Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) – John Luessenhop

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First of all, I feel obliged to apologize to my swarms of loyal readers for my recent hiatus. I moved last month and frankly, I’ve been lazy. It’s hot out, get off my back. Anyway, I’m back so quit whining, buckle up and get ready to have my opinions thrust upon you. You’re welcome in advance.

They say, “There’s no such thing as bad pizza or bad pussy.” That statement is obviously flawed for reasons I don’t feel I need to get into right now. It should really be “There’s no such thing as a bad Texas Chainsaw Massacre film.” Take a pro-wrestler sized dude with a learning disability who probably needs to switch to decaf, put a chainsaw in his hands and then come up with a flimsy pretext for a group of sexy teenagers from the big city to break into his house. It’s so simple but it just works.  John Luessenhop’s 2013 installment Texas Chainsaw 3D fits the mold in every way we want it to.

Let’s be honest. The saying I mentioned above does not mean that that DiGorno’s stacks up to a fresh New York slice, but pizza is pizza. Or that chick you picked up off the floor just after last call is going to be Charlize Theron, but you know what you’re getting and you know it’ll probably be good enough.

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Texas Chainsaw 3D adds a modern twist that fits into the original story. The film opens a short time after the original film has taken place. If you remember, there was one girl who escaped right before leatherface does his famous “chainsaw dance” in the hot Texas sunset. Now there’s a cop and a mob outside his family’s house itching for some Texas justice. Fast forward: big fire and lots of dead bodies. Fast forward some more to present day and we meet our heroine Heather. She’s the sole survivor and heiress to the family farm. She gets a letter from a long lost grandmother who has died telling her she’s inherited a big old house in Texas. So she packs her friends into a VW bus, picks up a hitchhiker for good measure and heads down to check out her new place. Spoiler Alert: Leatherface survived the fire. Duh, he’s on the fucking poster.

Well if you’ve seen any of these movies before, or dissected something in biology class, I think you know where this is going. There are few big surprises here.

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Overall the movie is solid, for what it is. There are some good scare scenes. Some chainsaw chasing, people getting naked and doing drugs to be used as chainsaw fodder, and plenty of 3D organs flying across the screen. I do have a couple of issues though. The biggest one was that they tried to add too much background to the Leatherface character. They take away that cold, mindless fury that he has and try to give him some real emotions. One thing we don’t need from Leatherface is pathos. He’s a monster, not just a large man who didn’t take his meds. Also, though it’s a fun movie, it’s still a pretty horrendous bastardization of one of the scariest movies ever. It’s bad form and downright sacrilege to show shots from the original during the opening credits.

Well, I don’t foresee a very high score for this flick. If we were rating it on the pizza scale, I’d give it a “Yesterday’s Papa John’s from the fridge.”

  1. Is it scary? 4 -There are a couple of good scary scenes but overall it left me feeling less than massacred if you catch my drift.
  2. Originality: 3- Nope. I did add a point or two for some little twists at the end, but we kinda saw it coming.
  3. Blood: 8- Come on, it’s a movie about a man who cuts people up with a chainsaw.
  4. Believability: 5- Honestly the acting wasn’t half bad. The story was a little far- fetched, but hey, read the description for the previous criterion. There was some “girl running up the stairs” caliber stupidity, like “Hey, I think I’ll go hide in this open grave.”
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 5- In general, I hate 3D. I hate that they charge you like $16 to see these movies in the theater. I don’t even think that they did a great job with the 3D in this film. Besides that, the cinematography wasn’t bad. There are some cool shots and camera stuff.                                                            

Final Score: 25/50

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The Uninvited (2009) Charles Guard and Thomas Guard

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Did you know that American cheese cannot legally be sold in the United States as “cheese”? It has to be labeled as “processed cheese food” or something like that so that no one would accidentally mistake it for cheese. There’s a pretty clear parallel between American cheese and American remakes of foreign horror movies. In America, we love to remix things, take them, water them down with some vegetable oil, filler, old newspapers, whatever. Then we dye them yellow and slap the word American on it and call it a day.

