Rated: R (Contains intense violence, gore, adult language, sexual situations, and nudity)
Starring: Roger Cross, Daniella Alonso, Bruce Payne, Scott Adkins, and Jesse Garcia
What I love about the promo for Re-Kill is it presents the film as a serious Cops/SWAT team action flick. It really isn’t. The format is far, far different. We’re watching a reality TV show within a movie, essentially. There’s even a slew of eyebrow-raising commercials, including promotional material from an agency tasked with promoting procreation. So after some serious bloodshed, it flashes to a steamy boudoir scene used for sexual propaganda. The first time it happens, it’s a tad startling. Each subsequent time, one’s mind treats it like an actual commercial and tuning out to do something else is an impossible urge to fight. It’s not until the final act that things get serious enough to really snag one’s attention, primarily because the commercial breaks are so outlandish, it kills the tension and they’re forced to start all over again to put viewers on the edge of their seats. Sometimes doing something quirky doesn’t work as planned.
Five years after the zombie outbreak, the entertainment industry has found a way to make a buck from the catastrophe which killed 4.5 billion people worldwide. Case in point, a popular reality TV show called Re-Kill, which follows random squadrons in the newly formed R-Division. The R-Division are the frontline when it comes to containing the undead within the quarantine zones, as well as taking care of any pop-up outbreaks in the United States. Being on the frontline means they’re also painfully aware that things are getting bad again. One squadron is wiped out on live-TV, save Alex Winston. Winston’s new squad has much better luck remaining with the living, completing a couple missions before things start to get weird. Why would someone drive a truckload of re-ans (zombies) into a quarantined zone? The government interrogates the truck drivers and learns of something called the Judas Project hidden in the middle of re-an occupied territory. Since the squad is already familiar with what’s going on, they’re tapped to venture into The Zone, formerly New York City, to investigate. They never expected to find a city of undead who’re smart and forming an army under the leadership of a re-an nicknamed Elvis by now-dead scientists in the failed Judas Project.
Without the commercials breaking up the action, the premise has promise on paper. The actors are pretty stellar; it’s a pleasant surprise to step into the last half of the movie and realize Dark Matter‘s Roger Cross is the new squad’s leader, Sarge. Bruce Payne really nails Winston’s complex moral code, all while being creepy as hell. There’s some characters who’re a tad too abrasive, like every dudebro stereotype is crammed into gun-wielding nutjobs who get their rocks off killing former humans. As for plot? There’s really not one until the final “episode” begins, which is far too deep in a film to finally go, “Oh, by the way, there’s this bad thing happening and we should stop it somehow.”
The production didn’t expend too much effort on the re-an FX makeup, probably because this film is shot first-person POV and once the action starts, hardly any of the zombies get a decent close-up. The basics are good enough here—pale and mottled skin, dark veins, and jagged teeth provide just enough visual cues to sell the look. There’s a small group of hero zombies, but the only difference is they’ve got more veins or a very specific facial wound. Like a lot of shoot-’em-up zombie films, these zombies are terrifyingly fast and move erratically. If they’d used shambling re-ans, the film would have been intolerably slow.
For failing to be what is promised in the promotional material, Re-Kill still manages to check a few boxes on the list genre fans keep in order to determine if a film is worth their time. At the very least, it’s a great excuse to watch people mow down zombies. However, be prepared for a fight to stay interested once the faux commercials kick in. Overall, I give Re-Kill three shattered jaws out of five.
Rated: TV-MA (Contains nudity, adult language, sexual situations)
Starring: Lucy Watters, Gina Piersanti. Adam David Thompson, and Shane West
A mysterious virus spreads across America. It starts out as a simple rash, but eventually the infected become angry, ravenous creatures set to fill a hunger which can never be sated. Ann and Jason thumb their noses at the government’s suggestion that they stay put and instead take off into the woods where Jason grew up to wait it out. If only surviving were as easy as taking off when things get bad. Their foraging skills aren’t enough. Desperation pushes Jason to venture on a one-way mission to get food and medicine. Ann is left alone in the woods with a baby . . . and then by herself completely not long after. Eventually she manages to work out a system to keep herself alive. Time passes. She avoids the insatiable, diseased creatures slowly roaming away from the cities while making daring dashes into abandoned houses to find food. That’s when Ann finds Chris and his stepdaughter, Olivia. The trio start off wary survivors banding together just to stay alive, but tangled emotions and the monsters have a way of turning strangers into family—a really dysfunctional one.
