SHOCKtober gets off to a rocky start with this five-part British miniseries. The premise is that there’s an apocalyptic zombie attack which we see through the eyes of reality show Big Brother participants. I think maybe if I’d ever cared about the show (or even seen it) this might’ve made a bigger impact… movie seems geared towards fans.

Who loves Dawn of the Dead?
“Why do they keep coming towards the house?”
“This place used to be like a chuch to them.”

I hope to see no more work from director Demange and cinematographer Tat Radcliffe who provide garbage visuals for Brooker’s cliche but sometimes exciting story. Every time there’s a bit of action the cameraman goes spastic. Since the bits of action are what make zombie movies fun, this one kinda blows. Fun to see zombies unleashed on a reality TV set though, ripping up the only character I liked, a girl whose only line seems to be a dismayed “I don’t like it!” We’re supposed to be thrilled instead at the prolonged, gory death of mega-asshole producer Andy Nyman, but he was too cartoonish to hate – I just appreciated his death scene because it was the only zombie-attack bit where the camera stood still.

MPEG noise over gloomy clouds makes the sky appear to be full of tiny birds.

I didn’t like it much. The handheld aspect makes it seem like it should be “reality,” but a little while in, I gave a big Juno-shrug and decided that it’s not more “real” than Land of the Dead was, just more annoyingly shot. That’s when you gotta sit back, admit that you’re watching a trashy movie, and enjoy it for what it is.

Rather than waste any more time on this one, here’s a confused and hastily-written email I sent to PG:

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I re-read the article (was actually in Film Comment) and they call the movie brilliant without saying why. Film people think that the confused subtext about media people excuses everything else. Gives them license to say it’s a “brilliant vision, an important work, a masterpiece, though obviously flawed”. It’s real cool to champion a genre movie, makes you sound like you know what’s what, as opposed to those high-minded losers who sit around talking about jean renoir and citizen kane. And it’s especially cool to praise Romero since he has the reputation of being an important and gifted filmmaker in a typically ignored genre and has the good fortune of having been Belatedly Discovered in the academic community (sometime between “bruiser” and “Land of the dead”). Therefore, in the eyes-wide-shut way of seeing things, any new film he releases can automatically be called a masterpiece without any need for justification.

Usual thoughts that arise in this situation (“Maybe eyes wide shut IS a masterpiece and I just don’t understand it yet? Time will tell!”) don’t seem to apply here, as DiaryOTD will only get less relevant over time, and unlike EWS it does not have hidden layers of obscure meaning, it splays itself right out on the dissection table for the viewer to feast on its brains. I’ve heard two things from Romero interviews… 1) He is a big fan of SHAUN of the dead and 2) He is pondering an immediate sequel to Diary, possibly re-using the girl-narrator character-actor. It’s easy to find comedy elements in previous DEAD movies, but nothing as outright nutty as that mute amish farmer segment. You can groan in pain at that segment but I found it pretty funny and exciting, and I read the Professor as a comic caricature (which ruins the whole “this is a documentary of something which is really happening” feel), and see a different kind of movie here. ARE romero’s thoughts on the media confused, or is the movie-in-the-movie confused because it is looking through the eyes of two people… the obsessive and immature male media/filmmaker and his girlfriend who never agreed with his way of doing things, and so is editing against his intentions.

Anyway, reason I brought up Romero’s sequel comment and the comedy aspect is because I am going to go ahead and say that Diary is Part One of a new Dead series. They’re not numbered so I can say whatever I want. LAND is part 4 of the original, and the final part to date. If there’s a Diary Part 2 it’ll only confirm this.

Unrelated: Professor reminds me of Mark Borchardt’s actor friend… you know the one… Thee ACTOR. And that guy was a “real” person. But of course, he was on camera, and always knew when he was on camera… so the Professor can actually be seen as realistic, a cross between that playing-it-for-the-cameras american-movie fellow and the Bob Odenkirk blustery prof caricature.

Whatever I was gonna write when I started this email is now forgotten, as was the point I was gonna make on “diary” since I went off on tangents and there’s rock music in my head and I crave pizza.

SEPT 2006:

Funniest zombie movie ever. Funnier than “Return of the Living Dead” and “John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars”… combined! Even Katy liked it.

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UPDATE: DEC 2007

Katy might have liked it the first time, but she’s had quite enough of it now, and played computer games through most of the movie when I was showing it off to Dana this week. Well, no, obviously she still LIKES it, otherwise she would’ve either left the room or suggested something else. Dana did not immediately declare it the funniest zombie movie ever, so the screening was a partial failure. I got to watch “Heart of the World” beforehand, so I was obviously the happiest person in the room.

1988: I was eleven, and all sorts of wonderful horror movies would play on TV… Deadly Friend, Chopping Mall, House, Prom Night, TerrorVision… and one of my favorites was Night of the Creeps. At the time I didn’t know it was a retro/parody/tribute sort of thing… didn’t realize the comedy in horror films (Freddy’s puns aside) was sometimes intentional, and didn’t catch the references to Night of the Living Dead, the tribute to cop-on-the-edge stories, or the smooth sci-fi/horror/comedy blend (which I enjoyed in such klassics as “Killer Klowns From Outer Space”) because I was too busy being actually scared by “Night of the Creeps”. The jokester kid who figures out how to stop the brain-slugs (fire/heat), then gets infected himself and crawls away to the boiler room to do himself in? One of the most terrifying things I’d ever seen on TV.