I’m not going to be a snob and say that all U.S. remakes of international horror movies are shit, because there are some decent ones (The Ring comes to mind first). But I will say that for the most part, these movies don’t live up to the originals and should not be remade in the first place. I’ve said this before, but if you can’t be bothered to read subtitles for 90 minutes to experience a superior movie, you should be sterilized by having fish guts poured on your junk and tossing you into a tank full of hungry piranhas. The bastardization on the docket today is The Uninvited, Charles and Thomas Guard’s 2009 remake of A Tale of Two Sisters. The verdict (in case you can’t read between the lines) is that this movie sucks balls. Like I’d rather get a lap dance from a belt-sander than sit through this boring 87-minute shitfest again. I think we should do what the cheese people did and make it illegal to market one of these remakes as “horror”.  Instead we’ll call them “American processed horror film product.”

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Quick question, is it subtle homage or subtle racism to cast a girl that looks vaguely Asian as the lead in an all-white remake of a Korean movie? I’ll let you figure that one out for yourself. Anyway this movie follows the plot of the original pretty closely, but they take the Tarantino-style sequencing away so you lose part of the effect.  (In the original, the big twist comes about half way through the movie). So I’m not going to get too far into a plot synopsis because it will ruin the original. You should probably just watch that and save your time/money on this one.

Teenage girl Anna (the awkwardly not-Asian girl) in a mental hospital after some kind of trauma involving her mother’s death. We’re not really sure what happened till much later. They send her home and she finds and mom’s hot, creepy nurse has moved in and is currently banging the unnaturally tan and handsome widower father. Anna and her sister start to suspect that Daddy’s new gal-pal (played by Elizabeth Banks) had something to do with mommy’s unfortunate demise, and that this is not the first time she’s pulled something like this. The closer they get to solving the mystery, the more scary shit starts happening. Mom’s ghost makes a few appearances in what we’ll call the only “scary” parts of the whole movie.

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I will say, they did a good job with the cinematography. There are some cool things happening with light and shadows throughout the whole movie. Peoples’ faces obscured by shadow in a bright sunlit room, dark shadows cutting across bright areas in this big house. Even the few scenes of ghost mom and a couple of ghost ginger kids were really well done. But there were just too few of them. They used the tried but true pale, twitchy, decomposed body ghost that they use in all these movies, you know, the ones that always look like they’re covered in dead lizard skin, but they did a good job with it. Overall, it looked fantastic but other than that it was garbage.

In short, there is no reason for this movie to exist. It’s like the Glee of horror movies. You take something that you know is great, say, a Beatles song. Cram a bunch of attractive tweens into it and dress them up in mint green Abercrombie and Fitch (is that still a thing?)  polos with popped collars and get them to ruin reenact someone else’s already-successful artistic expression in order to capitalize on it. You can’t use too much autotune or hair gel, just pile it on, but be sure to remove any semblance of actual artistic feeling, human emotion, or original thought.

Once you’re done, pat yourself on the back, you’re living up to the American dream. Go change out of your costume and have the butler make you a grilled American-processed-cheese-food sandwich.

For the record, this was more of a rant than a movie review. If you want to read a real review, go check out the one I wrote for the original. But make sure you watch it first.

  1. Is it scary? 2- I ate a bowl of Count Chocula and it was scarier than this movie.
  2. Originality: 1- It’s a shitty remake that sticks very very closely to the original in terms of storyline. The only departures they made from the original just weakened the movie overall.
  3. Blood: 3- There are a couple of nice bloody scenes but they are few and far between.
  4. Believability: 3- Nobody did anything outrageous like run up a flight of stairs.  But I don’t know if I bought Elizabeth Banks as the creepy evil stepmother. To be fair, I never really liked her, but I see her as a comedy actress, and I don’t know that she was the best choice for this movie.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 7- I have to give credit where credit is due. They did a good job here. The DP and the lighting team made it look as scary as possible.