I went into this film expecting more of the same zombie stuff that’s been done before across the genre, especially since low-budget films like this tend to only have the capacity to tell exactly one story. Boy was I surprised once the movie found its footing. First off, Ann is the survivor from the family, not Jason who’s marginally more skilled at outdoor survival. She’s all-in when it comes to doing what’s necessary, including smearing god knows what on herself to mask her scent while on trips to find food. There’s very few moments where the writing made it feel like, “This woman would be a mess and die without her man and child.” Which is refreshing. We know those moments exist, it’s human nature to mourn and fall into depression in the face of so much adversity, but they flit by quick enough to keep the story rolling along. That being said, failing to focus on Ann’s mental anguish doesn’t mean there’s no emotional impact from her losses. That final scene with the baby is gut-wrenching for any parent to endure.
Where things go sideways in this film is when the dynamic between Olivia and Ann is fully flushed out going into the final act. Honestly, the whole emotional twist here leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Everything about this film is solid, except the stepfather fetishism. It’s creepy and unhealthy. Not to mention completely unnecessary. There’s countless ways for the women to fall out with each other which doesn’t demand a love triangle where there shouldn’t be one. Can we stop doing this, writers? It’s not titillating. It’s just gross. Women don’t need sexual rivals in order to find each other’s company problematic—this is one trope I wish would die in a fire already.
Adam David Thomspon as Chris in HERE ALONE. Cinematographer: Adam McDaid
The infected aren’t on-screen much. They’re brought in sparingly because the story is about Ann, not the outbreak. That being said, these zombies are some tough mothers. They’re quick, jittery, ready to eat anything fleshy which lands in their path. The makeup is pretty basic, but well done. These zombies are, for the most part, intact so there’s not a load of gore to dress them up. Primarily it’s all mottled skin, black veins, and whatever blood came from their last meal. Simple. Effective. The zombie makeup didn’t break their budget, but despite that it doesn’t look like something a harried mother slapped on their kid after school because of course Halloween is on a Tuesday—yes, I’ve seen films with makeup that bad. The extras brought in to play the dead are energetic, adding their unique spin on zombie movements which seriously helps raise the tension in the final scenes.
Here Alone starts off a little slow, builds at about the same speed, then rams a car into your knees and takes off toward the ending before you’re sure what’s actually happening. Yet there’s a huge misstep with how the women in the film interact which cannot be overlooked—we must do better as writers to strangle these tropes pitting women against each other, their mental well-being, and their own safety in order to secure a man. That being said, as much as I’d like to give this a higher rating, Here Alone gets three and a half gnawed-on femurs out of five.
Starring Wesley Snipes, Kevin Howarth, Riley Smith, Tanit Phoenix, and Sinona Roman
Oh, oh dear. Today I learned why my gut kept me away from this film for five years. If you want to see what happens when an idea completely misses the mark, here’s your study guide. On paper, if explained somewhat coherently, this is a decent concept. The reality of what they captured does not sell the idea at all, and it’s nearly incomprehensible to boot. Don’t even get me going on these names.
Aman is born to a woman who joins a convent tasked with safeguarding the passage between our world and the underworld where the damned dwell. At puberty, he’s given the boot because he’s a man, and eventually finds shelter with a butcher and her daughter, Sueno. Years pass. The youngsters fall in love. One afternoon he leaves to escort the butcher on a trip; his lover stays at home alone. Men break in and force themselves on Sueno. She hides the horrible truth until nature gives her no choice but to tell Aman. He Flips. His. Lid. Hunts down Kansa and his gang, cornering them in a jail and killing everyone inside—except Kansa’s guilt-ridden son who hung himself. Something goes wrong, Aman is killed. His grief-stricken mother literally talks the Devil into bringing Aman back, but the catch is everyone he murdered comes back a zombie. Oh and she’s gonna die. The rest of the film is Aman chasing the zombie gang around while Kansa frantically searches for a way to revive his son—not to mention constantly harvesting new skins because theirs rotted off. There’s even a plucky young sidekick for Aman, Fabulos. Did I mention this is all set in a vaguely wild west setting?
If only the plot were even that coherent in practice. The story comes out in disjointed flashes between several locations and time periods. About halfway through we finally figure out where the hell the zombie thing came from. The language used for some characters is unpleasant and sounds forced. The action suddenly flashes to the rape scene far too many times; because surely we need everyone’s POV. Not really. It’s hard to keep track of who is where and when. The zombie lore is even a bit sketchy because there doesn’t seem to be a uniform rule for how they’ll come back. Some return as revenants, just hungry and lunging at whatever they see. The rest pretty much maintain their wits, but it’s suggested they lose their humanity, and skin, each time Aman kills them but doesn’t decapitate them.
