Zombies

Commentary: Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Zombies! Of all the movie about the walking dead, one of them continuously appears on the best of lists time after time after time. Okay, maybe more than one of them shows up all the time, but this one’s considered by many to be the best of them. I’m inclined to agree. George Romero‘s Dawn of the Dead is more than just an improved follow-up to 1968’s Night of the Living Dead. It the film that made living in a zombie apocalypse fun. It’s the film that really introduced us to what Tom Savini could do with some plaster and a machete. It’s the high watermark for epic, zombie storytelling, and, for 34 years, no film has come close to topping it. Who better to take us through Dawn of the Dead and show us how it all came to be than Romero, Savini, and George’s wife, Christine, who served as assistant director on the film. The commentary on this Anchor Bay Divimax is moderated by the DVD’s producer, not something we’ve come across before in this column. It could be a nice, organized way to handle information from the commentators. It could be such a slog it makes us wish Hell would run out of room. However the path it takes to get here, here are all the things we learned listening to George & Chris Romero and Tom Savini talk about Dawn of the Dead.

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Merch Hunter - Large

This week, in place of the usual triptych of found items and a T-Shirt of the Week, Merch Hunter is dedicated entirely to the mighty tee, the single most versatile member of the wardrobe family. Why 12? Well, science has proven that 12 is the magic number in terms of tee ownership (don’t look it up, it was published in a science journal you probably won’t know of…), allowing the owner to rotate nicely across two weeks, while taking a three day slot for whichever design is the Featured of the Week. After a few months of this rotation, throw in a few wild cards, thanks to supplemental purchase, and you’ll have a winning formula for T-shirt success. And yes, it really should be that mathematical. I seriously had to resist the urge to just make a list of the 100 Star Wars T-Shirts You Need To Own Now, but that will no doubt appear in the future, given how many incredibly impressive designs there are out there (and hardly any of them lining George Lucas’s pocket). For once, my inane wafflings are not needed at all to sell the inclusions below, just look at the pictures and see how many of them you can resist. I’d advise buying them all obviously: but try to only wear one at a time.

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Why Watch? Holy shit. This short film from Benjamin Howdeshell is the kind of thing that launches careers. It’s fantastic. The first sequence sells the entire film with a stark, violent visual and a killer sound design to inflate its impact. Then, even when the story flat, it’s because a twist or cool idea is about to slap you in the face. It’s first rate work all around. Yes, zombies have been done to death, but this flick injects the action of a hostage thriller into the mix to create something that focuses on the men in dark suits responsible for the outbreak and less on brain-hungry hordes. That doesn’t mean there’s no neck biting though. There’s definitely some of that, and it’s work that breathes new life into an old corpse. This is a stellar film featuring effects done by the same team that did Wanted, and it boasts a strong new directing talent making one hell of a bloody mark in the movie world. What will it cost? Only 9 minutes. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films.

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Battlestar Galactica Animated

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column desperate in its search for the insanely cool links of the day. It will also take movie related news, things about Community and Doctor Who, as well as, on occasion, updates on The Dark Knight Rises. Although after last night’s entry, it’s not sure there is any TDKR news left to report. We begin tonight with some incredibly cool animated work from an artist named Otis Frampton. On his Deviant Art page, found via Popped Culture, he envisions what a Battlestar Galactica animated series would look like. I would watch this show, and not just because I’m a die hard BSG fan, either.