Unbelievably, when I rewatched it today, the movie was still good. Not as scary as it used to be, but clever and high quality. There wasn’t a better killer-alien-slug movie made before or since.

Things I’d forgotten: the b/w 50’s flashback intro and the whole detective character, but not much else. Either it’s very memorable or I watched it more times than I probably should’ve in the 80’s.

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Lead characters are named Romero, Hooper, Cronenberg, Carpenter, Cameron (James? for Aliens?), Landis and Raimi – cute. He casts John Carpenter alum Tom Atkins as the troubled detective, and Joe Dante fave Dick Miller as the police armorer (even giving him Joe Dante/Roger Corman stock character name Walter). I did not notice George Clooney, rumored to have a bit part as a janitor.

Funny, Fred Dekker also wrote “House”. I’ve always thought the poster for “Creeps” (zombie hand opening a door) evoked the “ding dong, you’re dead” poster for “House”. And of course, Dekker wrote/directed another TV fave of my youth, “Monster Squad”, before killing his career with “Robocop 3”.

This is unique: referencing your NEXT film rather than your previous one
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Fake though it looks, it used to scare me:
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Your stars, Rusty Griswold from “European Vacation” and an extra from “Porky’s”:
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Below: David Paymer as “young scientist”. This film was released the same month Paymer blew minds as “Larry, scientist” in George Lucas’s acclaimed “Star Wars” trilogy follow-up “Howard the Duck”
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Dick Miller doesn’t want no trouble:
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The NJ Star Ledger, of all things, says: “When you watch the early scenes of American soldiers standing night watch, using their telescopic rifle lenses to peep on their charges — Americans as leering voyeurs in the aftermath of destruction — the movie’s pulp sensibility seems to be an almost exact mirror of what many other countries think of America right now.”

It’s a good article, and yeah there’s lots of political interest in 28 Weeks Later. The idea that we can set up a safe/green zone surrounded by hostile territory and maintain those boundaries is called into question… but especially the idea that we’d be prepared if something went wrong with the plan, that our “disaster readiness” is sufficient.

The leering-voyeur soldiers go from mocking their mission (because there’s nothing to do)… to enacting their horribly ineffective containment plan (locking everyone in a room together, cutting the electricity and doing nothing about the panic that ensues, and of course not being able to ensure that rage-infected beasties can’t get inside for a feeding frenzy)… to valiantly protecting the British civilians, picking off beasties… immediately to panic when they can’t tell beastie from Brit… to all-out apocalyptic asshats, attempting to save their own butts with a kill-everyone order. After all that, it’s a pleasure to watch a few infected beasties rip apart an American sniper.

Movie doesn’t make it too easy. One super soldier won’t take the kill-all order and joins our medic friend in trying to protect the kids, even taking out his own comrades to do so. His chopper-driving buddy ain’t all bad either, at first very suspicious (even killing a survivor) but finally airlifting the kids to (ha-ha) safety.

Unfortunately it’s not all political intent, it’s also an action/horror movie, and that’s the part the filmmakers can’t get right. Sure there are moments of tension, but the close-up action is wrecked with you-are-there, extreme-close-up camerawork and, as the Star-Ledger calls it, “razor-sharp editing”. I know the editing is supposed to draw you into the crazed confusion that the victims/survivors must feel, particularly effective in the Carlyle-escape opening sequence, but if “I” was really “there”, I doubt my perspective would involve so many edits. The rest of the world hasn’t caught up with the new you-are-there long-cut technique brought to the action films by Alfonso Cuaron in Children of Men. Here in 28 Days Later I could never tell what was going on when the action supposedly revved up.

Who Were Those People:
Director of Intacto and DP of Down in the Valley and The Faculty
Robert Carlyle, who hasn’t been in shit I’ve heard of since The Beach, will be in another Irvine Welsh movie this year or next.
Alice, his wife, is Catherine McCormack of Shadow of the Vampire.
The medical rescuer is Rose Byrne of Marie Antoinette and Sunshine.
The army rescuer is Jeremy Renner of The Heart Is Deceitful.
And the two kids have the greatest names in the world: Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton.

Pretty awful Masters of Horror episode, continuing Tobe’s long streak of pretty awful movies.

A perfectly good backstory about the deadly acid rainstorm that turned most of the world into zombies is wasted on a crappy movie about Jessica Lowndes meeting Jonathan Tucker from the Pulse and Texas Chainsaw remakes, and daring to venture away from her protective mother to attend a club run by Tobe’s old bud Robert Englund. This has got to be the most boring “extreme” nightclub in any horror movie.

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It’s all downhill from there, as Englund drinks the blood of the elderly to stay alive, and the entertainment of the club turns out to be watching zombies “dance” (the, um, dance of the dead) by shocking ’em with cattle prods. Jessica finds out one of the dancers is her druggie sister, who was sold to Englund by their mom… gets revenge by killing/selling the mom. Whatever.

The movie was bad enough before the SHOCK EDITING, which is unrelenting. Besides the usual quick-cut-crap, they keep blurring and sliding the picture with staticky sound effects to add “energy” to the movie. Ugh.

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Loud music by Billy Corgan, I might add. Credited cinematographer and editor have both done other (decent) MoH episodes, so I have to blame the flash editing entirely on you, Tobe.

MOH trademarks: just the naked women.

Katy didn’t watch this one. Katy wouldn’t have liked it. I wouldn’t have blamed her.