Crazed

I think it’s interesting — no, not interesting, what’s the word? — goofy — that while the better-than-expected but not-great remake of George Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD was directed by someone called Zack Snyder, the similarly above-expectations but below-sensational remake of George Romero’s THE CRAZIES is directed by someone called Breck Eisner.

(The heavily Romero-inflected ZOMBIELAND was helmed by Ruben Fleischer, which sounds a bit too much like an actual name but almost fits the pattern.)

Presumably, for the inevitable remakes of MONKEY SHINES, MARTIN, CREEPSHOW and THE DARK HALF, young directors-to-be are currently changing their names to Jerk Steiner, Rock Visser, Prick Meister and Stork Ulcer. And for the re-remakes of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD et al, we will need reinforcements with names like Conk Ryder, Muck Pfister, Glock Pisser…

Meanwhile, George A Romero, without whom none of this mini-industry could exist, is still George A Romero. But maybe that’s a mistake? For his forthcoming SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD, isn’t there evidence aplenty that audiences would prefer to see a film by someone called Frisk Weezer or Spank Wicker? More market research is called for.

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19 Responses to “Crazed”

  1. And for the porno version Buck Naked

  2. Drek Peddler?

  3. David, I have to part company with you in regards to Zombieland. I found it more of an indie road movie than Romero-informed gut muncher. Agree you with on the DOTD remake. Not too keen on seeing The Crazies, though.

  4. Unlike Snyder, there are whispers that Eisner (spawn of Michael??) is a good/interesting director.

    Romero is going through an unusual phase. LAND OF THE DEAD is a major film (it’s his TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT); when I got around to DIARY, I found it troubling yet insubstantial, but it has stayed with me.

    There was a remake of DAY a few years ago, but it was direct to video so…no one saw it!

  5. Let’s not forget Casmius Shinholster and Hoodie Hoke (real names, a buddy of mine once worked at his dad’s pharmacy and these were two of his clients. Casmius wrote his dad a letter inquiring about Red Rooster pills, I think we all have a pretty good idea what they are).

  6. Shinholster is a sensational name, and I’m filing it away for future use.

    I’m only going on Zombieland’s rep, which is positive, but the fact is it depends on the flesh-eating zombie “rules” which accrued around Romero’s first couple of zom flicks, so it owes him everything.

    Snyder has skills as an action/design guy, but Watchmen certainly shows how short a distance they carry him…

    Diary of the Dead struck me as perfectly decent once you got past the fact that the camcorder-docu style totally failed to mesh with the performances and script. Disregarding that biggish failure, it’s good fun. The new one sounds hopeful.

  7. Tony Williams Says:

    I don’t regard DIARY as a “biggish failure” but a change in direction and style indicting the internet culture as DAWN did consumerism. However, I have to see ZOMBIELAND, THE CRAZIES remake, and SURVIVAL before I think further on the subject.

  8. I didn’t mean that Diary IS a biggish failure, just that it contains one, since the docu-style shows up the artificiality of the performances, in a way that doesn’t help either. The rest of the film is enjoyable and interesting, in a minor key perhaps but still fine.

  9. AnneBillson Says:

    I went to see Diary without much hope (the reviews were nearly all negative) and found myself thoroughly enjoying it, in a way I enjoy horror movies all too rarely these days. It was evidence of an intelligent mind at work. And it was FUN.

    Having come of age with the horror films of the 1970s, I didn’t mind the bad acting too much. I’ve seen worse. And I stopped worrying about camcorder-docu styles failing to mesh with the rest ages ago; surely only a very few of those faux-docs don’t cheat in some way? I now just look on it as a form of stylisation.

  10. The acting wasn’t exactly BAD — if it hadn’t been filmed docu-style, it would have been quite acceptable in its soapy effusions, but the style makes everybody seem affected and faky. Once I got into it and ignored the style as best I could, the acting improved.

    I don’t mind cheating in the docu style — the camera batteries can’t be allowed to run flat at a key moment, after all — but if you’re going to use it you need to either sustain it or use the contradictions creatively. DOTD is very creative in other respects (and they shot it in, like, five weeks — three weeks less than the reshoots on Wolfman) but doesn’t really have a strategy for combining comic book characters with shakicam verite.

    Jamie Christley says:

    “But like all of Romero’s work, it moves with a serene confidence in spite of that discrepancy. The more and more I think about it, the scene near the end when the student’s horror film (from the opening) begins to happen for real (to include the leading lady’s breasts popping out), a sequence that seemed smug when I realized what was going on (I have that problem whenever a movie does the “remember this from 80 minutes ago? remember?? remember?!??!” routine), the more certain I am that it’s one of my favorite scenes in any Romero film.
    I’ve written Snyder off completely, despite the fact that each of his films has a scene that shows a hint of promise. I didn’t like WATCHMEN at all (and this is only partly due to my allegiance to the novel), but there was one sequence in it that didn’t just hit all the right marks, but actually came close to translating the power of the novel to the screen: the Dr. Manhattan chapter. (Bet you thought I was going to say the title sequence. Fooled you!) That said, it didn’t make me nearly as angry as the hideous screen versions of V FOR VENDETTA and THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN. Shame, though, that Snyder figured the solution to the problem was “be more faithful,” not “make good movie.””

