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All posts for the month June, 2013

Zombie Warm and Fuzzies (Not!)

Published June 30, 2013 by vfdpixie

warm bodies

Warm Bodies (2013, 1 hr, 38 mins)

I must warn you.  This is not going to be a pleasant post.  It will, in fact, be a zombie rant.  I don’t know if I would call myself a purist, but I like my zombies a certain way.  Be it in a comedy or a gruesome throat-biting, blood spurting romp, I feel zombies should get a little respect, kind of like the tough kid in the playground.  Back in my day, you gave him/her space, ran if they notice you, and stood your ground if they caught up to you.  There have been plenty of successful attempts to create a different view of zombies within reason, such as Shaun of the Dead and In The Flesh.  Two well done, brilliantly written (and both British) takes on zombies on either side of the spectrum.  And then there is of course, The Walking Dead, which goes without saying:  your traditional survival of the fittest, zombies vs. us deal that has me and millions of fans hooked.  Even the 2004 low-budget Zombie Honeymoon brought us a creative take on zombies.  Each represent zombies with respect to the genre and the proper fear, loathing, or comedy that doesn’t dull their iconic place in horror.

Imagine my delight when I heard about Warm Bodies, a rom-com take on the zombie experience.  Of course I missed it in the theatres (because I’d rather stay at home where it’s safe), and was looking forward to seeing it when it came out on DVD.  Well, fellow horror fan, that delight was short-lived.  You will learn why in a few.

The film is about ‘R’ (Nicholas Hoult), a handsome young zombie fellow, who gives us his point of view of life as a zombie.  He gives us an inside look with a voice over of what it’s like to be the walking dead, some stuck in a loop of what they were before their untimely death due to a plague that took over 8 years ago.  The living stay entrenched in The City, a walled section of a sprawling metropolis that they protect ferociously from the ongoing zombie threat.  Julie, a lovely blonde Kirsten Stewart look-alike (Teresa Palmer) is part of the patrol and her father, Grigio (John Malkovich) is the militant head of The City.  R and Julie meet during a fateful battle where he eats her boyfriend’s brain and kidnaps her in order to keep her out of the jaws of his zombie colleagues, because you see, R has feelings-or a semblance of them.  He falls in love with her on sight, and by eating her boyfriend’s brain, his love is reinforced since her boyfriend’s memories become his.  R basically holds Julie hostage, citing the need to have the other zombies forget about her after her attempts to escape has brought attention to her living flesh.  So of course, R, being the music-loving, collector zombie that he is, shows her a good time in his airplane bunker.  Julie then suffers from what I can only call zombie Stockholm Syndrome and slowly begins to warm up to him ’cause he’s different, and R realizes he is becoming more human.  Cue the fun montage of Julie teaching R how to drive, playing records and dress up, and committing utter blasphemy by having a DVD of the 1979 classic Zombie in a scene.  Hey Julie, can’t you smell your boyfriend’s brains in R’s pockets?  Not leaving a stain?  Can’t smell R’s decaying flesh breath?  No?  O.K., whatevs.

The movie soon spirals into saccharine, feel-good, Romeo and Juliet territory that often made me retch and dry heave.  Love will warm the flesh of even a zombie.  Um, last time I checked, love don’t pay the rent, so making a zombie human?  Tall order.  Oh yes, and it’s not just R that feels the love.  His fellow zombies are starting to get the warm and fuzzies too (cue that Neil Diamond song about your heartlight).  Ugh.  The only things I like about this movie were the “bad” zombies, or “Boneys”-zombies who were too far gone, skeletal and real hungry.  They proved to be a threat for the “good” zombies and humans alike; forcing them to unit and feel the love.  I actually wanted to drive the Boneys into battle myself in a lowrider caddy (with hydraulics, blasting some Snoop Dog) just to stop the nonsense.

Here’s the thing.  I actually liked the idea of zombies retaining some sort of intelligence, but the returning to humanity was a bit of a stretch as zombies are traditionally motivated by instinct and hunger, not emotion (check out the 2008 indie film Colin for a more traditional zombie p.o.v) Although I haven’t read it yet, there is no doubt in my mind that the book is great.  I just hate movie adaptations that dumb down the story and force a sentiment on the viewer.  This movie made me feel like I was invited to play laser tag and ended up at bible study.  Not even John Malkovich, Rob Corddry ( R’s friend ‘M’) and Analeigh Tipton (who played Julie’s friend Nora), all of whom I love, could save this flick for me.  I don’t know what else to say, except that the only winners for me in this film were the Boneys, who ain’t no phoneys.  At least they were honest (and hungry).

One of my boney dawgs keeping it real!

One of my Boney dawgs keeping it real!

Most Memorable Line:  When besties Julie and Nora dish about R, Nora says, “I  mean, I know it’s really hard to meet guys right now, with the apocalypse stuff. Trust me.”  You haven’t been to Toronto, sister.  Dating after an apocalypse amidst the zombies and roaches sounds just dreamy compared to dating in this town.