The makeup is pretty neat. I’m fascinated by the lizard zombie. Kudos to whoever came up with that idea. When it finally clicked in my mind what’s going on with the guy’s head, I had to pause and laugh. Visually, the film is pretty neat. None of the FX makeup is so lacking it pulls you from the movie, save one or two moments where they try something hard to do with practical effects, and you can tell. It happens. The costumes are covetable. Honestly, about half an hour in it really just feels like someone wants to play cowboy, so let’s doll up—and why not toss in some zombies? But the zombies have to talk because otherwise viewers really wouldn’t have a clue about the actual plot.
In the end, I’m judging this one purely on what it looks like. If one tries to think too hard about the story they tried to tell, it ends in a headache. Edited together differently, it might be salvageable. As-is, this is a pretty mess. I’m giving it one and a half punctured lungs out of five.
Rated: Not Rated (contains intense gore, adult language, and violence)
Starring: Benjamin Engell, Troels Lyby, Mille Dinesen, Ella Solgaard, and Marie Hammer Boda
Dino and Pernille Johansson live with their small family in an idyllic town, Sorgenfri, where it’s so peaceful, the teens are bored to death by the end of summer vacation. That doesn’t last long. Shortly after the new girl, Sonja, moves in across the street, things start to get weird in Denmark. The news features public service announcements on proper hygiene in hopes of staving off a virus sweeping the countryside. It doesn’t work. Sorgenfri is quarantined. The Johansson family are trapped inside, stealing glimpses through the black tarps covering their home as the military takes over once-quiet streets. One by one, the townsfolk are removed from their homes and carted off in semi-trucks. Others are forcibly stopped by the military. Gustav, the Johansson’s son, gets curious and breaks out of the house to snoop on the armed men, and perhaps check in with Sonja as well. Of course, he makes matters worse.
Let’s be frank, this film isn’t anything we haven’t seen on-screen before. I’ve seen versions of similar trapped-house horror plots for decades. What We Become takes the zombie genre back to its simplistic roots in an era where we’ve been given blockbuster after blockbuster, and even the TV shows are approached like they’re feature films cut into chunks to air each week. What you see is what you get with this film. There’s one main location. A tiny cast. Most of the action is through stolen glimpses outside, the news, or during one of the few seriously ill-thought outings to confront what’s really going on in Sorgenfri. It’s NotLD in Danish. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s simply a predictable thing, which will be what keeps genre fans from calling this film one of their top-whatever. Simple films can be well done, though. This is a perfect example.
Because most of the tension is based on how the family interacts and reacts to an unknown threat, the zombies are saved for the final act in the film. We’re given a quick look at the undead chaos at one point, but the full-frontal shambling dead came in the last fifteen minutes or so. From that point on, it’s all snarls and gnashing teeth. The makeup takes a soft approach to the newly turned zombies. Some hero zombies are pretty gruesome; one of the first we see clearly is pretty torn up. To go from the restrained first acts in the film where the zombie action was off-screen to the undead taking over the town in minutes is jarring, tampered by the makeup on the newly turned, especially those who turn inside the house. They almost look like vampires up until the feeding begins.
The final zombie action is undercut perfectly with one last bout of family drama. What happens when one of their own is ready to turn? It’s a wonderful final moment for the actors. This cast is pretty solid and did what they could with the script. Unfortunately, that script leads most characters down a path which ends with several attempts to fix their circumstances by attempting to leave the quarantine area or interact with the military on their turf. It goes about as well as you’re thinking.
What We Become is a pretty solid toe-dip into zombie storytelling. Yes, it has predictable parts. However, the cast saves the film from being tiresome. Come for the high-tension acting, stay for the comfortable feeling of watching just another zombie movie. Sometimes we all need to unwind and watch cannibalistic monsters terrorize a family, along with a few select neighbors. I’m giving this film three and a half severed arms out of five.
Well, this one is a bit different. I went in expecting an established zombie apocalypse scenario. Instead we get a rather unique approach to the zombie origin story. While, yes, this is foremost Maya’s story about getting away from her horrifically dysfunctional household in order to strike out on her own with someone she feels she can trust, the film is at its roots a graphic cautionary tale about drugs and chemical lab safety procedures.
Always, always dispose of illicit drug lab waste properly, lest you bring on Armageddon.
The script isn’t earth-shattering beyond the unique creation story—one which I’d certainly never considered before, and applaud the writer on thinking outside the box in a genre which has been bogged down by Romero and TWD fanfics for too long. That being said, the dialog is often clumsy, or leans heavily on stereotype jargon—like Gault’s dom-heavy dialog, especially in the scene where he randomly corners and belittles Maya about garbage etiquette in their dilapidated, condemned eyesore. Surprisingly, there are personal stories for each building tenant, except for one poor guy who spends the entire film too ill to leave his apartment, let alone participate in the aggressive, murderous side-effects of exposure to the chemical fumes. But like the dialog, there’s quite a bit borrowed from the Lazy Writer’s Guide to Messed Up Characters.
