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: I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) & I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998)

In an attempt to quell my fears with all the craziness yesterday, I put together a dresser and watched a bunch of horror movies starting off with Urban Legend, which I had never seen before. That flick reminded me of other late 90s slasher flicks like Scream and the IKWYDLS movies thanks to the cast of well known actors getting hunted down and slaughtered by someone who had been wronged in the past by one or more of them. I’ve had the two IKWYDLS movies sitting in my to watch pile ever since I was at Wizard and they cleared out the DVD library and gave away a bunch of freebies. Unfortunately, I didn’t find either of them nearly as enjoyable as Urban Legend. Oddly enough, this movie starts off with a similar discussion of the same “boyfriend on the car roof” urban legend I mentioned in yesterday’s review.

The plot revolves around a group of friends–Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe and Jennifer Love Hewitt–who accidentally hit a dude with their car and instead of calling the cops and doing the logical thing, they decide to dump him in the water and act like it never happened. Well, one year later, someone starts leaving notes that invoke the title. People start getting killed (including Johnny Galecki), mistrust spreads and eventually the killer is revealed and some people survive.

This movie was kind of destined to fail with me from it’s very inception. I hate movies or stories that rely on people making stupid decisions and then feeling like they can’t tell anyone what they’re dealing with for fear of getting caught. Had they called the cops when they should have or even right after someone started threatening them, it would have been okay. Heck, they weren’t even friends anymore after a year of college. If someone threatens to kill me, I don’t care, I’m going to the cops, no matter what Ryan Phillippe says! That’s a motto I live by.

The only really draw here is for vintage SMG and JLH hotness (two of my biggest teenage crushes) and I would assume the same goes for the fellas in the movie as well. I’m going to get into a little SPOILER territory here so get into another reason why I dislike the movie. Here goes. So, the killer winds up being some guy involved in the hit and run, but not the one they thought it was. Keep that in mind because it makes a lot of things make very little sense. For instance, they throw a red herring into the story–Galecki–and then immediately take him out by having fall victim to the killer. How would the killer even know he was there? He had just been hit by a car and was on the other side of a guardrail over a cliff. So, it doesn’t make logical sense, but it also doesn’t make story sense because you’d want to keep that red herring around to draw suspicion away from the four leads. Once he’s dead, you have to assume it’s either one of the kids or the guy who got hit. The twist that it’s some guy they don’t even know lessens the impact of the story and makes it a lot more complicated. In fact, I think I’ve already thought about this movie way too much. Moving on.

I guess I liked I Still Know What You Did Last Summer better than the original, but not by a lot. This time around, JLH is in college where she rooms with Brandy who’s dating Mekhi Phifer. Prinze is still back in the little town all the murders from the first movie took place in, which is why JLH doesn’t want to return for the Fourth of July vacation. JLH also has this dude named Will who’s sweet on her and, when Prinze decides not to go with her on a trip they win via radio contest to the Bahamas, Will winds up taking his spot. Once on the island, a storm picks up which cuts off all communication to the island as well as boats, so it winds up just being the leads and some of the hotel workers (including Jack Black as a white dude wanting to be a Jamaican rasta, Jeffrey Combs and the always lovely Jennifer Esposito) against the rain slicker-wearing killer.

There’s some interesting suspense moments like when JLH gets locked in the tanning bed (those things make me nervous anyway) and SPOILER Will’s reveal that he’s in on the killings was great “Because it’s not my blood.” But overall, it winds up being more complicated that necessary. Ben Willis (the killer from the first movie) used to live on this island and had a son who turned out to be Will who played a long con to get this group to the island. Much like the dudes in Scream, the level of acting chops a psychotic murdered has to have is pretty impressive.

The Scream sequels suffered from the same clunky explanations for their sequels. It’s always an unexpected relative or the original killer coming back (“They never found a body”). I think I prefer my killers to be supernaturally charged so the filmmakers don’t have to waste too much time thinking of why they’re back and killing. Michael Myers got up, Freddy lives in dreams. Done and done. I can not imagine the lengths they went to to explain the 2006 straight to DVD I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer. Blech, no thanks.