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Delirious With Weird

Tuesday, March 30, 2004  
Last Night's Film
So I finally gave in to the urge and paid money to see this excessively violent film, which is essentially a remake in a tradition of films of which I have seen many examples before and yet still feel a desire to see despite knowing that it will have none of the intellectual vigour or moral subtlety of its forebears, none of the innovation or surprise value, none of the essential wit and humanity that make this most ancient and retold of tales worth telling again. And again. And again. And what's more I went to see it in the worst of Exeter's two cinemas (the Odeon), accompanied (aside from my own lovely companion) by teenage girls summoned by the hype and history rather than quality and tradition, by three of Exeter's most obviously gay fashionistas (who are approx. 18 months behind London's gay fashionistas in terms of how they dress and coiffure), by a couple of middle-aged men and a rag-tag of young couples taking in some 'culture'. Whenever I visit the Picturehouse I invariably see a gaggle of film studies students and staff from the university, there is a bar, reasonably (for a cinema) priced drinks and snacks, better seats, better screens, better parking, nicer environs. And I'm convinced the tickets are cheaper too. Anyway, last night, as I said, I gave in to the urge and went to see this morally questionable, violent film.

And I for one am glad the zombie movie is back! Dawn Of The Dead has none of the consumerist commentary of the original, and little of the "people (men! soldiers!) are our real enemies, not flesh-eating zombies" moral imperative and empty-London apocalypse-catharsis of Danny Boyle's still wonderful 28 Days Later, but it did have a frenetic pace, brief semi-nudity and shagging, characters who (almost) avoided their god-given stereotypes (the young, streetwise black family man married to a Russian woman who was expecting their baby [until she turned into a ZOMBIE and got SHOT IN THE FACE by the little old lady trucker WHILST GIVING BIRTH {which in turn caused the young black streetwise family man to shoot the little old lady trucker, who shot him back, and they both died, and then caused Sarah Polley's "thou shalt not kill" nurse to sanction the shotting-in-the-head of the zombie-baby}], the macho, threat-to-the-group security guard who sacrificed himself, the guy who looks as if he was in Ellen who got bitten and stayed behind because he knew he'd turn into a zombie, blah blah blah... actually, those last two conformed to their clichés admirably, 'bad boy done good' and 'mild mannered martyr' respectively being their roles), and, most importantly, it made me jump out of my seat on at least four occasions, even the really obvious ones, like when the pretty blonde girl with the huge chunk missing from her face disrupts Sarah Polley's utopic domestic bliss (which lasts all of 90 seconds [including showersex!]) by biting the neck out of her faintly recognisable partner and causing him to squirt blood from his jugular like a gushing Dutch cum-fiend in a Chris Morris nightmare does from his tumescent cock.

28 Days Later gave us about 5 minutes of vaguelly-scientific-realist exposition as to why and how the zombiefication occured - animal rights campaigners break into the Cambridge research base, free monkeys infected with 'rage', get bitten, start craving blood - i.e. zombie-as-blood-virus, a kind of cannibalistic AIDS for the postScream, out-with-irony schlock-horror generation. The remake of Dawn Of The Dead gives us about 2 seconds of very oblique referrence to a patient in a hospital who's been "moved upstairs [to X department] because of a bite?" Which is all we get. No how, no why, no rhyme or reason, no cause. Only effect. Brutal, nasty, bloody, high-octane effect. Zombie's being creamed by high-speed ambulances a la the bus-death in Final Destination only without the just-stepped-off-the-pavement shock value of either that film or Meet Joe Black; the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold accidentally chainsawed in half in the A Team-alike bus when it crashes; the guy across the street on the roof of the gun shop picking off zombies who resemble celebrities by request from the principals trapped in the mall ("Rosie O'Donnell!" they holler, like the kindergarten class in South Park given carte blanche with an M16 [Jay Leno and Burt Reynolds lookalikes are first to be capped in the skull by Andy's sniping]). And then, after the brave escape and violent death of the morally unworthy, the survivors literally, Frodo-like, sail off into the sunset in hope of finding an island where there are no zombies, where the young lovers can rebuild the human race by shagging happily ever after, where Sarah Polley and Ving Rhames can be nurse and policeman again, where... well, actually, we don't know, because there is no exposition of this at all. It just ends. 28 Days Later let us know there was hope, that Cillian Murphy and company would be saved, that the zombies would die out in time and that they would be returned to England's green and pleasant pastures, which would in fact be improved immeasurably by not being full of wankers anymore, but Dawn Of The Dead just ENDS. And rightly so. The very essence of a no-brainer. I loved it.


3/30/2004 10:05:00 am


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Nick Southall is Contributing Editor at Stylus Magazine and occasionally writes for various other places on and offline. You can contact him by emailing auspiciousfishNO@SPAMgmail.com

All material © Nick Southall, 2003/2004/2005