Most Hateful Scene:  has to be hands down the heinous Pygmalion-esque “Let’s Make R Look Like A Real Boy!” scene.  I think the intention was tongue in cheek, but it just brought bile to mouth.  Sorry folks, didn’t work for me.

Dark Skies and Crumbling Dreams

Published June 23, 2013 by vfdpixie

darkskies

 

Fellow Horror fans, my apologies for not posting something sooner.  I suffered a lack of inspiration and couldn’t find my kitsch appreciation groove.  It was a flat-line for a while, and I looked for days for something to watch; sometimes stopping midway during a film that I couldn’t bear to finish, which is rare since I’ll watch anything!  Never fear though, as I have a renewed interest and there seems to be some great films out there, so this pixie is happy again!

One film I was interested in was Dark Skies.  I saw this come out a few months ago, and missed it in the theatres, so I was anxiously awaiting the dvd release. I am glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised with this moody, alien abduction story.

Lacy and Daniel Barrett (Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton) seem to lead an idyllic, boring suburban life.  Two sons, Jesse (Dakota Goyo) and Sam (Kadan Rockett), a nice house and barbeques on the weekends.  It’s great, except for the fact that Daniel, who was laid off, can’t find a job and Lacy, a real estate agent, can’t sell any houses.  They are also plagued by bizarre, nightly happenings. Each night, the events get stranger, and every day, the family becomes more stressed. Food scattered and half eaten on the kitchen floor, various household items impossibly stacked to the ceiling and a disturbing bird incident seem like mild annoyances after weird seizures start to affect the entire family.  When there is evidence of abuse with their sons, Lacy and Daniel are pushed to believe that these events aren’t coming from the boys, a prankster, stress or even this planet.  Enlisting the help of Edwin Pollard (J. K. Simmons), an abduction and alien expert, Lacy and Daniel prepare to accept the unbelievable, and hopefully get their life back.

I liked the mundane, suburban backdrop for this alien abduction story.  The American dream of raising a family and having a ‘normal’ life becomes a nightmare.  The aliens and the disruptions they create are a great metaphor for the lack of control over our lives in general.  I think this film got panned generally because some reviewers thought it was either too clichéd or was a thinly veiled dissertation on right-wing fears of being invaded by foreigners.  I see it as a tad tongue in cheek.  Most plod along only hoping for the house, the car, the job and 2.5 kids.  When things don’t happen as we expect, who you gonna blame, “India and China”? That’s who Daniel’s ‘everyman’ neighbour blames.  But no, it’s not “them” (gasp!).  What better explanation for kids acting up, stress on a marriage, and medical oddities than aliens?  I am a fan of the show Ancient Aliens (and have a secret crush on Giorgio Tsoukalos-the crazy hair guy) where scholars give compelling evidence of aliens being here all along.  Heck, some believe we carry alien DNA.  Who am I to argue?  Better to blame the aliens than ourselves.  I actually like to blame “The Man” myself, who just may have a slightly gray pallor to his skin and lots of probes…but I digress.

Director Scott Stewart (who also directed Priest and Legion), did a decent job with the mood of Dark Skies.  Although I though the pacing was a tad slow, you could feel the foreboding tension building as we move through the story, and I loved the simplicity of the film.  Special effects were minimal but effective to make this story believable, and I found the stark quality to each scene brought the characters and their emotions to the forefront.  And speaking of characters, I though the cast did a good job in portraying the regular suburban family, but the stand out for me was J. K. Simmons.  I have been a fan of his since OZ where he played Vern Schillinger, the leader of the Aryan Brotherhood and someone you just loved to hate.  Usually he nails various gruff, abrasive roles, but this time around, he is very quiet and subdued.  His character Pollard is quite different from the clichéd alien conspiracy theorist.  He believes because he knows.  He has given in to the reality of aliens among us and also lives with a bunch of cats which is great in my books.  Pollard has only a few moments in the film, but he brings in a touch of comedy and is a great transition to the tense finale.

Dark Skies is a great addition to the abduction genre.  Stewart creates an interesting film that takes everyday family stresses in the all American clueless home and gives them a more sinister origin.  Definitely makes you think about that weird mosquito bite, or why that bird keeps looking at you funny…

Favourite Scene:  When Lacy learns that dogs will go berserk when aliens are near, she races to the local pound.  Stopping in front of a particularly nutso German Shepherd named Clive who is described as “Aggressive!!!”, she makes a clipped statement rather than a question, “What about this one?…yeah” to son Jesse.  Yeah, Clive will do.

Most Memorable Line:  When talking to Pollard about why they have been chosen by the aliens, Lacy asks, “What makes us so special?”, to which he flatly replies, “Nothing.”  It’s true.  The aliens are just messing with us because we are boring lab rats.  Not like we’ve solved any problems here on Earth, or stopped any wars for world peace, or treat each other any better.  Earth is probably the worst truck stop in the universe…

 

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