Friday, September 28, 2007

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for this movie to work as well as it does. It’s terribly acted, poorly written, clumsily directed, the zombies don’t even show up until we’re two thirds of the way through the film, and yet I was thoroughly entertained the whole way through. Given that most of the people involved with this can’t possibly have been involved in the film industry beyond this one movie, I’m going to have to lay most of the praise upon the director of the film, Bob Clark.

You may know Bob Clark as the man who directed A Christmas Story, one of the most beloved holiday movies of all time, and Black Christmas, one of the early forays into the slasher genre, before Halloween determined that all slasher villains must be somehow superhuman. Here he goes by his birth name Benjamin Clark in the credits, the reasons for which I can only guess at, but which probably had something to do with not wanting to be hassled for autographs everywhere he went for this. The plot, it must be said, is pure brilliance. An acting troupe, led by the film’s co-writer Alan Ormsby (in a ridiculously overacted performance that is easily the highlight of the film), arrives on an island somewhere (I must have missed where they said they were from originally, though a city can vaguely be made out across the water) for the purposes of going to the island’s cemetery and raising the dead using a spell book Alan bought somewhere. One might wonder as to why exactly a theater troupe would be so interested in raising the dead, and that’s partly where the film’s brilliance kicks in. See, while Alan makes a lot of vague mention as to how doing this will make them all huge stars, he never actually gets around to explaining how it will work, leaving it up to us to interpret it all. This is, of course, much like when you’re watching The Seventh Seal and get to interpret what the chess game with Death signifies. Just. Like it.

As I said, the zombies don’t actually come to life until we’re just past the one hour mark, so it’s a good thing that everyone in the acting troupe is so amusingly terrible and fun to watch. Rather surprisingly, the guy who co-wrote the script somehow wound up with all the best lines, like when he reacts to another character being annoying by dramatically touching his hand to his forehead and going, “Give me a moment. The magnitude of your simplitude overwhelms me!” Or his classic rant that begins with “The dead are losers!” which of course was said well before the dead start coming back to life, and so just came off as randomly mean and hurtful.

The zombies themselves are pretty badass, too. While not racing around like the zombies in the Dawn of the Dead remake, they are some of the most vicious lurching zombies I’ve seen, heading straight at the humans without a moment’s hesitation and ready to just tear them to fucking shreds. Right from the moment they first tear ass out of the ground, it’s pretty obvious the whole acting troupe is done. Ain’t no way those people are getting back to that boat with these crazy things blocking their path.

In short, this movie is awesome, and I haven’t the slightest idea why. It is as retarded and lame as any other bad movie I could name off the top of my head, and yet it is so much more than the sum of its parts that there’s no way you can watch it without falling in love with it just a little bit. You owe it to yourself to give this one a watch, now that I’ve overhyped it enough. You won’t regret it.

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