BEBE 2018

“Dawn of the Dead [2004]” on IMDB

Horror – 2004 – 111 Minutes

It’s an absolute classic, but it must be admitted that the original Dawn of the Dead [Our Review] didn’t age excruciatingly well. Youngsters may superficially mock the slang and the styles, but even older folks are likely to cringe a bit at the ham-fisted social commentary (not to mention the rampaging biker gang). A remake was inevitable.

Novice director Zack Snyder was selected to lead the project. Troma Films veteran James Gunn was tapped to write the screenplay; his second studio work after 2002’s tepid live action “Scooby Doo”. Both came to the project with a sincere love of the genre and a deep respect of the original material and made one of the best damn zombie flicks ever.

The original premise remains the same: a ragtag group of survivors find themselves trapped in a shopping mall by legions of the walking dead. The modern group is both more numerous and more eclectic than the original, allowing for more depth and development. Stars Sarah Polley and Ving Rhames may have the lion’s share of screen time, but co-stars Ty Burell, Lindy Booth, Matt Frewer and others are all pitch perfect as well.

The underlying message of rampant consumerism is intact and celebrated in one of the most memorable montages in film: a slice-of-monotonous-life set to Richard Cheese’s masterfully absurd cover of Disturbed’s “Down With the Sickness”. It’s an inspired choice that elevates an already excellent treatment into something truly special.

Fans of the original are offered any number of lovely references and homages. Those unfamiliar with the source are given a finely crafted, stand-alone story. This is a classic, no matter how it’s approached and not to be missed.

“Dawn of the Dead [1978]” on IMDB

Horror – 1978 – 127 Minutes

George Romero’s first film, Night of the Living Dead, created the outbreak trope: mobs of reanimated dead mindlessly hunt the living. It explored how people would react to the situation over one, terrifying night. This one logically asks, “what would happen after?”

In the weeks following outbreak, tens of millions have died and society is collapsing. Stephen and Francine work at a Philadelphia TV station, but can see the end coming. Enlisting SWAT officers Roger and Peter to join them, they steal the traffic helicopter and escape the city. They end up in a rural shopping mall, which they clear and make a home in.

With everything a consumer could want in 1978 at their fingertips, the small group sets up house for the long haul. Many of the best scenes revolve around the plans they set into motion to gather supplies and protect themselves. Romero’s writing rarely seems forced to a specific end; rather he creates a situation, places specific personalities into it and sees what might happen.

It took Romero nearly a decade to follow directly on the success of Night of the Living Dead with this semi-sequel. He had kept himself busy with many projects, but after a friend gave him a tour behind the scenes of a local mall he was inspired by the possibilities it provided.

This also marked his second, but far from last, collaboration with effects artist Tom Savini, who would become a legend in zombie genre in his own right. As one might expect, the effects, while tame by later standards, are top notch. This is more impressive considering that, at times, literally hundreds of extras needed to be zombified.

Setting the story in a mall ensures that the film shows its age more than Night. That film’s rustic farm setting and choice of black-and-white pull it out of time. The slang, clothes and chain-smoking pregnant woman undeniably brand this as the seventies; then the height of reckless consumerism.

It earned $55 million on its $1.5 million budget, making it the most successful film of the franchise, overall. While derided by some critics, mostly for its liberal gore, most loved it. Roger Ebert, after giving it four-out-of-four stars, famously said that “nobody ever said art had to be good taste.” 

“It Stains the Sands Red” on IMDB

Horror/Thriller – 2016 – 92 Minutes

Molly wasn’t having the best life before the zombie apocalypse. She used her body to seduce any man that could supply her with enough booze and drugs to forget her past. Her latest was a wannabe gangster in Las Vegas. The only question was whether she’d live long enough to lose her looks and get tossed away down the chain.

Still, she had some luck left. When the zombies appeared her boyfriend knew somebody with a plane at an isolated airfield miles outside the city. All they had to do was get there, and he would fly them to safety. Halfway there, her luck ran out. Now she’s on foot in the desert, miles from the airfield and her only companion is a relentless zombie.

The phrase “Design by Subtraction” may come from video games, but applies perfectly here. The filmmakers stripped traditional zombie stories to their essence. No never-ending horde to throw themselves at never-ending bullets, no eclectic group of survivors forced to work together, nowhere to hide, nowhere to fortify. Simply one desperate woman and one ravenous zombie in a desolate waste.

This part of the story works extremely well. Detractors may mock Molly’s lack of ingenuity in being unable to take out a single zombie, but it fits her character perfectly. This is a woman who’s spent her life as an accessory for others. Somebody else handled important things, not her. Her heroism isn’t simplistic action tropes, it’s simple dogged determination and it reveals itself slowly.

The cinematography is simple and effective. The blinding heat and light of the desert day is contrasted excellently with the pure black cold of the desert night. Wordlessly, the movie never lets us forget that the environment is as, or more, deadly than the zombie.

Later, as additional circumstances are introduced, the movie veers into more traditional territory. While this somewhat tarnishes the purity of the original premise, it does service the story. We’re allowed to see how Molly has gained the confidence to confront her personal demons.

The story ultimately lives or dies on the quality of Brittany Allen’s performance as Molly. It’s a difficult character: she’s selfish, crude and generally unlikable. It’s a testament to Allen’s performance that she (eventually) earns redemption and the empathy of the audience.

By removing unessential elements from traditional stories, the team has created a sharply focused, highly engaging story. Despite a comparatively weak ending, the execution of the core concept and  Allen’s excellent performance makes this a must-see.

BEBE Logo_TransToBlackAlas, BEBE 2018, our ninth year, is over! Nine glorious years of chicken ova and grey matter!

Let’s see how we did according to the rules of Boiled Eggs and Brain Eaters:

Watch Some Zombie Movies

Check!  The selections were mostly retrospective this year.  We’ll be doing full reviews of all of these in the coming weeks:

  • It Stains the Sands Red: A showgirl from Las Vegas alone in the dessert being trailed by a relentless zombie. A well-done and surprisingly gripping take on the genre!
  • Dawn of the Dead [1978]: It took George Romero a decade to produce this follow-up to the seminal Night of the Living Dead. While much of it hasn’t aged particularly well, the underlying metaphor of runaway consumerism as a metaphor for a zombie plague is still as powerful as ever.
  • Dawn of the Dead [2004]: As both a remake of a movie that didn’t need to be remade and Zack Synder’s feature debut, this movie has no right to be so damn good!
  • Shaun of the Dead: Still perfect! Still so damn perfect!

An above average year, all told!

Eat Lots of Good Food

Check! Too much Platter’s Chocolate and, as we’ve done since 2015, Crafty Zombie Cupcakes. We also did zombie sugar cookies and, for the first time, tried Hot Dog zombie fingers. These… didn’t turn out remarkably impressive, but tasted pretty good!  Dinner was the welcome usual of ham, smooshed taters and fried corn.

Play Some Games

Check, but barely! A few rounds of Zombie Dice was all we were able to get in!

Spend Some Time with Those You Love

Check! As the kids are older now, these are becoming nice and smooth with more actual conversation and less argument and drama. The weather worked out, so the doors were open and a nice spring breeze permeated the day.

We hope that you had a great day with those you love and were able to fit in a little fun and games.  We also hope to see you back here in 2019 for the the tenth anniversary of Boiled Eggs and Brain Eaters!