Final Score: 16/50                                                                                              

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Evil Dead (2013) – Fede Alvarez

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Ok, here we are again. All-too familiar territory: Classic horror movie remake land.  Whenever one of these remakes comes out, we ask ourselves. “Is this really necessary?” “Are they doing this because they have something new to offer the ravenous horror audience, or are they just trying to cash in on a popular franchise?” To say that Evil Dead fans disagree on the need for Fede Alvarez’s 2013 Evil Dead remake would be like saying the Nazis had a disagreement with the Jews. Nobody seems to be in the middle here.

In one camp, you have people who are excited to see the update and see how Alvarez stacks up to Raimi. Others feel that to remake one of the all-time greatest horror flicks is somehow a personal affront to them. They wander up from their mothers’ basements and squint through the bright sunlight in search of soapboxes on which to declare that the remake is an abomination that somehow takes away from the accomplishments of Raimi’s original. They take to the streets with torches and pitchforks and march towards the studio as if it were the lab of Dr. Frankenstein.

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Those people can kindly go fuck themselves with Ash’s Boomstick. I understand being a purist and not wanting to disturb the canon or whatever, but in this case, the remake actually accomplishes something new. Now hear me out on this, and keep in mind that the original Evil Dead is my favorite horror movie of all time, but it is sloppy at times in that it  does not always know what it wants to be. (That is part of what we love about it but it’s the truth we need to face.) We know that it is intended to be part comedy and part horror, but how much of each? I still have the impression that Raimi never fully figured that out until ED2. Anyway, Alvarez’s remake knows exactly what it is from the very beginning. And so does the audience. This one is straight up, unapologetic horror. You could make the argument that it has about 5% comedy in that the gore and violence are so over the top that it gets absurd towards the end. It’s all part of the homage. Kind of tongue-in-cheek.

As for the plot, the new one is updated with some modern details so it feels fresh, while remaining true to the core story from the original. Five friends are visiting an old family cabin in the woods to help one of them kick her drug addiction. They find a book in the basement with some stern warnings (which are ignored, of course) and incantations. When they read the incantations in the book, they awaken a demonic spirit that possesses each of the friends and causes them to wreak havoc on themselves and each other. It’s a magic carpet ride of self-mutilation, blood, and dismemberment. By the end, there is literally blood raining down from the sky and there’s the obligatory chainsaw battle between our reluctant hero and a large demon monster.

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Besides the focus on horror over slapstick comedy, one of the best arguments for this remake was just the advancement in special effects since 1980. Raimi’s Evil Dead was gory as hell and downright disgusting, but the whole movie was made for less than half a million bucks. The remake cost a whopping $17 mil. I’d wager that at least 10 million was spent on blood and guts effects. They really went all out. The sound was amazing too. You can literally hear flesh burning and tearing. The demon voices remind us of the original, while still being modern and scary. The original cut of the film received an NC-17 rating, and they had to cut it down a bit to get the R rating and get this puppy into theaters. I’m looking forward to seeing the full directors cut DVD in a few months. (Though don’t worry, kids, this one is still plenty gory.)

I realize I’ve waited until the end to make a final call. In short, I’ll say that this film was a fucking homerun- a bloody, disgusting homerun that accomplished exactly what it set out to do. Alvarez rebooted a classic and focused on horror rather than humor. He kept elements of what we loved about the original while creating a fresh, gory masterpiece that felt like its own movie. I loved it. The only thing that would have made it more “groovy” would have been a Bruce Campbell cameo.

  1. Is it scary? 8- They might be a little overzealous with the tagline: “The most terrifying film you will ever experience , but it was pretty goddamn scary. Everything was dark, creepy, foggy, and gross. It made you jump at the right times and had enough visual stuff to give you nightmares until the next remake comes out.
  2. Originality: 6– It is a remake, so the score can’t be that high, but they did a good job keeping it new and modern while keeping the essence of the original.
  3. Blood: 10- If this scale went higher, I’d give it a higher rating. The whole movie is a revolting, bloody mess. It’s beautiful
  4. Believability: 6- They did a pretty good job keeping things authentic. The acting was solid and it’s all so simple, there’s not a lot of places to mess that up.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 8- Great camera angles and tracking shots. There were a lot of shots that were reminiscent of the original. Camera shooting through the woods, quick-cut montage of the hero MacGyvering some contraption to save the day (Ash’s chainsaw arm) etc. 