Special effects crews worked overtime on the late-stage infection looks and sight gags. It’s safe to say, most of the production’s focus landed on the last half an hour of pure blood-drenched action. They really dug in, going for the most disgusting things they could think of, within only a slim semblance of reason—again, my mind wanders to that poor guy who never left his apartment and I can’t help but shudder. There’s no formula for the zombie look, since the method of exposure is so unique. But for the most part, they just start rotting, their mind as well. The mixture of real violence and hallucinated violence pushed the final act right over the cliff.
Better yet, that final act actually kept me on the edge of my seat—something which hasn’t happened at all during the last few films I’m reviewed. The tension is beautifully stretched by characters like Roxy, who easily stole the scene anytime she showed up. Roxy’s story is one of few which get some serious on-screen time. Unfortunately, her role is constantly victimized to the point of ridiculous, and all to perpetuate an ugly stereotype. The script failed Roxy. The actor salvaged what they could to deliver a stellar performance. Combine the few standout actors with the locked building thriller vibe and the last act just works. But, boy, you have to sit through some weird dialog and character choices, first. No one in the building is sane before the chemical fumes, after they are a million times worse. Watching Gault and Murphy’s slow decline is probably the most uncomfortable because it feels like an S&M tourist tried, and failed, to write a comprehensive depiction of the live-in BDSM lifestyle.
This film wraps with open-ended possibilities for the universe, my favorite. It alludes to government officials stepping in to cope, which as genre fans know is a signal that things will only get worse from then on out—governments always try to weaponize something they shouldn’t. Maya’s final scene is intense, intentionally misleading, and perfectly caps the bloody final act.
Condemned could have a higher rating, but for heavy-handed use of several unfortunate stereotypes, I’m only giving it 3 bursting eyeballs out of 5.
Reviving that which is Not Dead Yet by R.C. Murphy
One does not simply march into Cannes four months after dropping what was billed as the final film in a franchise and announce a new six-film deal to revive it.
But that’s exactly what Martin Moszkowicz, chairman of the board for Constantin Film, did during the international film festival. With absolutely no plan under their belt, the production company, which already owns film rights to Resident Evil, announced hopes for a six-film arc in an upcoming reboot. Variety scooped the original interview, but couldn’t get any juicy details from the chairman during their chat. Probably because no one was ready for him to jump out and announce something this big so soon.
Days after Moszkowicz’s Variety interview, Deadline dug up more dirt on this poorly-timed revival. According to them, the first film installment will be directed by James Wan (Saw, Aquaman). Wan made a name for himself in the horror industry, delivering films which on the page could become utterly ridiculous, but often end up being at the very least fun thrill-rides for the audience. I’ll never forget the night I sat to watch Dead Silence as a joke and wound up sleeping with the lights on. His work on Saw set the tone for virtually every scary flick released after 2004. It’s almost natural for anyone working in the genre to court Wan, and I don’t blame the RE team for wanting someone solid to lead the charge.
The wildcard in Constantin Film’s plan is the writer slated to bring a new voice to the franchise which earned $1.2 billion in its lifetime. Greg Russo is currently working with Wan on the upcoming Mortal Kombat revival. And that’s about it for his film writing career from what I managed to find. As a RE fan, that’s cause to raise a brow. A seemingly untested writer is handed one of the largest horror franchises with no notice and no plan from the production company besides grabbing Wan and apparently whoever he’s currently tied to professionally. A few articles said the MK script wasn’t half bad. But Constantin Film still demands massive faith from fans if they expect us to forgive rushing the original franchise into its grave, then they hand the lot to someone we’ve never heard of except that he’s working with a well-known horror director.
Wan’s name alone won’t make Resident Evil live again. Constantin Film hung the future for the reboot onto Russo’s ability to capture the magic which made the games so popular and drove the film franchise into horror history. It’s almost too much pressure to put on one person. Like someone simply walked up on Monday and said, “Here, we just told the public this is the last movie, but we’re going to have you rewrite the entire thing from the start. Don’t muck it up.” As a writer, I’d run far from that offer.
Keep in mind, there is no actual script yet. Everything has been announced, but all parties are currently focused on other productions. It’s entirely possibly Constantin Film will never get the Resident Evil reboot off the ground, or they’ll change the main production team before filming begins. These folks want to talk a big game in order to remain relevant, or simply to keep the film rights. There’s no planning behind this announcement; it’s giving me little faith in what’s to come.