  11. Largely agree with Jamie, though for me the Dr Manhattan stuff was spoiled by the HAL voice and recycled Philip Glass music (Koyaanisqatsi, I believe), both evidence of unthinking cliches being embraced.

  12. Mr. Cairns – you inquired about my blog a while back, I can’t remember if I responded. Anyway, I have three:

    Out, Damned Spot!

    http://outdamnedspot.blogspot.com

    My regular blog for thoughts on film and stuff.

    Unexamined Essentials

    http://unexaminedessentials.blogspot.com

    My SYNECHDOCE, NEW YORK-scale “film canon” project.

    In as few words as possible, all the must-see films I can find, minus the already-canonized. (In other words, the Oscar favorites, Sight & Sound darlings, and generally popular classics.) I will eventually open it up to non-feature films like avant-garde/experimental, documentary, TV and video, but until the end of 2010 I am limiting myself to feature-length films. Anyway, you can read my intro and hopefully it will help.

    And I list my “favorite films” here:

    http://jaimefavorites.blogspot.com/

    It’s enough to make you sick!

  13. Great! I recommend Jamie’s writing to everyone here, and will add these to my blogroll shortly.

  14. Thanks! All I have left to do now is disappoint. :)

  15. Tony Williams Says:

    Jaimie, This is a really insightful response you’ve made to this film. As for the artificial nature of the performances I think it is deliberate on Romero’s part since virtually everyone in the film becomes less of a human being as it develops but begin to play roles for the camera.

  16. I saw the remake of Day of the Dead a couple of months ago (it turned up on one of the digital channels), and it basically has nothing to do with Romero’s film except for naming a character Bub who slowly gets zombified after a bite early in the film and eventually gets splashily ripped apart in the finale.

    It is a disappointing film but Mena Suvari isn’t bad in it, and if you want a really crap Romeo cash in try sitting through the deadly dull and even less connected Day Of The Dead 2: Contagium some time!

    At the moment, while I’ll certainly pick up Romero’s latest zombie opus and perhaps try out Zombieland some time, very little cinema-wise compares to the fantastically immersive Left 4 Dead games. My favourite section has to be Hard Rain – the Hurricane Katrina inspired (though of course there is also the namechecking of the silly Morgan Freeman/Christian Slater action film there too!) section of a ‘there and back’ fetch quest taking place during a storm steadily flooding the remains of a town, changing the geography and reducing visibility to virtually nil at unfortunate moments! Terrifying!

  17. I could see The Crazies actually making sense as a remake – the original, like most of Romero’s 70s work (Martin excepted), has an amateurisness that often works against it (unlike Night of the Living Dead of course where the amateurishness works entirely in the film’s favour).

    I do very much like the film however, especially the moment when the doctor working on a solution has a breakthrough at the same time as ending up getting herded into the containment area with the other ‘crazies’ (the equivalent to the bleak ending of Night, though this occurs around the middle of the film instead, lending a certain extra sense of futility to the final sections as the focus narrows down to the central couple).

  18. Yeah, if it weren’t for the attempts to be “dramatic” (juggled stock footage, cheesy stock music) the film would work better, the low-budget aspects work fine when it’s more documentary-like. There’s a lesson there, maybe.

    The doc’s fate is indeed a high-point.

    The trouble is, when Romero gets remade they tend to leave out the ideas.

    Some of these modern computer game thingies make me TOO nervous!

  19. “The trouble is, when Romero gets remade they tend to leave out the ideas.”

    Or completely miss the point, as witness the sprinting zombies (though the Snyder film was obviously cribbing just as much from 28 Days Later in that respect). We could say that about most of the 70s horror remakes though – the most egregious recent example being Last House on the Left. Unfortunately social commentary, irony, even subtlety are all the first causalties of remakes, bizarrely as that often seems to be the aspect that made the originals so powerful and memorable in the first place.

    The second problem of course is complete pointlessness and redundancy. (This isn’t just confined to horror films though – what about the Stagecoach, The Lady Vanishes or Beverly Hillbillies remakes?) Even Rob Zombie’s Halloween, which is about the only 70s horror remake I could even contemplate suggesting was vaguely worthwhile, suffers from being absolutely irrelevant at every stage, and adding material that would have been rightly omitted, if it were ever considered, from inclusion in the original (the killer’s reductive motivationary backstory, which itself is derivative of Zombie’s own previous back catalogue in style and content).

    Add to that trying to shoehorn the sister subplot from the sequel into the original material as well (much as the Friday The 13th remake collapsed about three films worth of material into one), leads to the Halloween remaked feeling already unnecessarily bloated rather than a stripped down reworking of the initial concept.

    Though having said that I like Zombie’s Halloween II better, since he has gotten through a lot of the ‘homaging’ in the first and can really begin to take the characters into different territory in that one.

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