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Most zombie stories have their own origins for the walking dead, and their own special names for the rotting, shuffling fiends. In Cherie Priest’s novel “Boneshaker” they’re called “Rotters” and they’re created when people are exposed to a toxic gas. That’s one way in which Priest puts a new spin on the old zombie tropes, the other is that she’s set the zombie apocalypse in a steampunk world, creating a mish-mash of genres that should get nerds dressed in black clothes and nerds dressed in brown clothes drooling alike. A more descriptive introduction to the book, from its Amazon page, reads like this: “In the early days of the Civil War, rumors of gold in the frozen Klondike brought hordes of newcomers to the Pacific Northwest. Anxious to compete, Russian prospectors commissioned inventor Leviticus Blue to create a great machine that could mine through Alaska’s ice. Thus was Dr. Blue’s Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine born. But on its first test run the Boneshaker went terribly awry, destroying several blocks of downtown Seattle and unearthing a subterranean vein of blight gas that turned anyone who breathed it into the living dead. Now it is sixteen years later, and a wall has been built to enclose the devastated and toxic city. Just beyond it lives Blue’s widow, Briar Wilkes. Life is hard with a ruined reputation and a teenaged boy to support, but she and Ezekiel are managing. Until Ezekiel undertakes a secret crusade to rewrite history.” According to a press release […]

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With massive ratings numbers, AMC has made the call to renew The Walking Dead for a third season. According to the press release, AMC President Charlie Collier was proud of the viewership records being set internationally by the show. That number includes more than 10m that watched the second season’s premiere around the world. Clearly, the zombie invasion is still going strong. This news comes as absolutely no surprise, but it does come with a challenge for showrunner Glen Mazzara to raise the stakes and improve on an already-strong formula for success. There were obvious storytelling differences between the first season and the start of the second, and Mazzara has to find a less ambling direction to drive the story. Not that walking around in the woods for two hours without development isn’t fun. With a third season in the bag, now is the time for them to start tightening up their scripts significantly in order to maintain the level of unease and drama that fans deserve. Taking a television show into a third season is always tricky, so hopefully they’ll get out of their own way, find some ripe stories, and deliver them without resorting to Sheriff Grimes waterskiing over a shark.  

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Boiling Point

In the cinematic world, protagonists face a lot of challenges. It can be Sasquatch or Yeti, German thieves or vaguely ethnic terrorists, zombies, aliens, werewolves, or vampires, and that’s just the exotic list. Our heroes might face down against a redneck hillbilly, a couple of gangbangers, or some cracked out carjacker. Simply put – it’s hard out there for a pimp. To combat these varied dangers, a hero must go armed. The proper choice of weapon depends on the threat faced, availability, and the environment. I’m not sure anyone has ever fought a hillbilly without the aide of a bow or crossbow, stopped a robbery without a pistol, or put down a zombie apocalypse without the use of a shotgun. In the face of such great dangers, you’d think that the protagonist would make sure that he and his companions were always well equipped to face adversity. But you’d be wrong.

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Shuffle. Shuffle. Groan. Crawl. Shuffle. And commentary on all of it. It’s the Halloween season, so you know the zombie movies are out there in force. But we always like a few lot of laughs with our scares. What better movie to dish out both of those along with an ample helping of heart – figurative heart, as in emotion, not actual bloody hearts being tossed about, though we have that here, too – than Edgar Wright‘s Shaun of the Dead? What’s even better, Wright has brought along a familiar and jovial voice to help him recollect some of the fun and interesting times on set. Simon Pegg is helping out with the color commentary, that color being red more than likely. So it’s time to head on down to the Winchester – provided they have a DVD player – grab a pint and your best cricket bat, watch the ball go from bat to wicket – that’s a cricket reference just to show I know a thing or two. That’s two things. I’m out. – and hear what Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg have to say in this week’s Commentary Commentary. Shuffle. Crawl. Shuffle. Groan. Brains.