Jovovich, the face of the film franchise since its inception, delivered this parting shot for the new Resident Evil team during an interview with ComicBook.com. “I would suggest that you find people that have that same passion for the property before you talk about reboots. I think if you get into this kind of genre, people are very sensitive to fakes. There’s some real fans in the sci-fi/action/horror world, and they’re not idiots. They can smell when something is done because people love it and when something is done just to monetize an opportunity.”
If you were given the monumental task of writing the first Resident Evil reboot film, what changes would you make to the universe, or do you prefer the tale laid out by the original series? Personally, I dig the idea of a reboot because they never did reach the universe’s full potential. However, the timing makes this news like dancing in the cooling ashes of a funeral pyre. It’s the ultimate case of, “Too soon, bro.”
Zombie Reviews . . . Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
By A. Zombie
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies delivers a timeless tale, rife with fighting, set in a post-apocalyptic, yet historical era. You can’t deny that it is oddly satisfying to watch a group of accomplished young women mow down a ballroom of zombies with naught but long daggers—which were concealed under their gowns—and some serious martial arts skills. Are there issues meshing the worlds? Of course. In the end, the film is visually satisfying enough to overlook most of it. As a boon, fans of the Pride and Prejudice story still find enough of the source to reconnect with their favorite characters in a whole new way. Or, as is one case, finally come to somewhat like what is possibly the most annoying character in literature.
Sam Riley and Douglas Booth in Screen Gems’ PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.
The Pride and Prejudice story has enough twists and turns to make it a compelling tale. Adding in the undead posed a particular problem: How to keep the romance in the forefront without compromising a solid story about love’s place in the social structure by changing the setting to the apocalypse. In order to achieve this the quickest way possible, the film doesn’t open with the Bennet ladies and their marriage-worried parents—I will note that post-apocalypse Father Bennet has no interest in wedding off his daughters, only training them to survive. Instead, it begins with Darcy on the hunt for a zombie hiding in the midst of the upper crust. As far as first impressions goes, it’s a pretty sharp introduction. The first zombie isn’t a rotter, held back from the full transformation because he didn’t consume human flesh. Nevertheless, he’s infected and must be dispatched. It’s the first-person point-of-view kill which ruins the scene’s impact. Darcy is cunning and ruthless, then there’s this cheesy head-rolling moment with the camera. When it recovers from the point-of-view shift, the camera pans upstairs to a second, far more detailed zombie before the scene changes. The scene is crammed in before the traditional start to the PaP story, and the outcome of Darcy’s escapade, plus his failure to kill the second zombie, is dragged in again as a way to bring zombies to Bingley’s first party. At least it isn’t a single-purpose moment.
For the most part, the story itself is predictable if one is aware of the source material. There’s very few surprises, like Lady Catherine’s part as a one-eyed, sword-wielding leader in the human forces fighting the dead for control of London and the surrounding countryside. Even Wickham’s true nature, beyond being a cad and a narcissist, isn’t really shocking if one follows the natural progression of how the original book unfolds. I would’ve liked to see more effort to adapt the full story into something different. Lady Catherine remaining on the side of the angels bugs me in particular, seeing as she’s pretty awful to Elizabeth no matter what incarnation of PaP is being told. It would’ve been more shocking for her to side with Wickham over a common undead state than to willingly take in the Bennets, whom she sees as barely above her lady’s maid in social status.
Lily James and Bella Heathcote in Screen Gems’ PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.
This is one horror film where it’s hard to do what we’re accustomed to: hoping all the lead characters bite the big one. Primarily, PaPaZ is a romance with relatable, quirky characters. The zombie war is there in the background to give Elizabeth and Darcy something to bond over, to put them on equal footing at last. That’s the big difference in this retelling of the classic. Elizabeth isn’t some seemingly-damaged suitcase her parents try to sell Darcy—and any other man without a bride— with no concern for her feelings. Yes, Mrs. Bennet’s marriage obsession plays a huge role in breaking apart the primary couple, as it always does, but it’s not as depressing as usual when looking at what Elizabeth has accomplished without a husband. Her prospects with zombies raiding England are better than they were in the actual historical era, all because their new society saw an education with the key sources far beyond the country’s borders as the only way to survive the menace—looking out to find a way to fix the problems within is something few societies embrace. Her progress in women’s self-empowerment doesn’t stop the entire Parson Collins plot from happening, though. He still arrives, annoys, and marries a Bennet daughter. Only this time around, Collins is somewhat tolerable because Matt Smith made him a bumbling fool, not a man coldly calculating how to sleep his way ahead in Lady Catherine’s good graces. Collins provides another opportunity to sew zombie conflict into the Bennet’s lives, but the potential went unchecked. The writer had a focus; Wickham’s established part as villain would be upheld. But why is he the villain? Why not any of the numerous people in Elizabeth’s life who degraded her for her gender or her place in society? Answer? He took a woman (property in the era) without permission. It’s a trope so old, I really hoped it would remain in the classic story and they’d do something different for the Wickham/Lydia plot.