Final Score: 38/50                                                                                              

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Quarantine (2008) – John Erick Dowdle

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These days, it’s hard to find a movie that’s really truly original. Everything is either an adaptation of a book, a remake of a something from the 70’s 80’s or an American bastardization of a great foreign film. Modern horror movies are no exception to this rule. Hollywood has churned out tons of horror remakes from successful international films (often unbeknownst to the U.S. audience). The effectiveness of these films generally falls short of the original. A few exceptions come to mind however, The Ring, Let Me In, and today’s featured film: Quarantine. Directed by John Erick Dowdle, this 2008 remake of the Spanish found footage flick [REC], does its job pretty well. It doesn’t quite deliver the same punch that the original did, but it’s a solid remake, that remains true to the things we loved about [REC].

That being said, as I watched this, I found myself asking, “why did they even make this movie in the first place?” It’s really almost a shot-for-shot remake of the original, with a dumbed-down ending and explanation. So the answer to “why?” is simple. Some people are too fat, lazy, and stupid to read subtitles while watching a movie. Hollywood spotted a great movie and wanted to cash in on it. Rather than directly releasing it in its original version, they decided to reshoot the entire thing in English so that they could get $10.50 from the all the drunken, meth-head rednecks who would never go see a movie with subtitles. My response to that is: we should not cater to the knuckle-dragging lowest-common denominator. If Honey Boo Boo’s mom won’t strap herself and the rest of her litter of toothless, illiterate swine to the back of a flat-bed truck and waddle down to the local theater because the movie “ain’t even in English” then fuck them. That should be the threshold for mandatory sterilization.

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But I’m getting a little off topic. I’m going to forgo a long-winded review of this movie because it really is exactly the same as REC, which I reviewed a couple of months ago. The movie follows a camera crew who is shadowing some firemen on a rescue call to an apartment building. The building is infested with ravenous zombies who start eating everyone. The CDC/military locks the building down and quarantines them inside. They try to escape/find out the cause of the disease and they find something horrible in the attic. You should really just watch the original instead. Same movie, but it’s scarier. If you take this movie out of context and don’t look at it as a remake, then it’s a solid horror movie. It’s scary, suspenseful, intense, and has a decent story. It’s paced really well and it keeps you on your toes throughout the whole thing.

I know it’s not really fair to just review this movie by comparing it to the original, but if you don’t want that kind of comparison, then don’t spend $15 million remaking a movie shot for shot. Though it’s basically the same movie, there are a few things that I didn’t like about this one. I think they sacrificed some of the slow-building suspense for in-your-face intense action. This fast-paced action was in the original too but I think they ramped it up in the remake at the expense of the overall feeling of terror.

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There’s not really a whole lot more to say about this one. It looks just like the original. The acting, directing, and writing are good, just like the original. Everything is almost as good as the original. Really there was no point to this movie- just selling cheap thrills to illiterate hillbillies.

The verdict: It’s good, but don’t bother. Just go see the real one. And if the thought of sitting through a 92 minute movie while reading subtitles is unpleasant to you, then go stab yourself in the eyeballs with a rusty pocket knife and watch this one. You’ll still be able to hear all the dialogue in English.

  1. Is it scary: 6- It’s definitely scary but I think something is lost from the original. They cranked up the voltage on the action and it didn’t quite have the scare caliber anymore.
  2. Originality: 1- Literally almost exactly the same. Nothing new whatsoever. The only thing they changes was the reasoning behind the infection. And the new explanation was worse.
  3. Blood: 7- Definitely a bloody mess. That was the best part of this one. They stayed true to the gore factor.
  4. Believability: 4– As with the original, I had problems believing that people would do a lot of what they did in this movie. I just felt that peoples’ reactions to the situations were unrealistic.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 5- Found Footage: Minus 1 point. They seemed to use the found footage as a way to get around showing us certain things. I want to see what’s happening. It doesn’t add to the authenticity or believability to have the camera shaking everywhere. Even if it did, would it be worth it at the cost of showing the audience what’s going on? No.

