Halloween Scene: Dawn Of The Dead (2004)

George Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead is one of my all time favorite horror movies of all time. I’ll go one further and say it’s one of my favorite movies period. There’s so much greatness in there from drama to horror and really everything in between. It’s a great film. I don’t feel the same way about Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake, but I still like it. I get why fellow fans of the original would dislike this movie which just takes the basic concept of the original–people take shelter in a mall during a zombie apocalypse–and dumped most other things aside from a few other basics (pregnancy, cops in the mall) and made a whole new movie. But, if you just came out with a mall zombie movie, the outcries about it being a Dawn remake would have been deafening. So, I’m okay with it. The basic idea is cool enough that I would be okay with a new remake every few years as long as whoever worked on it moved enough pieces around to make it interesting.

And that’s why I like this remake, the basics might be the same, but the specifics are so different that I get drawn in. Both flicks have female entry points, but the difference between the two movies and characters is pretty huge. Unlike the original we start off in the woman’s house and really get personal with her, even seeing her last love making session with her husband. Then BANG zombie apocalypse is full on. She’s on the run and winds up catching up with other survivors. I like that Snyder kept the idea of a woman getting pregnant in all this mess, but I’m also glad that he transferred that to another character in order to give Sarah Polley’s Ana the opportunity to do lots of other things in the movie like fall for a fellow survivor and really get into the action. Speaking of which, the whole pregnancy thing gets insane in such an amazing and creepy way that I’m still surprised it’s in a pretty big budget studio horror movie. I just shook a bit thinking about it again. Bleh. But in a good way.

Another change I liked about the film is how it opens up a bit. The wide open claustrophobia of the first film is pretty amazing and complex, but there’s also something to be said about these people being proactive and looking to get the heck out of there. The building up of the trucks might be just a little goofy, but it made enough sense and seemed likely, so I was in. And the chainsaw thing is a GREAT idea, though not for a couple of the characters. Snyder seemed to have a good handle on mixing the “have fun with it” mentality with the “this is serious business” one in a way that really hits for me.

So, yeah, I like this movie and I’m glad I picked it up for a buck at a used book store in New Hampshire a month or so back. It’s cool to have different takes on both the zombie genre and a specific story idea like that of the original Dawn Of The Dead. I will say that I’m surprised exactly how much of this movie was borrowed or straight-up swiped for Dead Rising and its sequel–two video games I wished I loved but really wound up disliking. It might seem strange calling this out for a remake of another movie, but it felt at times like whole scenes from the movie were digitized and dropped into those games. Speaking of video games, I actually played Left 4 Dead 2 with my dad on Xbox Live, and I think the intense feeling of that game has helped put me into zombie movies a little bit better. There are scenes that felt exactly like the game with zombies coming on, the character blasting away and trying to push them away without dying. It’s kind of an interesting way that one medium can alter the way you experience another one. Fun stuff.

Halloween Scene: American Psycho II (2002)

I thought about several different openings for this post. First, I wanted to say how I had failed in my quest to watch a horror movie every day of October because I didn’t watch anything yesterday. Then, I thought about opening with my thoughts on the original American Psycho. I liked the movie, but I didn’t become obsessed with it like so many others I know and have talked to. I also haven’t read the book, though I hope to eventually. Lastly, I thought about starting off with the most annoying plot hole/failure, but I think I’ll get to that.

The idea behind American Psycho II: All American Girl is that Mila Kunis’ babysitter was about to be killed by Patrick Bateman when the kid got free and murdered him. From there she wanted to be a killer killer, kind of like Cassie Hack from Hack/Slash. Cut to Mila in current times where she’s going to school and taking classes from William Shatner who has a coveted TA spot that seemingly leads directly to a place at FBI school. To get there, she winds up killing her fellow competitors and things seemingly go downhill from there. I think in this case, the connection to the original movie was cleverly done, probably did a lot more harm to the movie than just having it called something completely different and not mentioning Bateman. That movie’s fans are intense, so a straight-to-DVD sequel with the girl from That 70s Show and Captain Kirk probably wasn’t going to do a lot for them. Those two names were enough to get a horror geek like me interested, but the alienation factor was probably pretty huge.

One of the film’s problems is that Kunis’ voiceover and character are a bit much. Part of the original’s charm is that Christian Bale as Bateman was equal parts fascinating and charming in a weird way that you just had to see what he’d do next. Kunis has some of that, but she comes off as a little silly. She does a good job with the material, but it’s so super focused and cut and dry that it probably wouldn’t survive a lot of psychological scrutiny.

But, this is a horror movie right? Yes. Sort of. Kunis is definitely a killer, but the flick is pretty light on gore, which is another disappointment. I didn’t expect a splatterfest, but a little extra would have been nice. As it is, there’s a lot of kills happening off screen. Speaking of the kills, they’re related to the film’s biggest lapse in logic. Not the actual kills themselves, but the fact that no one on a college campus seems to notice that people are missing. Anyone who’s been to college knows that it’s like one big huge pulsing series of connections between people. Someone not showing up where they’re supposed to be raises questions and possibly suspicions among friends, classmates, hallmates and study buddies. This movie asks you to believe that someone hanged themselves and no one noticed for a couple days (also, apparently, that no one in this school has roommates, which is nonsense). Same goes for another person who got iced even earlier in the movie and didn’t seem to raise any suspicion.

At the end of the day, American Psycho 2 is a pretty goofy movie that winds up having a somewhat clever plan. But that makes it an interesting mystery, not really a great horror movie, even though she’s clearly off her rocker. There are interesting elements in there to be sure and maybe a few things I didn’t catch up on the first time around, but there’s also hundreds of better horror flicks out there to watch. Hopefully, I’ll be watching one of those soon!