The zombies in the film range in appearance. For the most part, they’re seen at a distance in groups. Few zombies get the close-up treatment, even fewer actually show grotesque wounds like traditional undead depictions. When the camera does get up close and personal with a zombie, I cringe. The design overall is great. Having undead waltzing around in these grand gowns and waistcoats strikes an oddly-pleasing discord. The illusion blows to pieces when one realizes there’s little practical gore on the actors. Featured dead have digital wounds; presumably to enhance the ick, plus make wounds deeper and move naturally during dialog. However, even the church girls on-screen for all of a minute appear to have digital rot on their cheeks instead of practical makeup. That’s where the design decisions stop making sense and become a headache for genre fans. The film cost enough without making the makeup digital. In a way, it feels we were cheated from a proper zombie battle scene because of the zombie design relying on digital gore. Yes, there’s a rather tense bit toward the end when they finally confront Wickham and the undead at St. Lazarus, but the camera is pulled back. Distance from the main threat in the film leaves the undead with the menace of a mosquito, not a lion hunting the countryside. It robs a little justice from Lydia’s rescue, as well, when there’s no real danger from zombies who are too far away to see clearly.
Overall, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies delivers what it promised: A classic story with zombies wandering in to seriously ruin everyone’s day more than Darcy’s absent sense of humor. Is it a perfect retelling of Austen’s novel? Hell no. Is it a decent zombie flick? Yeah, I’ll give it that. PaPaZ gets four majorly dislocated jaws out of five. Grab the film to enjoy beautiful things covered in blood n guts, stay for the witty snits between Darcy and Elizabeth.
Yeah, the warning is right on top this week. We’ve got a lot to discuss and little time to pussyfoot around with generalizations and all that rubbish. You guys waited months for this episode. Was it worth the anger at the producers and writers who said we’d be glad for so much time to stew over who died? Do you feel cheated by the dual deaths? How about all that brain matter on the ground, was it too much? Most importantly, are any of us really feeling the emotion between Rick and Negan or will the directors continue leading it to an awkward place where it’s laughable?
I, personally, feel cheated out of the surprise. The producers showed their hands months ago when they continuously stated that the show would gradually realign with what happens in the comic books. One death talked about constantly is Negan murdering Glenn. Hell, someone just released an action figure featuring Glenn’s mangled face as it’s shown on the page—which is almost identical to what’s on screen for that heartbreaking apology to Maggie. Almost in the same breath as the realigning statements, TWD higher-ups denied that Glenn would die. Red flag. Red flags everywhere. It was raining them at SDCC 2016. Since then, I’ve spent the time away from TWD saying goodbye to my favorite character. So when Negan first hit Glenn, my reaction was a resigned sigh. Then profanity, and more sighing. The show which constantly states they want to break boundaries and do new things is still utterly predictable.
Abraham’s brutal murder wasn’t overly shocking either if one stops for even a minute to think as Negan would when sizing up his newest assets. Manipulation is his bread and butter. One look at Rick’s people and how they handled interactions with the Saviors told Negan everything he needed to know—kill Abe because he’s ride-or-die loyal, keep Daryl because he’s mentally fragile and can be manipulated just like Rick. This is easy for Negan. Twisting people’s minds to do what he wants is the sole reason he’s not rotting in a walker’s gut. So why would an astute audience willingly overlook this? Why, TWD writers, would you go for the two characters who make the most sense if your desire was to shock, surprise, and devastate? Anyone with half a brain who tunes in regularly knew we’d lose Abraham. Daryl sells too much merchandise. Rick’s demise would’ve been awesome, but ultimately disappointing because the lead-up to the murder scene was so lackluster and drawn-out. Killing a woman would’ve started a feminist war in the fanbase. Carl was a good candidate, but he’s got too much potential to carry the show forward now. Plus in Negan-sense, he’s a carrot to dangle in front of Rick to ensure good behavior. The remaining gentlemen, as much as we adore them, just wouldn’t have the same impact. I would’ve been more shocked by that scene if Negan didn’t kill anyone, but just as pissed off with the direction the show took for the season premiere.
I mean, since when is five minutes of Rick staring at a set we’ve already seen before gripping television? He’s supposed to have a breakdown during the whole axe-fetching scene. Okay, that’s believable. So why did it involve long shots of walkers shuffling through smoke cut with the footage shown at SDCC with Lucille and the main cast? The scene felt like something from an indie band’s music video—a lone, agonized man surrounded by the cheesiest surroundings ever, just to feel spooky. Then, to make the death scenes mean even less, they show clips with Rick imagining everyone else getting a kiss upside the dome from Lucille. Why? We already know what he’s thinking. A good actor can do that, and Andrew Lincoln is no slouch when it comes to his face betraying every thought in Rick’s head.
