George A. Romero of the Dead

A look back at some of the good, bad and ugly zombie movies made by the Godfather of Zombies himself, George A. Romero.

Those glasses are magic, I swear.

Those glasses are magic, I swear.

So after watching World War Z (Review Here), I found myself looking back at some of my favourite zombie movies, most of which come from the mind of the one and only George A. Romero. He has currently done 6 movies in his ‘Dead’ series, but which is my favourite and what should come next?

Night of the Living Dead (1968) – About a small group of people trying to survive the night in a farmhouse, Night of the Living Dead started it all. Being in black & white and seen by many to be the first zombie movie (it wasn’t), 45 years later it’s still an extremely creepy movie with a great atmosphere. Despite being black & white it’s actually quite graphic too and can end up leaving a lot to the imagination of the viewer, a very effective technique.

Dawn of the Dead (1978) – No doubt to be one of the most recognized zombie movies ever made, Dawn of the Dead is a lot of people’s favourite of the bunch, but not quite mine. Feeding the fantasy of everyone on earth, being let loose on an empty shopping centre, it’s no surprise so many people enjoy this movie. About 4 survivors taking refuge in an enclosed shopping centre, making it more like home with each passing week, it shares a similar premise to Night of the Living Dead, but with a different backdrop.

Day of the Dead (1985) – Now this is my favourite zombie movie. Ever. The zombie effects by Tom Savini had been perfected from his work on Dawn of the Dead and just the overall tone of the film was much darker in my mind. About the increasing tension between a group of scientists and military personnel seeking refuge in an underground mine, turned into a make-shift lab, Day of the Dead focuses more the threat we have on each other. From the opening scene in the street to the zombie infested mines of the end of the movie, this movie is full of memorable sequences.

Land of the Dead (2005) – After a 20 year wait, George A. Romero sides with a major studio to bring another zombie movie to the big screen. With a bigger budget, George was able to create the zombie movie he had always wanted to. Unfortunately, the studio had a say in a lot of what happened in the film. What we got to see was glimpse of what George really wanted to achieve. Feeling very Hollywood, the movie is about the conflict between the rich and poor in a walled off city that houses the remaining human population, that we eventually see fall victim to the zombies.

Diary of the Dead (2007) – Trying something new, Diary of the Dead adopted the use of the found footage angle. Set against the backdrop of the initial outbreak of the zombie infection, we follow a group of film students as they travel home, documenting what they see. It was a fascinating concept and one I found myself very excited for. Whilst being a decent movie, I feel we needed more zombie hordes and gore for it to feel more like a George A. Romero zombie movie.

Survival of the Dead (2009) – A sequel to Diary of the Dead, sharing some characters for the first time in the George A. Romero ‘Dead’ series, we follow a group of National Guardsmen as they seek out an Island taken over by a family that have been chaining up zombie friends/ family awaiting a miracle cure. This is by far the weakest of the bunch, I found little entertaining about it, only the fact that it was a George A. Romero zombie movie.

Seventh Movie of the Dead (????) – Let’s all face it, George A. Romero isn’t getting any younger. At the age of 73, does he want to be doing this for as long as he lives? All I ask, as do many fans, is that he does one more movie, his big send off. One that goes out with a bang. Large hordes, plenty of gore and likable characters is all I ask for. Of course the chances of this happening are slim at the moment, as there is little to no news of any movement towards another George A. Romero zombie movie. Also, like rumoured for Survival of the Dead before being canned, it should just be called ‘of the Dead’.

To this day, it’s impossible to think of a zombie movie without thinking of one made by George A. Romero. He deserves a chance to bring the pinnacle of zombie movies to the big screen once again, and I sure hope he gets that chance.

-ast

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World War Z (2013) Review

I love this poster.

I love this poster.

Every human being we save, is one less to fight.

Next on the summer blockbuster is list a zombie movie. Wait what? Let me just double-check. Yep, a zombie movie. Who could have guessed that we’d have received a zombie movie in the summer, with the budget and marketing of your standard superhero movie? Not many people, but it’s a welcome change for me personally. Zombie movies are my favourite sub-genre of horror. So to get a movie of this scale, about zombies no less, is an absolute treat for people like me. However, does the production troubles, rewrites and it being rated 15 (PG-13 in the US) hurt the movie? No… but yes.

World War Z has very little to do with the book. Aside from some similar stories that characters tell, this movie feels very much like its own thing. In World War Z we follow United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), as he traverses the world in a race against time to stop the zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments, and threatening to destroy humanity itself.

