dead had (and it had quite a bit), people tend to focus quite a bit on the sequel, Dawn of the Dead. Perhaps it’s because the film is in colour, or because it features a far broader tapestry than Romero’s original zombie effort, or maybe it’s simply a better film, but the sequel is arguably every bit as well known (even to those who haven’t seen it) as the original – the idea of surviving a zombie apocalypse in an American shopping mall is one now etched on public consciousness (so much so that anywhere any survivor in any film ever seeks shelter is compared in some way to that mall) and even the damn elevator music has become famous in its own way. While I will concede the film is far more ambitious than its direct predecessor (and probably contributes more to the zombie mythos), I think it can also be argued that the film has far greater weaknesses as well.

Hope he's a dead shot...

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What is a Zombie?

Welcome to the m0vie blog’s zombie week! It’s a week of zombie-related movie discussions and reviews as we come up to Halloween, to celebrate the launch of Frank Darbont’s The Walking Dead on AMC on Halloween night. So be sure to check back all week, as we’ll be running posts on the living dead.

It seems like a fairly straightforward question, right? A zombie is one of those rotting, decaying corpses shuffling around looking for brains, isn’t it? I’m not so sure that even that simplistic explanation is enough. I mean we classify a wide variety of films as “zombie” films, even if the creatures prowling the land don’t resemble the type of monsters I have described. I mean, if the simplest description of a vampire is that it sucks blood and the most direct synopsis of a werewolf is that it changes form into a beast, what is the most essential element of being a zombie?

Will I stumble across the answer?

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Non-Review Review: The Night of Living Dead (1968)

Welcome to the m0vie blog’s zombie week! It’s a week of zombie-related movie discussions and reviews as we come up to Halloween, to celebrate the launch of Frank Darbont’s The Walking Dead on AMC on Halloween night. So be sure to check back all week, as we’ll be running posts on the living dead.

They’re coming to get you, Barbara!

– Barbara’s brother tempts fate

The kids in the audience were stunned. There was almost complete silence. The movie had stopped being delightfully scary about halfway through, and had become unexpectedly terrifying. There was a little girl across the aisle from me, maybe nine years old, who was sitting very still in her seat and crying… It’s hard to remember what sort of effect this movie might have had on you when you were six or seven. But try to remember. At that age, kids take the events on the screen seriously, and they identify fiercely with the hero. When the hero is killed, that’s not an unhappy ending but a tragic one: Nobody got out alive. It’s just over, that’s all.

– Roger Ebert discusses the impact of the film on his first viewing

It’s interesting to look back on a film and see that it created a whole new genre from scratch. The Night of the Living Dead is a humble, small and effective little black-and-white effort that doesn’t even seem aware of the impact that it would have. As shrewdly as it creates the monster which defined the latter half of the twentieth century (and the first few years of the twenty-first), there’s nothing pretentious about George A. Romero’s production. In fact, it consciously harks back to all manner of influential and paranoid fifties horrors (with a dash of science fiction). Still, there’s a reason the film has endured for so long. Although it never pretends to be anything more than a gloriously trashy B-movie, The Night of the Living Dead is committed to being the best gloriously trashy B-movie it can be. The only thing more fascinating than its pop culture impact is how well (mostly) it still hold up today.

Barbara's in grave danger...

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