They wanted to come into the Negan Era with a loud noise. In order to make noise, the plot’s gotta move faster than a snail’s pace. Inertia. Ever hear of it? The ball doesn’t roll and keep rolling without a hell of a push. It took the show fifteen minutes to get to the murders. I almost turned it off, thinking they’d strung us along for yet another week, and I was done if that were the case. It wasn’t, but the scene is buried so far in the episode, it does no good other than to turn stomachs. The only reason the scene is hidden in the episode is because of the backlash from the season six cliffhanger. Many fans felt as I did; we’ll watch the opening scene for season seven to learn who died and move on to another, more entertaining show which actually strives to write coherently. In a direct thumb-nosing to the noise-makers speaking against the cliffhanger, they cut together the episode just to make us wait through a couple commercial breaks. How nice of them to ensure the show makes a buck from a group who’re pretty likely to throw out their TWD fan badges after learning who died. I’m not tossing my badge in the fire just yet because I have hope the Negan era will smooth out, but it’s a near thing after this episode.
The violence in the episode really struck some sour notes across the fandom. Every complaint I see is met with a laugh. Fans derided the writers when there wasn’t enough undead violence. They scream for blood anytime a character or group disrespects the main cast. Yet the bad guy, who we’ve been warned about constantly since the show began by fans of the comics, comes in and does exactly what he’s supposed to, and it’s suddenly too much for the delicate flowers planted on their couches. Take up gardening if you can’t handle fake blood on a show centered on how messed up humanity is without actual rules to govern it. Were the close-ups too much? Possibly. I’m not one to judge. Horror and gore are my jam. I only started watching TWD to see what KNB FX could do with extended time to develop creatures and death gags; they’ve yet to disappoint. I will state that wanting a show built on the premise of killing things in order to survive to shy away from gruesome murders is like expecting a unicorn to lick away your tears while curing cancer. It won’t happen.
For the most part, we already knew what’d happen plot wise: Someone dies, Rick and Negan have a long moment to deal with Rick’s stubbornness, the Alexandria crew is absorbed by the Saviors, and Maggie wants blood, but she’s in no position to even walk, let alone lead a war. Daryl as the cause of Glenn’s death was the lone surprise for me—as I stated, I saw the death coming, just not how it’d happen. We’ve waited since Merle’s death for Daryl to be relevant to the plot again and now I want him to be the next big death on the show. Why? Because Daryl knew dang well that someone else, not him, would die for that single punch. They all knew Negan’s M.O. by that point. Abe died because of Rick’s hubris, yet that wasn’t lesson enough for everyone’s apocalyptic savior? Yeah, no. I’m beyond done with their failed attempts to make Daryl into an actual character. He’s been a two-dimensional promotional tool for so long, they’ve forgotten the character has a brain.
Now that the clunky season opener is behind us, maybe the ball will roll through season seven better. But, wait, we’ve still got a whole ‘nother group to introduce over at The Kingdom. If that episode is as awkward and poorly timed as the Negan/Rick glare-downs in the RV, I don’t know how much longer they can continue to pretend they know how to produce a show, let alone write one with so much potential for real depth and ability to shine a light on the massive problems in today’s society. They keep dropping the ball. I’m tired of waiting for someone in the TWD production office to finally pick it up and run it in for a touchdown. It’s time they returned to giving fans entertainment of substance instead of shilling the Walking Dead name and filling their coffers.
A. Zombie Reviews . . . Dead Set Episodes 1 & 2 By A. Zombie
I’ll tell you right now, two episodes into Dead Set and I still have nothing emotionally invested in the show’s contestants. That’s not to say I haven’t found someone to root for during the end days—Kelly steals every scene she’s in, vastly improving what could have been five episodes of uninspiring reality stars wandering around until they were eaten.
I’d totally cheer if they were all eaten. I might even wave pompoms.
The show opens with a typical afternoon leading up to another eviction from the BB house, as dictated by fan votes. The household prepares, some touching up their nails, others banging out their nerves behind closed doors. In the production office, Kelly delivers an endless stream of coffee to the crew. The producer, Patrick, demonstrates what a skuzzball he really is while cutting together highlight reels for the event and barking orders at his frazzled staff. Nothing is amiss until we catch snippets from news reports—strange deaths, attacks on police, etc. The reports grow in severity, leading Patrick to worry his precious eviction episode will be preempted in favor of a news bulletin. God forbid.