Now Brad Pitt is the star of this movie. All other actors/ actresses feel like nothing more than story filler and characters that I, as a viewer, wasn’t given the chance to grow to care about. So Brad Pitt has to carry this whole movie, fortunately he does a fine job. I’ve always liked him in the roles he’s played in the past and in World War Z he still delivers. I came to care for his character and sit on the edge of my seat as some of the more intense scenes played out. Daniella Kertesz plays Segan, who becomes a companion character to Brad Pitt’s Gerry Lane. Even though I came to like her, if feel it a shame that we never hear more about her in the scenes she’s in. She has very few lines and it’s a real shame, I would have loved to have heard stories and background on her character as the movie progressed. A missed opportunity in my eyes.

Director Marc Foster has a decent background of movies behind him. Whilst not having seen them all, from the ones I have watched, this could be his best film yet. A lot of camera shots that displayed the destructive force of the zombie horde were very well-chosen. The movie has a great balance of big open scenes that show zombie hordes taking over a city in the matter of minutes, to smaller, quieter, more suspenseful scenes that show how dangerous just a handful of them are. From tight camera shots, to cityscapes show in ruin, Marc Foster has done a wonderful job of making the apocalypse nice to look at.

Mentioned above, but being the biggest surprise of the whole movie, there are quite a lot of suspenseful moments when zombies jumping out of the darkness made me jump out my seat. These were totally unexpected from seeing the trailer, but nevertheless, a fantastic addition to the movie. These scenes helped give World War Z that horror movie feel, when gore and violence is cut back to make a movie more accessible, filmmakers have to be imaginative to make the balance feel fair. It was the inclusion of suspense that achieved that for horror fans like myself.

On to the more expansive, and no doubt expensive scenes of the movie. To be perfectly honest, you see a lot of it in the trailer, so you know exactly what to expect. Hordes of zombies running like a wave of death through the streets consuming everything in their path. It’s quite nail-biting and something I have never seen done before. I liked what they did, it showed numbers as well as these zombies giving off the vibe of being an unstoppable force, even when met face to face with a helicopter mounted machine gun. Felling fresh and original, for the first time ever, I liked the fact that zombies were running.

Speaking of zombies, they’re called that often throughout the movie. Not infected, just zombies. I was nice for a change, let’s just call them like we see them. At first glance, they would remind anyone of the rage infected hordes from 28 Days/ Weeks Later. As we progress through the narrative though, we see zombies that are quite fascinating. When nothing is around, they wander around like a classic zombie. However, when triggered by noise or visual contact with humans, it’s almost like they activate in a way and start to give chase. When in pursuit they also have the tendency to leap onto their victims like some sort of Rugby/ American Football player. This leads to some wonderfully done outbreak scenes, with zombies leaping from victim to victim.

World War Z has a great opening act too. Showing us the initial outbreak in Philadelphia with Brad Pitt’s character and his family in the middle of it all. For any fan of zombie movies, this is total eye candy and as close to the real thing as we would ever want to get. We see zombies throwing themselves at the fleeing crowd of humanity. We also get a glimpse of what people would lower themselves to when such an event would happen. With a possible rape scene and gun being pointed at us and not the zombies. Another standout moment in the movie took place on a plane, without giving too much away, this was incredibly intense.

It’s all been quite positive aside from the disposable cast up until now. So let’s talk about the ending, without spoilers. I didn’t like it. Not a lot of other people did too. My reasoning behind it though, was the fact that it led to making a sequel extremely difficult. I have many ideas that would make a sequel plausible, but at the moment, it seems as though it was filmed to simply make sure nobody could easily make a sequel. A real shame too, from memory, the war against the Undead was a long and brutal fight. So there could have been plenty of stories to tell. I say all this because I wanted more, the movie flew by and was over before I knew it. I wanted more footage, now I want a sequel focusing on the war and not the initial outbreak.

Maybe someone will hear my cries and we’ll have a ‘Part 2’ in the future. As it stands though, World War Z was a nice surprise, being very entertaining and pleasing to watch as a fan of horror and zombies in general. It has its problems like the ending and a lack of memorable characters, but the positives outweigh the negatives. I would happily suggest that you go and watch the movie, whether a fan of the book, horror, zombies or simply just action, you’ll find something in World War Z that’ll make you walk away with a smile.