Final Score: 23/50

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Halloween 2 (2009) – Rob Zombie

Happy Halloween Everyone. If you’ve been paying attention, over the last month, I’ve reviewed all the movies in the Halloween franchise from John Carpenter’s terrifying classic, to Rob Zombie’s over-stylized brutal remakes and everything in between. “The Shape” has been slashing throats and crushing skulls for over 30 years now and it’s not clear whether he’s done. At this point, I really hope there is another sequel, either to the original storyline or even to the 2000’s reboot. (Rob Zombie has publicly stated that he has no interest or desire to be involved with any sort of Halloween 3 which is good news for everyone.) Both storylines left the door open for another installment so from a true Michael Myers fan, I’m hoping we haven’t seen the last of him.

Rob Zombie’s 2009 Halloween 2 was an epic shitstorm. Like we’ve seen in several of the previous Halloween sequels, we’re seeing the filmmakers trying to retrofit this complex and convoluted backstory where it doesn’t belong. It takes away from the present storyline and the urgency of what’s happening to the characters. It over-explains things to the point of insignificance (I’ll get back to this). It’s fairly clear that Rob Zombie had no actual storyline left and he just wanted to make a snuff film. He even alludes to, but then awkwardly strays from the Halloween II storyline we know and love (Laurie strode in the hospital). The whole movie is poorly constructed and seems to be an attempt to upset the audience rather than entertain them. Some of the death sequences are so drawn out and painful to watch that it borders on torture porn. Also MICHAEL MYERS ISN’T EVEN WEARING A MASK MOST OF THE TIME. What the fuck, Rob?

Warning: This review contains spoilers to the previous film and some early parts of this film.

Ok, like the original HII, this movie opens right where the first one left off. If you remember, the first Zombie film ended with Laurie Strode introducing Michael’s cranium to a .357 Magnum round from a range of about 8 inches. That’s goodnight nurse, I don’t care who you are. They take her to the hospital and there’s a graphic, painful, and drawn-out surgery scene where she’s screaming and crying. It’s not fun to watch. Michael kills the morticians (He actually saws homeboy’s head off with a piece of broken windshield.) Then Michael heads to the hospital and plays a little more goodnight nurse. You’re like, “OK this is cool. Just like the original HII. But no. After 20 minutes of this, we realize the hospital scene is all a dream. Cut to 2 years later and Laurie is seriously traumatized and losing her shit- to the point where it’s annoying. One second she’s freaking out, screaming and crying and the next second she’s happy go lucky. I think this was sloppy writing/directing rather than complex psychology at play.

We find out that Michael’s body was never found and even though everyone thinks he’s dead, Laurie is still scared that he’ll come back. Malcolm McDowell is back as a snotty rich Loomis who wrote a book about the murders and all he cares about is publicity and book sales. This Loomis is a complete dildo. Nothing like Donald Pleasance’s Loomis or even the Loomis from the first Rob Zombie Halloween. There’s no cohesive story-line really. We just see Laurie unraveling and Loomis being a dickhole while Michael Myers killing random and inconsequential people for an hour and a half with or without a mask (By the way, without the mask, he looks like a giant Rob Zombie-I wonder if that was an accident). There’s a ludicrous showdown at the end and too many important characters get killed. It’s just like they gave up on writing-cranked out the last 15 or 20 pages in like a half an hour and started filming. After the hospital dream scene, this didn’t even feel like a Halloween movie.