Eventually, the chaos reaches the remote location for the BB house and production office. The first zombie to arrive is a company driver—injured and brought to the studio by a production assistant who was sent with him to fetch a guest for the show. From there, the infection spreads through the gathered BB fans. By the time the evicted housemate, Pippa, makes it to the interview room, most of the crowd has turned. It takes mere minutes for the undead to overrun the offices.
The housemates hear the screams and think Pippa is a smash hit with the crowd. They crack open a few bottles, a few drinks to celebrate surviving to see another eviction night.
Little do they know, they’re probably the only ones celebrating in the UK.
The real story isn’t the housemates or their skeezy producer. Kelly provides the heartbeat, and common sense, for the show. While her love life is a feature in the beginning, it’s a non-issue by the time the second episode rolls out. There are a few amazing solo scenes with Kelly doing whatever it takes to survive. It’s not until she takes refuge in the BB house with the remaining cast that we realize she’s the entire braintrust. Where they are keen to believe for as long as possible that the weird things going on are staged, she’s ready to beat anyone to death who so much as looks undead. She’s also the only one with a plan to get medical supplies when a housemate is bitten.
The zombies themselves are minimally made-up, background creatures relying on pale faces, a few wounds, and blood to convey the undead message. We see a few hero zombies with better makeup, mostly in the second episode. There’s great detail in the close-up gore shots, though they’re so shaky, it’s like a toddler was thrown into the fight scenes with a Go Pro strapped to their head. These are also some seriously fast undead. It raises the stakes drastically when the living cannot outrun the dead. Something missing from other shows relying on compelling characters to drive the plot. Who needs to relate to the characters? Just give us zombie action.
While I’m enjoying Kelly’s story, and it’s the only reason I’ll watch the three remaining episodes, this would be much more entertaining with a better-written cast behind her. Patrick is a toad, utterly disgusting and should’ve died in the initial murders. The housemates barely have a brain cell between them. It makes their scenes difficult to endure to get to the actual story. Hopefully with Kelly breaking the barrier between the BB production team and the housemates, it’ll make their scenes bearable.
In a wicked case of, “Too soon, a-hole,” I was given Burying the Ex to review not long after Anton Yelchin’s passing. Guilt ate at me until I finally watched. It’d be a disservice to an incredible actor to not watch everything he did on the screen. Spoilers, this film delivers exactly what it promises—a lighthearted horror romance with plenty of off-kilter jokes.
The relationship between Max and Evelyn is beyond ridiculous . . . yet not completely off-base in some areas. Keep in mind, Evelyn doesn’t go off the deep, deep end until magic changes the terms of their relationship. The earlier issues Max has with Evelyn are grounded in reality. She’s holding him back from his dream to own his own horror prop shop. All their meals are vegan. Though, Evelyn does have Max’s back when it comes to his hyper-sexual, skuzzball half-brother, Travis. Brotherly love does not extend to banging chicks on your half-brother’s floor just so they don’t know where you live, just saying. There’s no love between girlfriend and half-brother. Evelyn chews Travis out every time he lets himself into their apartment.
Evelyn’s magically-amplified jealousy left a bad taste in my mouth after Olivia’s introductory scene. Evie was unhinged and so neurotic over ice cream, it hit ludicrous fast. The point was to show Evelyn spiraling out of control, eventually leading to her death. Instead, the scene killed all pity for the character and made Olivia the side chick for trying to do her job. Hell, she didn’t ask for Max’s phone number or offer him a lap dance. They both just happen to know a lot about kid’s horror-themed cereal. The clunky jealousy bleeds over to zombie Evelyn’s on-screen time, but isn’t as problematic until the film’s climax.
On the flipside, the secondary romance story is something which would make one sigh, save Max being distracted by a friggen zombie who won’t move out of his apartment. Olivia is the cool, but weird chick most people write as death-obsessed, practically sleeping in a coffin Goth. She’s funny, refreshing, Most importantly, at no point did her scenes become, “Everything you can do, I can do better,” with Olivia doing out of character things just to prove she’s not Evelyn.
On the effects side, things are a little light. Evelyn’s makeup morphs wonderfully from freshly risen to mottled, withered walking dead as the film’s second half plays out. What few other practical effects are in the film are graphic. Viewers can dang near feel the sticky embalming fluid vomit. By the way, there’s a post-credit add-on showing the FX team pumping the goo into Yelchin’s face. He reacted out of character about the same as he did in character.
Burying the Ex is an “It gets better,” note to any weirdo feeling stuck in every aspect of their life. Sure, they won’t end up with an unhinged, jealous zombie sharing their bed, but Max did eventually move on from everything holding him back and making him miserable. I give the film three and a three-quarters cracked skulls out of five.