Sunday, April 12, 2009

A brief post on zombies...

I'm a zombiephile. I love zombie movies, zombie games, zombie comics, zombie-themed t-shirts, etc. Something about the shuffling, flesh-eating undead just entertains me in a way that buddy cops, ninjas, or robots never will. But that doesn't mean I can't distinguish between good and bad zombie entertainment:

The good: Dead Space
I don't understand why nobody bought this game. Actually, I do understand - it's not part of an established franchise - but more more people should have played it. Yes, the story is fairly derivative from other space zombie games, going all the way back to Doom. But the game designers took the elements of the genre and did something that was amazing; they made a game that was legitmately scary. Outer space is effectively used as a backdrop, the zombie designs are unique, and the game mechanics are incredibly well thought-out. It's everything that Resident Evil 5 is not.

The bad: Diary of the Dead
George Romero is a legend among zombie afficionados, but that doesn't mean he can't occassionally produce a lemon. Like Dead Space, this movie is very derivative, primarily of Romero's earlier work in the genre. Romero also borrows the central conceit of the Blair Witch Project; it is filmed by an amateur who is actually living through the events depicted. As in his earlier movies, Romero attempts to work in some social commentary, this time about the dishonesty of corporate media and the power of the Internet (etc., etc.). The main problem with the movie is that Romero never figures out how to make the "amateur" film style work in a fairly standard zombie flick. Unlike [REC], which used the "amateur" film technique to dole out scares and control the audience's perception of events, Diary feels like a generic zombie holocaust movie with lousy camerawork and obnoxious narration. The artificiality of the project is always evident, which only makes Romero's preachy social commentary that much more tedious. It also doesn't help that the acting is sub-par and the make-up effects are shoddy, even by the standards of low budget horror.

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