8 Zombie Hordes out of 10

-ast

Standout Summer Blockbusters of 2013

The summer always provides us movie goers with a great selection of movies, with big budget action movies, to the smaller, more character focused movies. There is however, standout movies that really make the audience walk away with a smile and the intention to tell everyone how great of a movie it was. These movies are the heart of the summer. So what do I think will be the big standouts this summer? Below are some movies (with UK release dates) I think will bring in the money and praise they seek.

After Earth – June 7th

Will Jaden Smith see as much success as his dad?

Will Jaden Smith see as much success as his dad?

Will Smith and his son Jaden Smith star alongside each other in this Sci-fi epic, directed by Sixth Sense and Signs director M. Night Shyamalan. Crashing down on a long abandoned Earth, we follow both father and son as they try to survive on an evolved Earth. It’s no secret that Will Smith is a big selling point already to this movie, but with M. Night Shyamalan directing, this movie could go either way. He hasn’t had the best track record lately, but I hope this movie shows he’s back on form.

Man of Steel – June 14th

Michael Shannon as General Zod looks fierce

Michael Shannon as General Zod looks fierce

Henry Cavill plays the famous Kryptonian, Superman, in franchise reboot Man of Steel. Having Christopher Nolan as a producer and David S Goyer as writer with their Dark Knight credentials behind them is certainly promising. Let us not forget Zack Snyder as director and this movie has to succeed. A lot of hype is gathering for this movie from both comic readers and original Superman movie fans. The question now is can Man of Steel repeat the success of The Dark Knight movies and make Superman just as popular as Batman? I sure hope so and I can’t wait to see this at IMAX!

World War Z – June 21st

Am I the only one who thinks this looks awesome?

Am I the only one who thinks this looks awesome?

In a similar position to After Earth, can the pedigree of a famous actor sell a movie to people? With Brad Pitt at the heart of the movie, and a horror movie at that, World War Z is looking quite promising from the trailers. Based off a Novel, World War Z sees an unstoppable infection sweep across the globe, with the infected outnumbering us more and more with each day that passes. This movie has seen a lot of problems in production, from script re-writes, to re-shoots. However, despite all that, early viewers have praised the movie. Fingers crossed we see more zombie movies at the cinemas in the future.

Despicable Me 2 – June 28th

Clearly the best part of Despicable Me

Clearly the best part of Despicable Me

Everyone loves an animated movie. Toy Story proved that. Despicable Me was a favourite of mine, I love it. So with the sequel looking to be just as funny as the first, I can’t wait to see it. Of course the Minions steal the show, so I look forward to seeing how they will keep the humour consistently funny. As crazy as it sounds too, I’m looking forward to the inevitable short movies on the Blu-ray/ DVD release just as much.

Pacific Rim – July 12th

Can't wait!

Can’t wait!

By far my most anticipated movie of the whole year, Pacific Rim sees giant robots fighting giant monsters. That’s pretty much the movie, of there’s a lot more to it than that, but I’ve been distancing myself from info/ interviews as much as I can. The trailers are simply amazing though, however I hope they aren’t showing all the best scenes from the movie. I love the work of Guillermo del Toro, so I have much faith in his ability to provide an entertaining movie. It’s also worth mentioning that Idris Elba makes everything 10x better!

Kick-Ass 2 – August 14th

Predator reference?

Predator reference?

Chloë Grace Moretz and Aaron Taylor-Johnson return as Hit-Girl and Kick-Ass respectively, in the sequel to the surprise hit (no pun intended) Kick-Ass. I wasn’t a massive fan of the first movie, to me the Hit-Girl and Big Daddy scenes stole the whole movie for me. But with Jim Carrey joining the cast this time round as Colonel Stars and Stripes, that has put this movie on the list for me. I guess the pedigree of an actor does sell a movie!

Elysium – September 20th

Sharlto Copley stars in another Neill Blomkamp movie

Sharlto Copley stars in another Neill Blomkamp movie

Neill Blomkamp made a name for himself when District 9 was released. So with Elysium, he has a lot to live up to. Judging from the trailer, it seems to have a very similar style and tone to District 9. This is not a sequel however, Max played by Matt Damon, takes it upon himself to fight his way to Elysium, a space station for the rich and powerful to escape the overcrowded slums of earth. Sci-fi is big right now, and this movie looks to deliver a truly terrifying visual representation of the future.

Honourable Mentions: Monsters University, The Wolverine, 300: Rise of an Empire, Red 2, The Lone Ranger, Only God Forgives.

-ast