Monday, July 30, 2012

Shaun of the Dead is a Horror Movie

A friend asked me recently what my top three favorite zombies movies are, and I listed Shawn of the Dead among them. The friend immediately said, “No, it has to be horror movies, not a spoof.”

Well, that annoyed me a bit, because Shawn of the Dead is a horror movie. Sure, it has plenty of comedy, sure, but this movie is – at its core – a horror film.

A very good horror film.

Yeah, the stars and director are known for comedy. Yeah, it has a satirical title that plays off Dawn of the Dead.

I don’t care. There are plenty of horror movies that make us laugh. Shawn of the Dead has the heart of a horror movie. An American Werewolf in London makes me laugh just as much as Shawn, and it’s rightfully considered one of the best horror films out there.

So what is it about Shawn that makes the movie a horror movie? Several things, actually.

1. It was written for fans of horror. This movie can only be appreciated if you’re a fan of horror. The references – even the jokes – are for horror fans. For example, if someone hasn’t seen Night of the Living Dead, there’s no way they’ll appreciate the “We’re coming to get you Barbara” line.

2. It has excessive gore. Now, I understand that’s not a requirement for horror, but it’s certainly a common element. In Shawn, people are eaten. Badly. The have their insides ripped out and devoured by hordes of undead. And when it happens in the movie, it’s done in a horrifying way, not a comical way.

3. It has human drama. The human drama in a movie is the reason horror works. If you don’t care about the characters, you don’t care about what happens to them. There are several emotional moments in this movie, but the one that hits me hardest is the scene with Shawn’s mother. I won’t spoil it in case you’ve not seen this movie, but that scene has the emotional resonance that comes with any good horror movie.

4. It’s scary. Now, this movie doesn’t have many traditional scares, but it most definitely captures the hopeless feeling common to all zombie stories. There are multiple moments where this movie is just as tense as any zombie film.

There are other reasons, but those are the four big ones. The reason I wrote this article was because my friend’s comment about Shawn being a spoof made me start to wonder how many fans of horror have passed this movie by just because they thought it was some kind of zany comedy.

Well, I’m here to tell you, it’s a great zombie movie (definitely in my top three). If you’ve skipped Shawn of the Dead because you didn’t think it was a horror film, I highly recommend you give it a shot. It’s got plenty of comedy, but the laughs are for fans of horror. And the rest of the movie is a more traditional zombie film than most of the modern zombie movies out there.

So check it out. You won’t regret it.


Find out what are the top 30 Horror Comedies Ever...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Twixt (NetFlix Review)

Written by: David Roden

“…and when is this most tragic of melancholy topics most poetical? When it most loosely alludes itself to beauty.”

Here it is, the long awaited return to horror for director Francis Ford Coppola. This is something I have been waiting for since I first saw Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Needless to say, my expectations couldn’t have been higher. The idea of Coppola and Tom Waits working together again was enough for me. At least that’s how I felt before hand.

It was the expectations that ruined this film for me. If it had been from any other director the problems found within wouldn’t have been so glaring. It’s not the cheesy looking CGI that bothered me, it was a problem of story.

While this was marketed as a vampire film, it was the vampire element itself that brought this whole story crashing down. We have a struggling writer who comes across a great story of a priest who isn’t willing to let his children’s souls be damned by the goth kids across the lake, so he does the unthinkable. Here is the best part of all this, through dream sequences he is told this story by Edgar Allan Poe. Poe also teaches him (and us) a thing or two about writing. My question to you is, where do vampires fit in? They don’t.

What I described to you is interesting enough on it’s own, adding vampires to it muddied the waters just a tad too much. I just hope this wasn’t an attempt to capitalize off of recent trends…but if that were the case they would have been zombies.

Enough negativity, there were certain things that worked for me. Poe, for example, was brilliant. When he sits our hero down and explains to him how he wrote The Raven, my jaw hit the floor. This film should have just been Poe, the priest, and our writer. Too high concept, too little attention to story.

You can make up your own mind on how you feel about the look of the dream sequences. That is matter of taste and to me it was delicious. It felt surreal but not ridiculous.

Go see this film for Edgar Allan Poe, not for the vampires. If Hall Baltimore is the “bargain basement Stephen King,” then Twixt is the “bargain basement ‘Salem’s Lot.”


Friday, July 13, 2012

A Horrible Way To Die (NetFlix Review)

Written by: David Roden

If you are a fan of indie horror and you don’t know who AJ Bowen is, there is a problem. He is easily the strongest actor in the genre these days. From The Signal to Hatchet 2, he delivers every time. The only thing more impressive than his acting chops is his glorious beard. All fanboy aside, this film is a bold, unique take on the “sympathetic psycho.” While Mr. Beardly McPsychopath is the driving force behind this solid genre piece, it is the writing that really made this film for me.

The story follows Garrick Turrell, a serial killer who has broken out of jail and is traveling home to see his wife. We get the distinct pleasure of watching Turrell slaughter his way home. Bowen makes you like his character so much, that it is almost hard to watch him do these horrible things to people but at the same time a secret part of you cheers him on.

There is a scene where we come across a delusional old man. He starts giving advice about what kind of car roofs keep the government out of our heads to our “hero.” In that moment we completely forget that we have been following a man who has murdered innocent people. We only care that this man is obviously crazy. Even Turrell is looking at him like “yeah, ok buddy…”

If there is one complaint about this movie it is the choice to keep the camera moving AT ALL TIMES. They also felt like every scene needed to end with the camera trailing off to one side and going out of focus. I understand this is a style choice, but I felt the film would have been much more strong if they had used more static shots. If they had, this would’ve easily jumped directly into my top current horror films.

Yes, that is a fairly large issue but it wasn’t enough to ruin the film for me. The writing was strong enough to save this movie and then some. I have a lot of respect for this film and I can’t wait to get my Mitts on Adam Wingard’s next film, You’re Next. If you have motion sickness like me, pop some Dramamine and enjoy.

Netflix: 2.6/5
David: 4/5