Saturday, September 16, 2006

Zombie Reviews

Tobe Hooper's Mortuary was something of a letdown for me.
The first act was everything I'd hoped, the second kinda jumped the rails, and the third just plain ran outta gas.
And Hooper's commentary presence was just the most depressingly lifeless and hopelessly resigned-sounding thing I've ever experienced.
(And I've heard Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses commentary.)

Well, the good news is that Denise Crosby is in fine form here. She plays a good-hearted widowed mom, who makes some hilariously bad choices (not the least of which is inviting her son's new friends down into the embalming room for a peek at some new "customers"). The bad news is that the script turns her into a tiresome hatchet-wielding killjoy just as you're really starting to root for her.

Crosby's son, played by Dan Byrd from this year's Hills Have Eyes remake, is a likeable lead who turns in some good moments.

Shallow Ground's Rocky Marquette has a supporting role as a gay teen. In fact, this particular bit of casting is what really piqued my interest in Mortuary, since I first read Buzz's review at Camp Blood.

Sadly, they gave the poor kid very little to do, and bumped him off in a particularly cheesy and annoying way -- cheesy because it was a woefully executed visual effect that lacked any dramatic logic; and annoying because it was the exact same arm-through-the chest gimmick that killed his Bloody Boy character in Shallow Ground.

If, as Buzz mused, Denise Crosby is contractually obliged to appear in any movie based around a graveyard, then Marquette's contract is at least as oddly particular...
Perhaps they use the same (demented) agent.

The leaden, dreadful climax of the film looks like the product of a hurried reshoot in someone's garage, and the final "reveal" of the origins of the mysterious sodium-phobic black fungus is so feeble and dinky it's painful to watch.

In my review of Toolbox, I came down pretty hard on Hooper's "coffin-baby" concept for the killer. Does he listen?
Now he's throwing cemetery-babies at us...
Oh, Tobe. Rub some more salt in our wounds, why dontcha.

Clive Barker's The Plague was even more frustrating. I'm not sure what Barker's contribution amounted to, other than picking up his producer's cheque and ducking quietly out the back door.
When I saw that James Van Der Beek was starring in this thing, I had some misgivings, but folks -- (I wish I were joking, here), he's the best thing in this whole mess.

The premise: one bright, sunny morning all the world's children simultaneously fall into sudden, incurable comas. Babies are born in the same condition. Blah global crisis blah.
(If only. I might actually start going to restaurants again.)

Fast forward ten years.
Dawson returns to the Creek, decides to make a documentary sorry, JVDB returns to his hometown after getting paroled. Killed a guy in a bar fight, apparently. (Amusingly, one of his co-stars mentions in the commentary that Beeks was actually discouraged from entering most of the local Winnipeg watering-holes for the sake of his own safety.)

So, just as he's beginning to adjust to civilian life, all the kids decide to wake up en masse and start whacking grownups. They go from useless, high-maintenance drooling vegetables to sullen, high-maintenance homicidal maniacs.
Pretty much like real-life kids, in other words.

Anyway, the acting is fine from the small core of key players. Beeks is pretty buff, and his cosmically large noggin seems almost within normal proportional parameters here.
Also keeping things lively is Brad Hunt, whom I admired in Cookers, and Dee Wallace who chewed up her scenes nicely in Boo.

The Plague never really bites ya, but it works for what it is.
Until the end.
The final twenty minutes took every last ounce of goodwill I had been willing to offer it, wrapped it in a flaming bag of horsecrap, and threw it back in my face.

No explanation for the child-plague was ever offered, or even hinted at. They just threw in some head-scratching "message" about raising children in a better world, and blaming adults for not leading by example or somesuch tripe.
Sorry, what? If I spend my life savings and every waking minute taking care of my comatose nine-year-old for an entire decade, only to have him wake up and try to brain me with the nearest blunt object without so much as a "Hi Dad!", then I think my responsibility as a parent has pretty much run its natural course...

I scanned the credits for some sort of punchline to all this.
Something like: “Dedicated to the bagboys of America, whose greed and ineptitude inspired this movie”.

All Soul's Day is a flat-out cannibal zombie film. It's also an irritating bore. The young leads were obnoxious, the production value was non-existent, the gore was minimal, and the zombies were about as threatening as the Taco Bell chihuahua.

Most painfully, for me, was seeing breathtaking Mulholland Dr. actress Laura Harring trapped in this zero-peso production. At first, I didn't want to believe it was her. It couldn't be her. Sure, other genre favorites like Jeffrey Coombs, David Keith and Danny Trejo pop up briefly, but Laura Harring?
Is she working off some kind of community service? I think Boy George copped a better deal, if that's the case.


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