One of the most annoying things was the way they tried to explain Michael’s rationale for killing even more. Occasionally we’ll see things from Michael’s point of view. We get a little further into his psyche and are subjected to a silly persistent hallucination he has. He imagines himself as the child in the clown costume from the beginning of the sage. His mother is there in a white dress egging him on to kill again. Ultimately, she wants him to kill his sister so their family can be together again. There’s some nonsense about a white horse and the Moody Blues song “Knights in White Satin” plays whenever Michael is coming. It’s all a little overcooked and yet underdeveloped. Nice try Rob but this white theme is a little heavy-handed for my taste and it didn’t quite land.

Ok, so the directing sucked, the writing was asinine, the characters were weak and underdeveloped, and the overall execution of the Halloween theme was questionable at best. Were there any redeeming qualities of the (so far) final page in the Michael Myers saga? Yes. The way this thing is shot is actually pretty great. It just looks scary. Zombie and the lighting/cinematography team did a great job making this thing look the part. There are some great back-lighting shots with cool silhouettes, interesting camera angles and tracking shots. You could make the argument that it was too dark at times to see everything but if you remember the original, that’s how Carpenter did it too. So props to Zombie on that. Also, true to his roots, Zombie picked a great horror score for this one. The music is not really my taste, but it fits well in this type of brutal horror movie. Heavy industrial music really sets the tone for what we’re watching.

Overall, the movie is a big swing and a miss, but if you’ve come this far, just watch it so you can say you’ve got the whole series under your belt. And who knows, I’d be surprised if this was the last we see of Michael Myers. Now, I think this movie will get a halfway decent rating below-which just proves that the rating system is not perfect- in fact, far from it.

  1. Is it scary: 3- Don’t make the mistake of confusing blood with scares. This had a few intense moments but overall, not conventionally scary.
  2. Originality: 3- It just felt like reprocessed, repurposed horror/Halloween stuff. It was like the Spam of horror movies.
  3. Blood: 7- Pretty Goddamn bloody. Almost too realistic and traumatic to be enjoyable.
  4. Believability: 2–The story and writing are ridiculous. Characters do the dumbest unbelievable things.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 7- Like I said, Zombie did a good job here. The film is shot very well and really looks scary.                                                                 

Final Score: 22/50

Halloween (2007) – Rob Zombie

Without even a hint of hyperbole or exaggeration whatsoever, I can say that Rob Zombie’s 2007 Halloween remake is not only a crime against the franchise, but against mankind and against nature itself. Not many people know this but Rob Zombie violated 2 UN treaties in the creation of this film and has been officially declared a war criminal. He is currently thought to be hiding out somewhere in the mountains of Argentina.

In his typical fashion, Zombie cranked up the grittiness, the brutality, the swearing, to make this already heavy-feeling slasher even heavier and darker. He brings an element of realism  to it that may be appealing to some fans but I think it takes away from the mystique of the Michael Myers character. I’ll get more into the plot shortly, but Zombie explains away Myers’ psychotic behavior by establishing a traumatic childhood. He takes Michael Myers and turns him into the fucking Columbine shooters.

Myers was so scary because he had no reason to snap and start butchering people. If you explain it away by saying he had a rough childhood and he was bullied, blah blah blah, I think it trivializes Michael Myers. I understand the approach of trying to make him more realistic as a source of more fear, but this changes the movie altogether. Rob Zombie is humanizing the monster. It’s scary in a different way to see an innocent little boy be tormented and mistreated to the point where he snaps. But that’s not Michael Myers. That’s not Halloween. 

The film is long. We spend a lot of time seeing Michael as a child. Zombie is just building his case for Michael to snap. Michael is growing up in a “white trash” kind of house. His mom is actually nice, but she’s got too much going on to take care of little Michael. Also she’s a stripper and kids harass him at school for it. His step dad is a drunk and he’s home all the time on some kind of disability. They scream and fight constantly. His sister Judith is nasty and she’s a skank. There’s a deadbeat boyfriend around too. Textbook toxic home life and family. No support for the kid. One day a bully is messing with Michael and he beats him to death with a log. Then on Halloween night, his mom has to work and his sister is supposed to take him trick-or-treating, but she stays in to bang her boyfriend instead. Michael starts slicing everyone up, except baby sister (Who will become Laurie Strode).

