28 Weeks Later (2007)
Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
For breakfast: Blueberry Pancakes
I like to think of 28 Weeks Later as the Aliens to 28 Days Later’s Alien. It’s the brutal, no-holds-barred, balls to the wall, action sequel that is almost the exact opposite of the atmospheric suspense of the original. It may not be the better film, but it’s definitely more intense and I think it does a better job of portraying the ‘rage’ virus, which makes the infected much scarier. Of course, it might just be the fucked up situation these people create for themselves. It goes from bad to worse to just plain depressing, and really if a zombie film isn’t going to be funny it sure as hell better be depressing.
As much as I like the first film, I’ve always found the ending a little too upbeat. Well the sequel more than makes up for that. There is no glimmer of hope, no light at the end of the tunnel — instead we’re left with the haunting images of zombies storming the Eiffel Tower. Despite it’s faults, it’s an unrelenting film and I appreciate its tenacity. Plus the helicopter mow-down is hands down one of the coolest zombie killing scenes ever. Pure. Awesome.
28 Days Later (2002)
Directed by Danny Boyle
For breakfast: Biscuits & Gravy
Ah, finally back to the Sunday Morning routine after a hiatus due to travel and house guests. And what better way to start it than with one of the best ‘zombie’ films in recent years. I’ve been a fan of 28 Days Later since I first saw it in the theater with a couple of reluctant and terrified friends, and it still gets plenty of plays at my house. Oddly enough this is the first time my husband has seen it and for a non-horror guy he both enjoyed it and appreciated the lack of gore. Which is a big part of why I love it, it builds suspense using atmosphere instead of excessive gore. I like carnage as much as the next person, but I like a well-crafted film more.
It’s funny, some people I’ve shown this to get the giggles at some of the zombies…err…”infected”, but I’ve always liked Danny Boyle’s revisionist zombies and his refreshingly different vision of a virus outbreak in England that infects live people with “rage” and leaves the country as a wasteland. I love the way he uses surreal, surveilance-like, visuals against the abandoned city-scapes to really hammer home the desolation and bleakness of the situation. He certainly knows how to create tension too, there are some scenes that are so intense they still put me on edge. It’s nice to be reminded of a time when he didn’t distract you from the story with camera shaking and lens flares.
I suppose if I had to complain about something, it would be that the ending feels like a bit of a cop out happy ending. It’s slightly ambiguous, yes, but it’s too upbeat given the rest of the film. At least 28 Weeks Later makes up for that, but we’ll talk about that some other time.
“Welcome to Fright Night! For real.”
What do you get when you cross Rear Window, vampires, and the ’80s? Only one of the most fun horror films of the decade! Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) is your average teenager whose biggest problems are pop quizzes and getting to 2nd base; but when a mysterious man with strange habits moves in next door, his world becomes slightly more complicated. Mr. Dandrige (Chris Sarandon) is charming, seductive, and he has a thing for coffins. As Charley’s peeping reveals his neighbor’s true nature he has to fight to protect his friends and family as well as himself, and of course nobody believes him. He even enlists the help of local, vampire slaying celebrity Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell), who only plays along to disprove Charley’s allegations…that is until he realizes that Dandrige is in fact a vampire. Together they fumble their way through one sticky situation after another as they try to rescue Charley’s girlfriend (Amanda Bearse) from an eternity with the undead.
It’s all here, from the teen angst to the gratuitous nudity to the ’80s-tastic soundtrack featuring Devo and the J. Geils Band. But nostalgia aside, what I love most about the film is that it’s self-aware and has a great tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. I’d say it’s similar to something like Shaun of the Dead, where it holds up as a genre film and adheres to the conventions, but also successfully parodies that genre. The humor works mostly due to Chris Sarandon’s performance as a sexually ambiguous, yet deliciously villainous vampire. He torments this poor teenager for the fun of it, and the viewer has fun right along with him. After all, what good is it being a vampire if you’re not going to be stereotypically sexy and witty about it?
David Ondaatje’s first feature The Lodger is somewhat of an unfortunate undertaking. Even though it claims to be a modern adaptation of Marie Belloc Lowndes’ novel rather than a remake of the 1927 Hitchcock film, it is still treading on the same ground as the Master of Suspense and because of that there are certain expectations. Expectations that are sadly never met as a suspense film or even a film in general. Instead the story plods along trying to confuse the viewer, but each uninspired camera movement and line of dialogue makes it hard to care about anything that’s happening.
Directed by Matt Reeves
For breakfast: Biscuits and Gravy
I love a good monster movie and when one comes around that’s as clever and well-executed as Cloverfield, it’s hard not to be pleasantly surprised. The shaky, 1st person camera is a tough thing to pull off without being obnoxious, see The Blair Witch Project, but I think Cloverfield does a pretty good job of it. Of course it helps that JJ Abrams seems to bring a certain amount of energy to everything he’s involved with and this film definitely has plenty of energy. It’s an intense ride that only occasionally dips its toe into silliness and despite it’s contrivances it keeps the viewer engaged for the swift 80 minute run time.
Speaking of the run time, I think it’s fairly impressive what all the filmmakers are able to accomplish in such short span of time. The characters and back story, while somewhat cheesy, are solid enough to make us care about what’s happening on screen. My only real complaint is that they’re far too young for the jobs they’re supposed to have and the apartments they allegedly live in…in Manhattan no less. Had the characters been maybe 10 years older I wouldn’t be distracted with logistics while a giant monster tears up New York City. But honestly, there’s really no place for logic when it comes to a film like this.
Now I’m not sure what all should be attributed to director Matt Reeves, or whether it was Abrams or the writing or all of the above, but I just love how everything about the film was so well done and thought out — from the great ad campaign that left us wanting more all the way through to the enjoyable finished product. That’s not to say the film isn’t flawed, it absolutely is, but the overall experience is so intense that it’s just plain fun.