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Why Watch? Perhaps the most stunning, deeply-felt zombie short film of all time. Everything here from the cinematography to the effects to the storytelling shines like the finest brains offered up on a silver platter while a gorgeous rendition of “Mara’s Lullaby” plays in the background. What seems silly on face – following a man dressed in a penguin costume who has recently turned undead – becomes truly affecting. It’s one of the few zombie films to deliver a haunting sadness and crucial empathy for the infected. Simply put, it is mind-blowing. (And the end credits hit even harder.) It’s the best zombie short film you’ll see all year. What does it cost? Just 7 minutes of your time. Check out Zombie In a Penguin Suit for yourself:

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Get it! Because it’s about zombies! There’s no challenging that Zombieland dominated in every way possible. Word of a sequel was quick to surface, but that’s all it’s ever been. Movement hasn’t been swift, but now the concept that was first meant for television and then became a movie might become a television show once more. According to The Hollywood Reporter, writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and producer Gavin Polone are developing a half hour comedy version of the movie for weekly consumption on Fox. This would add another notch to the trend of the undead hobbling around television. The Walking Dead was a door buster, and MTV has their own series that might head to a second season. What’s genius here is that it’s set up for comedy and for 22 minutes of story. With as tight as Reese and Wernick’s writing can be, there’s no doubt that they can jam a lot of bloody laughs into that amount of time. Now if they can only manage to get a solid make-up effects budget. Some might raise an eyebrow at the concept (and Fox’s involvement), but it’s incredibly cool to see anyone taking a chance on horror comedy on network TV. But if you were hoping for a movie instead, don’t worry! All television shows get promised a film version after they finish their run, and it always, always gets made.

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Boiling Point

So it’s October and that means only one thing – it’s Anytober at Subway, where any regular Subway sub is just $5. Wait, we’re not sponsored by Subway? Fuck that then, it’s October and on AMC that means the return of the critically acclaimed series The Walking Dead, based on the tremendous Image comic series. I say critically acclaimed because most critics don’t really enjoy horror movies and for some reason they can stomach The Walking Dead and are celebrating it. As a dyed in the wool horror fan (blood red), I’m not afraid to say that The Walking Dead on AMC is tremendously boring, not good horror, not good zombie action, and not even close to being a good adaptation. To fans of the graphic novels, what’s transpiring on the screen is bordering on being offensive. AMC has made a lot of great television, but this ain’t it.

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One of the most high profile shows to come out of last year was AMC’s adaptation of the hit Robert Kirkman comic book The Walking Dead. But depending on who you ask, the first season was either the greatest thing ever to grace television or an absolute waste of storytelling potential. This past Saturday, one of the two most highly anticipated panels of the day was for The Walking Dead, mostly due to the fact that the second season of the show premieres tonight on AMC at 10pm.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news and editorial column that likes you. So much that it would get your named tattoo’d on its back, should you promise to read it every weeknight until the end of time. So lets make this happen, people. It’s got at least 200k names worth of back space. We begin tonight with a shot of Rooney Mara as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, as published by a French photography portfolio. It’s one of a group of images that show a black and white David Fincher, a snowy Daniel Craig and plenty of the tattoo’d girl herself. Are we still looking forward to this one? Oh yes, we are.

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Why Watch? Shouldn’t our goal be to domesticate the zombies? Here’s a Norwegian twist on an old favorite that combines energy, fear and a bit of heavy music. As it turns out, an anti-bacterial soap might be the key to stopping the zombie menace and have them work for us. The potential is obvious in this fantastic horror short, and if someone bought Torstein Jacobsen and Lars Torp Pettersen a better camera, the sky might be the limit for this pair of filmmakers. What does it cost? Just 12 minutes of your time. Check out the trailer for Vagabond for yourself:

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Why Watch? This is the short film version of a headshot. Video games make awful adaptation material because, for some reason, they’re more fun for executives to suck all quality from. They’ve invariably meant for high budgets, but instead of bringing the faithful along for the ride, most productions tend to flip fans the middle finger while destroying any sense of story just in case anyone else wanted to enjoy what they were watching. Not so here. With a small budget and an aim at showcasing action, director Brian Curtin has created a fantastic short based on Half-Life. It could use a bit more in the way of character, but producing such a threatening, obviously villainous group of killers helps us feel for the leads without messy exposition. There are a few low budget problems, but they’re overshadowed by how impressive everything else is. Well shot, interestingly paced, and featuring some stellar production design, this is just engaging as hell. Plus, the ending is truly explosive. I’ve never played the game, so I can’t speak to how close they nailed it, but everything I’ve read seems to praise them for staying faithful. How about it, Half-Life (and/or zombie) fans? Is this the kind of thing you’d like to see expanded into a feature? What does it cost? Just 12 minutes of your time. Check out Beyond Black Mesa for yourself:

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When an adaptation of “World War Z” was first announced back in 2008 with Marc Forster at the helm, a major question was how they would take an oral history that recounts a globe-spanning amount of zombie action and turn it into a workable movie. After all, the conversations of the book take place after the war and deal closely with survival and societal themes. As it turns out, the answer is apparently to redo the entire thing. According to the synopsis sent out by Paramount, the movie will look a little something like this: “The story revolves around United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), who traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself.  [Mireille] Enos plays Gerry’s wife Karen Lane; [Daniella] Kertesz is his comrade in arms, Segen.” Aside from nitpicking that they didn’t use the word “decimate” correctly, that description looks more than a bit different than the book…

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World War Z finally appears to be happening, with stories coming out quickly about who will be cast in which parts and when filming will start. The latest name to be tossed out is Lost star Matthew Fox, who might be bringing his trademark ability to scrunch up his face while crying to the production. According to Bloody Disgusting, they have reliable sources telling them the actor is on board to play “Parajumper.” There are apparently no other details about the character beyond the name (which sounds like a placeholder), but it does sound like Fox would be donning some military fatigues (or be donning veteran status). It would make for great casting alongside already great casting. Fox would join Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale and Anthony Mackie to describe the time that the planet got overrun with zombies. No word yet on what cameo role Max Brooks will take, but the people demand that he be on screen. Fox will next appear in I, Alex Cross and in Speed Racer if you want to rent it.

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Why Watch? Because dry humor, zombies, lumps of clay, and Evil Dead go together surprisingly well. This short from Lee Hardcastle had its world debut at Cannes this year, and I would have given an undead right arm to be in the room when it played. Like yesterday’s zombie exploration, this is sweetly endearing for taking the abject horror of the genre and taming it with stop motion animation, tons of clay carnage, and a few simple jokes. Watch the short, and you’ll see Evil Dead all over it. What does it cost? Just 3 glorious minutes of your time. Check out A Zombie Claymation for yourself:

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“They’re coming to get you Barbra!” This movie is a lesson to never, ever abide your elderly mother’s wishes and visit your father’s grave hundreds of miles away. If you do, you’ll get eaten to death. Or, you’ll have to hole up in a farmhouse that’s slowly but surely becoming overrun with the hungry undead. Night of the Living Dead is the first film from George A. Romero, the one that started a massive genre craze, the movie with working titles like Night of Anubis and Night of the Flesh Eaters and Monster Flick. It was a case of accidental racial and social commentary that has resonated throughout decades. It is the standard for how zombies should look and act like. Yet, for some strange reason, it doesn’t have a pie fight.

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Mireille Enos has appeared in Big Love and, now, the AMC series The Killing, but she’ll make her way to theaters in a big way – playing the wife of Brad Pitt’s character in World War Z. Having never seen her work, I can only say I like the casting on principal. In a world where big budget films (like this one) have to have poster-ready names by the dozen in order to justify their bonds, it’s refreshing to see a relative unknown in what might an important role. According to Deadline Saskatoon, Enos will play Karin Lane, the wife of Gerard Lane (Brad Pitt) who is documenting the world a decade after the zombie invasion. Then again, she might also have a small role as someone he says goodbye to before heading out all over the world to get his story. So, who knows. Still, it’s better than Jessica Alba in a Lab Coat, right?

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published: 10.30.2014
B-
published: 10.29.2014
D+
published: 10.27.2014
C-
published: 10.24.2014
C-


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