Sunday, March 18, 2012

Well done Siffee channel.

2012 Zombie Apocalypse

Warning: for the length of this post sarcasm will probably be indistinguishable from praise. I can't tell what I mean either.

Ah Netflix, my horrible enabler, you know me so well. I found this little gem in one of the 'you liked(watched) X so try Y' strings that Netflix is so infamous for. I have noticed that they sometimes make rather bizarre connections for their suggestions. But hey, I do like zombie movies and I do watch low budget flicks. This one is just my own damned fault. One day, Netflix will become sentient and it will look at my queue and history. And on that day my queue will disappear and be replaced with Shaun of the Dead.

From the get go, with the appearance of the Siffee(SyFy) logo, I knew I was in for quite a treat. I had found one of those delightful saturday morning films that the Siffee(the new name is functionally retarded and unnecessary, but what do you expect when a channel that features Science Fiction resorts to airing Professional Wrestling? Fooey and P'shaw) and it was about zombies! Of course I'm going to watch, I hate my brain too much not to.

I nearly turned it off after the intro. Standard zombie apocalypse, or even general plague outbreak movie premise. Outbreak begins and spreads and civilization collapses as people start dying (and getting up again) in the hundreds of millions. The outbreak began overseas, and was finally imported into the USA via Iowa. The geographic center of the country, well away from the borders and airports that might... No, must not over think this. Zombie movies don't have to make sense, they're about the dead coming back to life and attacking the living.

The military responds by blowing up bridges and roads to cut the arteries of traffic and stop the infection from spreading. This apparently didn't work because they end up unleashing Electromagnetic Pulses on the planet to stop the infected from traveling. Grrrrr. What a weak plot device to get the characters out and on their feet. Those who are bitten usually turn in a matter of minutes. Infected won't be traveling too far via those bad-assed Corvettes that they stole in their feeble last minutes of life. To me, this strategy would merely cripple the survivors and undermine their chances. After all, zombies also don't use phones or any other electronics. I think that they could have explained that reasoning better. Were survivors trying to whisk away their zombified loved ones in cars in the vein of Dawn of the Dead or Island of the Dead?

As such, it didn't make sense and that sticks in my craw. Nearly stopped the movie right there. But that sort of thing is what I expect in a Siffee movie. I've actually considered writing a script with the idea of making a Siffee made for tv movie, just for fun, and taking full advantage of the laxity to see what I could get away with. And you know that cliché where the Black guy always dies? Well this movie was a three-fer.

After the intro the movie opens a lot like the original Day of the Dead. It offers a good way to introduce the uninitiated into the lore of the zombie apocalypse. The dangers of being bitten. The only sure way to kill a zombie.

I nearly stopped the movie during the first fight scene when they whipped out the bad CGI effects. They just don't look right, and when poorly done they're just laughable. I have no idea what these things cost, but people have been using practical effects for years in low budget films. It seems a cop-out to me to skip that stage and just throw some 'eye-candy' in afterwards. Hopefully this phase is dying out and they recover the lost arts.

2012 offers a combination of zombie dynamics that I don't like. The fast zombie. And the zombie that is capable of learning. I like my zombies slow and dumb. Mostly because I am slow and dumb. I like the pressure of the millions of walking corpses that you can run from now but they will keep on coming and never give up. I think that this makes for a better atmosphere of horror. Though since I use it in my own stories I may be partial to the format. Despite what Romero says, I don't see zombies ever getting smarter. This movie presents them laying ambushes and actually dodging out of the way.

A philosophical nit-pick, and really it didn't take away from my enjoyment of the movie. I've stepped into their world and these are the rules that they chose to follow. At least the zombies didn't sparkle. Nor were they able to walk up walls and over ceilings( fuck you Day of the Dead “remake” Fuck you with a chainsaw!)

There were a number of good ideas in the movie that I really liked, and it avoided some traps that I've seen in other low budget flicks. Such as, aside from a wickedly tight pair of pants on the female lead, the women didn't dress skanky. And none of them were sporting shoes with high heels. There is a discussion of the advantages of bows over guns, and the disadvantages too. Clearly this screenplay was written by a zombie geek. Kudos my nerd brother.

I often contemplate the paradox involved in movies. By in large the people are pretty. Especially the women. This is a double-edge sword for me. On one hand it ruins the believability and prevents me from surrendering to the fantasy world that the film is working to create. If you have four women in your party and all of them range from pretty to beautiful, then... where do I go in life to have this mixture of beauty? My paranoia kicks in and this makes me wonder, did the menfolk just leave the ugmos as zombie bait? It adds another, darker layer, to my understanding of the film.

But then, we are all surrounded by the mundane, and the male actors aren't too bad looking either. Really, I come to the reverse edge, which is that I want to see pretty women on the screen. It may be that primitive part of my brain, but I am inclined to be interested in the fate of a hottie. Boobies > character development in an action movie. Who are we kidding, this was an action movie and we can't really expect the characters to grow and change in the span of a 90 minute slaughterfest.

They gave the Asian girl a samurai sword. Another cliché. I have a problem with the samurai sword on the simple fact that I have never seen a good one. The only swords I've really encountered in my travels have all been display models that are made of stainless steel. There must be well made and fully functional swords out there, but they have got to be rare and difficult to lay your hands on.

I would really like to see a movie where the filmmakers gave the actors a large trove of weapons and objects that could be used as weapons and then said “What do you think your character would use. What would you use?” And then let them puzzle it out. They also gave the characters armor. Laughable stuff such as shoulder-pads for football and shin guards.

Another minor peeve, the characters(actors) seemed to have been fairly clean all things considered. Their costumes were clean and intact. You would think that after months of walking, even with stops to raid stores

As it is, I watched the entire move all the way through. It was low budget and the CGI was annoying, but the movie was fun, the dialogue didn't make me groan, and it felt like a philosophical discussion/argument by the writer. I hate to give a back-handed compliment, but for a Siffee movie it was good. For a low budget zombie movie it was good.