Michael spends 15 years in a mental hospital with Loomis (Malcolm McDowell). We see a good bit of his psychological decline over this time. They play up his obsession with masks and whit his surviving little sister. Finally, Loomis tells Michael that he has failed him because he’s not getting any better. He quits and leaves Michael alone in the hospital. Of course, one day Michael breaks out and heads straight for Haddonfield. Then we basically pick up where the original movie started. Things are mostly the same, though there’s a bigger body count, of course. The ending is a little different, but we’re still set up for a sequel.

In general, this movie has a different feeling or a different tone than all of its predecessors. It feels darker, more visceral, and more serious. It’s less entertaining to me, to watch somebody get killed in a really realistic fashion. I don’t quite know how to explain it. In all of the previous films, there is an inherent screen or filter that removes what we’re seeing from reality. This movie didn’t have that as much. I’m not sure exactly what I’m trying to say, but to me, it is a negative. To be fair, the same point might be seen as a positive from some other horror fans point of view. It’s just not for me.

I don’t think it can be disputed that Zombie took liberties with the storyline that he shouldn’t have. He trivialized the Michael Myers figure and he changed the face of the franchise. If his two installments are the last thing we see of Michael Myers, I’m going to be more than a little upset.

Again, to be fair, this isn’t the worst movie ever. Credit where credit is due. It has some solid scares and it actually tells an interesting story. In my mind though, it didn’t have to be Halloween. It could have just been another mediocre Rob Zombie blood-bath flick. I will say that he did a good job with the Michael Myers mask. Probably the scariest mask of the series. Also, Danielle Harris, who played Jamie Lloyd in H4 and H5 plays Annie-daughter of the sheriff and friend of Laurie’s from the first film.

Overall, the movie isn’t that bad if it stood alone, but I think it took advantage one of the best horror franchises out there and that is just unforgivable. Still, for die hard Halloween fans, it’s a must-see.

  1. Is it Scary: 4- There were some solid scares in this one. Nothing to lose sleep over (to be honest, I had trouble keeping my eyes open towards the end).
  2. Originality: 3- It’s a remake so it can’t be that original. It’s like they watched a 60 minutes special on the Columbine shooting and then watched Halloween and mixed the two.
  3. Blood: 6- True to form, Zombie made this one pretty gory, even for a Halloween movie.
  4. Believability: 4- I guess it was fairly believable. Maybe too much so. There were lots of little distracting issues though. At one point, Loomis is dumping his .357 revolver into Michael and you can clearly see the chambers are empty. Little things like that.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 5: Zombie did an adequate job here. It definitely looks scary.

Final Score 22/50

Dawn of the Dead (2004) – Zach Snyder

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Zach Snyder’s take on Romero’s 1978 classic is really everything you look for in a movie remake. I know a lot of purists will say you can’t improve on the original, but this movie really delivers. It takes everything you love from the original and pumps it full of lots of badass special effects, great sound effects, and buckets of blood, brains, and guts to everything you could want it to be. It’s actually got a good story and it does a good job handling the way people react to having to shoot their friends and loved ones in the face. It makes you care about the characters too, and root for them. And if you pay close attention, the movie begins and ends at dawn. Pretty cool.

The thing about this movie, is that it’s not really a scary movie. It’s an action movie with zombies. If you think of zombies as the mindless, drones from the original or from Night of the Living Dead, then buckle up. These fuckers are fast, agile, and aggressive. As soon as they spot you, it’s all-out sprint, bloody teeth bared and fingers outstretched. I’m a big fan the modern take on zombies-fast and nasty. The classics used overwhelming hordes to corner and catch victims. Today’s zombie-on-the-go doesn’t have time for that kind of thing. I blame the cell phones these kids are using all the time. Nobody has time to wait around for a zombie anymore. But I’m getting off-topic. I like the fast zombies, they’re more exciting.  This is not to say that film doesn’t have its moments of horror. There are lots of suspenseful scenes and shocks, but  they’re fleeting. The horror really comes from the grotesqueness of what’s on the screen.

