Friday, March 19, 2004

As for my take on Dawn of the Dead, I consider it the best zombie film since 1968.

Yeah, really.

No, it doesn't have the social satire of Romero's original, nor is it the gorefest that we saw in all three Romero flicks (as well as Peter Jackson's wonderfully funny Dead Alive). I don't care.

Nice as the social satire in the original was (for those who somehow missed it, Romero nicely compared zombies to shoppers), it was a point that was driven home. Making the same point in the remake would be a waste of everyone's money (and only Gus Van Sant is really misguided enough to think folks really want that out of horror remakes). And with the current state of the MPAA, I didn't expect as much gore. Believe it or not, a great horror film can still exist without gore (and plenty of bad ones rely on nothing else, alas).

What makes this work is that it's a genuine horror movie. As in, things that happen are horrifying. Not gross, not always scary, but truly horrible.

What we don't have: cat scares, for one. Not a single bloody one of them. There are also preciously few jump scares (simply using the element of surprise to scare the audience). Nor do we have people not realizing that their friend/lover/child is actually a zombie now and getting killed stupidly. And very few folks wander off alone when they shouldn't (the two instances of someone doing something really, horrifyingly stupid results in those people remaining alive, in fact, although neither are oblivious to how stupid they were).

What we get is an amazingly pervasive sense of dread. We get people slowly losing their sanity (in very different ways). We get characters you genuinely care about. And we get some great performances by folks like Ving Rhames, Sarah Polley, and Mekhi Phifer. That's on top of a witty script by James Gunn. Definitely worth seeing. I'll be posting some spoiler-laden comments next week, when more folks have had a chance to see it.

I expected some critics to dislike Dawn of the Dead, either because it's horror, or because it's not the Romero film. But it's doing damned well at Rotten Tomatoes. One of the few dissenters, though, is Elvis Mitchell of the Times, normally one of the best critics out there when it comes to genre films. His review is so off that at first I assumed that they'd brought back Janet Maslin to reprise her famously irrelevant and clueless take on the original Romero film.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Noted and award-winning horror author, Charles L. Grant, has been diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). As a result, and probably for the rest of his life, he will rely on bottled oxygen to live. Alas, Charles and his wife, Kathryn Ptacek, are without health insurance and their need is great.

A "Fresh Air" fund has been set up to accept donations which will be used to pay the staggering expenses of oxygen and other durable medical equipment required for his care and sustenance. If you can spare ANY amount, the donation would be appreciated.

There are 2 ways to contribute. Mail a check in any amount, made out to Kathryn Ptacek, to:

Fresh Air Fund
c/o Kathryn Ptacek
P. O. Box 97
Newton, NJ 07860-0097

or Paypal: katptacek@yahoo.com

(the above was originally posted at the HWA message boards, although I swiped the text from a posting at Shocklines).

For those not familiar was Grant's work, get to a bookstore (probably a used one, alas, since he doesn't seem to have a single book, not even one of his X-Files novels, that's available for immediate shipping at Amazon), and find any of the Shadows anthologies, which were truly groundbreaking horror collections. Or find any of his novels. And once you've read some of them, take a look at that Paypal address above and send some appreciation his way; it's not charity, it's a grass-roots royalty system for a great writer and editor.
Apologies for the lack of updates -- I'm on a business trip (what, you thought this blog was how I made a living?), and chances to be online have been few and far between.

That said, my hotel's comp copy of USA Today is reporting that the USA network will be showing the first ten minutes of the upcoming Dawn of the Dead remake next Monday.

The bad news: It'll be showing them "sometime between 10 and 10:30 PM" (Eastern Time). The worse news? You'll have to watch Final Destination edited for TV to see it (and, really, even if the Dawn footage isn't edited for TV as well, how good could it be if it can be shown on basic cable?).

My advice? Wait four days and see it in theatres (or, as yours truly is planning, be at a screening of the whole movie while USA is showing their little preview).

Thursday, March 04, 2004

The specs for the DVD of Bubba Ho-Tep (due out May 25) are out, and the disc has the usual load of nifty features, including commentaries by Campbell (two of them, one solo and one with the director), documentaries, etc. But my favorite feature? Joe Lansdale reading his original short story. I'm getting this one the day it's released, no question about it (thanks to DVDFile for the news).

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Just what I've been dying for: Stephen Segal in an underwater action/horror movie. Because I can't think of anything that folks need more than Segal's take on Deep Rising and/or Leviathan.


Monday, March 01, 2004

The preliminary ballot for the Stokers has been posted. Lots of good stuff, as well as lots of stuff that I've been meaning to read. Nothing that struck me as inappropriate -- last year's works by the likes of Anne Rice and Laurell K Hamilton are nowhere to be found, nor did some of the lesser anthologies I read make the cut. I'm not familiar with enough of the first novels to comment on that category until the next ballot emerges, but in all the other categories, I see stuff I like.
In my ever-vigilant attempt to stay on top of week-old news, SciFi.com is reporting that Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow is being adapted for the big screen by George "Mad Max" Miller. Russell's novel combines beauty and true horror (including some grisly torture scenes) in a sci-fi setting, and is one of the best debut novels of the last decade. I'm unsure about the film -- although the novel has a pretty straightforward narative, there's a lot of stuff -- rape, torture, religious themes -- that a director who wanted to take a shorcut (or a studio that wanted to "play it safe") might cut. Still, if they can pull off a movie that's half as powerful as the novel, I'll be happy.
Congrats to Peter Jackson. It's nice to see the guy who gave us aliens drinking vomit (in Bad Taste) and drug-dealing Muppets (in Meet the Feebles, which is still my favorite of his movies) is finally getting recognized for his genius.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Why anal-retentive horror fans shouldn't web-surf:

Sideshow Collectibles has a nifty-looking Jason Voorhees figure, with Jason wearing his Friday the 13th Part 2 pre-hockey mask sack on his head. It looks great (and Sideshow doesn't exactly have a shoddy track record). But all I can concentrate on is the fact that it comes with a pickaxe (or a "pitch axe," as they choose to call it), and the first thought that pops into my head is, "hey, Jason never used a pickaxe in #2!"

And, of course, my second thought was, "Hey, he never used a pickaxe at all."

I could be wrong on this one, but I don't recall Jason (or his mom, or Roy) ever using a pickaxe to off someone in any of the movies. Which seems odd, because he's certainly gone for a variety of weapons throughout his "career." I might be forgetting something in the later movies, but I'm certain that no pickaxes (or axes of any sort, for that matter) appeared in Part 2.

Which doesn't mean I'd object to owning that figure, of course (which also comes with a machete and a pitchfork, the latter of which also didn't appear in Part 2, but did get used before he got his mask in Part 3).

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Much as I don't tend to go for remakes, I'm excited about the new Day of the Dead, which seems blessed with a good cast, a solid screenwriter, and respect for the original. And their website blows me away. They've got all the usual stuff, but what really impresses me is the Undead Timeline, a nice look at the history of Zombie movies (although they lose some points for stopping at 1999, thus omitting last year's 28 Days Later). There's also a nice essay on the history of Romero's original trilogy, and (of course), lots of good content about the upcoming movie
I've long maintained that Bentley Little (whose books I buy pretty much the day they're released) has a very simple method for writing: Something (his homeowner's association, his insurance company, Wal-Mart) pisses him off, so he writes a novel with that entity as Pure Evil, and we get things like The Association, The Policy, and The Store.

Well, according to Amazon, his next book (due out this fall) is called The Resort. I wonder if a certain Southwestern author just came back from Club Med?

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