Monday, May 10, 2010

Bad Horror: Right vs. Wrong

Last week, I had the opportunity to meet George A. Romero - the man who created zombies as we know them today. But I overslept. Instead, however, I attended a free screening of his latest film, Survival of the Dead, which he introduced.

First things first: George A. Romero is a tall man.

[Disclaimer: I have seen Romero's original Night of the Living Dead. But I am ashamed to admit that I have not seen his other Dead movies (The Dawn of the Dead remake is one of my favorite zombie movies, though), including the recent first-person POV Diary of the Dead, from which Survival takes a minor character as the lead protagonist.]

My review of the movie:
It was really awesome seeing the Man himself introduce the film. But that's where the evening's awesomeness ended. Survival of the Dead is boring. Flat-out boring. I would post a spoiler warning for this review, but the whole thing is so glaringly obvious that there's nothing to spoil. The plot is tepid. The only interesting things Romero does to move his mythos forward is to suggest that zombies might eat something other than human flesh - but he does this only at the end and just kind of pokes the idea with a stick and walks away from it. The dialogue is awful. I didn't care about any of the characters. It could have been interesting to have military characters as the protagonists since Romero is so very anti-military, but all the characters were totally flat. The zombies weren't the only lifeless ones. (har har har.) If you recall, my criticism of Zombieland was that it had no conflict. Zombie movies aren't about the zombies, but about the survivors. In Survival of the Dead, I *wish* it had been more about the zombies. At least Zombieland was entertaining.

My review of the screening:
When Romero introduced the film, he said he had a lot of fun making the movie and encouraged the audience to laugh at the funny moments. Somehow, the audience took this to mean "add your own sound effects, guffaw at everything, and be a total d-bag" because that's what they did.

Now to do a 180 and look at a movie that I thoroughly enjoyed.

On Saturday, I went to a midnight screening of The Human Centipede. The premise of the film is that this Mengele-esque retired surgeon kidnaps three tourists and sews them together anus-to-mouth to create a "human centipede" with a single digestive tract. Gross. Awesome. I love bizarre movies. I don't usually pay attention to reviews, but Cinematical touted the film as "All concept, no follow-through, " so I was apprehensive. I didn't want to sit through a total stinker. But I had to go. Wow.

My review of the movie:
The film was actually not that bad ("bad" being subjective, of course). It strikes the right balance of taking its concept seriously, but not taking itself too seriously. The actresses who play two American tourists were godawful. Luckily, neither was the head of the centipede, so they don't get to talk at all after the operation. (They do groan and squeal and whine a lot, but they're okay at doing that.) Dieter Laser's Dr. Heiter is fan-fucking-tastic - creepy, insane, deadpan, whacked out of his mind, hilarious. He almost reminds me of Beat Takeshi. His lab-coat/aviators/shotgun get-up gives him the potential to be one of those iconic movie villains. As with Survival of the Dead, it's hard to spoil this movie, but for a different reason - once you know the premise, there's not much more to it. But it's not boring. Not at all boring. Sure, there are a couple of plot-holes, but they're easy enough to disregard or to write off as character stupidity. And as with Survival, I didn't particularly care about any of the characters (Except maybe the Japanese guy who is the head of the centipede, but about whom we know nothing). But that's probably for the best, as it would be real tough to sit through if I identified too closely with any of the victims. As for the gross-out factor, it wasn't that bad, actually. The medical stuff made me a bit squeamish - an IV gets ripped out of an arm and Herr Doktor cuts open a couple of kneecaps - but it was more than bearable. There's some oozing pus which is pretty gross. But the (objectively) grossest parts are implied. You don't get X-ray vision to see the extra long digestive tract in action. Of course, I have a pretty high tolerance for this kind of stuff - on film, that is. That's not to say that I was disappointed, though. It's pretty gross/bizarre, all right.

My review of the screening:
Except for one guy who kept making fart noises (you're not funny, guy), the audience was great. The laughed at all the appropriate moments - the first one being in the opening credits when the Director of Photography's name is displayed: his name is Goof de Koning. It makes me a little bit sad that this film will probably just turn into a sort of trophy for movie-goers - an endurance test, if you will. Oh well.

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