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So on to the plot. We start out following a nurse (Ana), as she ends a long shift at the hospital, where we overhear the doctor discussing some strange zombielike symptoms. She goes home to her too-perfect husband and within a few minutes, he’s a zombie, everyone is covered in blood and the apocalypse seems very close at hand. Then we have an awesome opening credits montage with a chilling Johnny Cash song and some video of zombie attacks around the world. Anyway, Ana finds a few survivors and they decide to hold up in the local mall. Because why wouldn’t you? Well it turns out that a group of mall security cops is already hiding there, the ringleader of which thinks he’s Clint Eastwood or Paul Blart and he’s a huge dick to everyone.

And then you start to do that horror movie math in your head and you’re like “There’s not enough characters here to rack up a good head-count.” But don’t fret, a truckload (literally) of fresh meat shows up just in time to fill up a few body bags. By now the mall is surrounded by thousands of dripping, dismembered corpses and everyone decides it’s not safe to stick around. Fortunately, one of the survivors has a boat at the Marina down the road and he happens to have the keys on him. Isn’t this just perfect? Oh and also there’s a gun shop across the street. So remember, kids, Just because the world is ending and there are body parts and brains flying all around you doesn’t mean you’re unlucky. So as their number slowly drops, then gets back up again, then gets shot in the face, then drops again, our little squad of survivors hatches a plan to escape and get to the boat and sail to safety. Needless to say, there are some complications with that plan.

Anyway, the point is that the story is just what it needs to be. Let’s be honest, the goal of movies like this is to rack up a serious body-count and to spray as much blood across the screen as you can. And Snyder hits it out of the park with this one. All while actually telling a good, albeit simple, story. The characters are well-developed and we care what happens to them. The movie does a great job of treading the line between believability and absurdity, bringing just enough human emotion to make it relatable to viewers while still being a movie about dead people getting up and eating each other. There are some scenes where you really feel for these characters. The girl who’s father has been bitten and knows he’s soon going to die and come back as a zombie. The guy who gets bitten and yells “SHOOT ME!” to his friend because he doesn’t want to come back as one of those things. It does get pretty heavy. But then Snyder brings you back out with some well-placed comic relief or a fresh onslaught of zombies and the resulting gunfight to make you feel better.

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This film combines the best elements of the original and brings them into the 20th century with a big budget and a great script and (for the most part) a great cast. Oh yeah, Ving Rhames is the second lead and he’s the fucking man as usual. There are a couple of cameos of actors/characters from the original as well as some lines of dialog too. Now I know lots of people analyze zombie movies and say that they are some kind of social commentary on how our modern culture, or lack thereof, has left us as angry, destructive, brainless monsters. And don’t think the fact that these people went to the mall escapes this lens of social scrutiny, but that’s not what this review is about.

The movie is awesome. I’d put it up against the best zombie movies out there and I think it stands up as one of the very best, even against the original. I know, I just lost a lot of fans, but you can’t just hold on to a movie because it is the original and then discount everything that comes after it.

Ok, down to business.

  1. Is it scary: 5- Though its got some shocks and some suspense, it’s not the scariest of all time in a traditional sense.
  2. Originality: 6- Well, its a remake so it’s hard to get a lot of point here, but I think it gives the genre a boost of adrenaline and redefines it in a way.
  3. Blood: 10- This movie is drenched in blood, brains and guts. Its fucking disgusting in the best possible way.
  4. Believability: 8- Other than a few larger plot holes, that are pretty necessary for the sake of the genre, its actually pretty authentic, especially in the way that the characters handle the situations.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 7- It’s was fast, intense and it was shot in a way that you could see what was going on. There were some great tight shots that not only showed you all the gore you can handle, but then they were used to keep you guessing whats around the corner. The setting wasn’t particularly scary, but it served its purpose.

Final Score: 36/50

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