DVD Review: Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated

Hi all!

Zombies. It seems there’s a worldwide resurgence in zombie attacks these days – in movies, television, and books. But the traditional perception of a zombie started in 1968 with the release of George A. Romero‘s Night of the Living Dead. Romero used traditional storytelling, merging the “threat from space” with the rise of a virtually unlimited army of the dead seeking to consume the living.

What is it about zombies that makes them such a compelling horror figure? They feel no pain. They have an insatiable hunger for living tissue (and yet won’t eat each other). Anyone they bite becomes another member of the undead army. And no matter how many you destroy (bullet, blunt object, or blade to the brain), there always seem to be more of them.

As you can see, zombies have a special place in my heart even though they’d eat it like a valentine if they were given the opportunity. So when I heard about the Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated (NOTLD:R) project which brought together nearly 150 artists and animators from around the world to revisit scenes from the classic film in their own particular mediums, I knew I had to check it out. NOTLD:R didn’t disappoint.

I knew it was going to be an eclectic mix of styles and media – but I didn’t know just how eclectic. These artists used everything from rotoscope and abstract shapes, to sock puppets and stop-motion animation, to cartoons and video games to show their vision of these scenes. And through it all, I found myself fascinated by the sheer variety, skill, and talent of all of these people from around the world.

My only complaint (a very minor one) is that I didn’t have a second monitor handy to play the original beside the animated version. But I will be fixing that issue by downloading the movie and watching it on my laptop at the same time I’m watching the animated version on my television. Many places it’s easy to see the influences of the original – the shapes, backgrounds, and so on showed themselves in the art. But in others, as with the abstract shapes scribbled in that appear as zombies, it’s less easy to see the old in the new. That’s not a bad thing honestly – making something new out of something old – so it’s just a very minor nit.

Beyond the movie itself, there are an insane number of of extra features. The commentary alone is worth listening to. Jonathan Maberry, one of my favorite zombie fiction authors of recent years, joins Mike Schneider (project producer), journalist Pierre Gutierrez, and Wild Eye’s Rob Hauschild to provide some context for the project. Listening to these folks discuss how the movie came to be over the course of 18 months from inception and request for submissions to the final product is simply incredible. “Reanimated” refers to the fact that the movie initially had life, but it’s now being animated again in a different manner.

Also included is a second commentary track with Mike Schneider, filmmaker Keith Croker, and Corpse S. Chris of “Horror Host Graveyard” which specifically deals with how the project was put together. And even a third commentary featuring 27 artist call-ins talking about the scenes they produced. It’s obvious that everyone involved, whether an artist, producer, or promoter, feels passionately about the project and enjoyed the aspects they contributed to.

Beyond the commentary, there are extras upon extras. Not everything could be included in the final edit due to time constraints, so many sections had to be cut down. In the extras, you see the full extended scenes as created by the authors. Among my favorites was the “Cats and Mice” extended scene from Andres Silva, which portrayed a scene in almost a Tom and Jerry style of cartooning.

You also get several “Behind the Scenes” videos where three artists – Ryan Sigg, Calum MacASKILL, and Mike Boas – show how they produced their segments. I watched all of these with my daughter, who is an aspiring artist, and found them fascinating. The artists provide great details about their different processes – from rotoscoping with Boas, producing abstract zombies with MacASKILL, and how to film stop-motion animated scenes with plasticene figures and a green screen with Sigg.

Many more extras are included, but I highly recommend watching “The Zombie Encounter Panel” – an hour long panel filmed at a conference in 2009 that features Maberry, Dr. Kim Paffenroth, John Joseph Adams, David Barr Kirtley, Gutierrez, and Hauschild. Like all panels, each member has a unique perspective on zombies in a variety of media. Listening to the panel is like having your own private zombie conference in your living room. It was great to listen to their first zombie experiences, favorite unknown zombie media, and what they’d do during a zombie attack!

If you like zombies or art, I highly recommend you check out Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated when it’s released on DVD on September 21, 2010. Not only is the artwork amazing, but the extras included make this a must have for anybody in your zombie horde.

Article first published as DVD Review: Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated on Blogcritics.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other great DVDs and books below!

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Book Review: Zombie Brittanica by Thomas Emson

Hey…

Have you ever had a sinking feeling when you read a new book by your favorite author? I’ve read the last three books from Thomas EmsonSkarlet, Maneater, and Prey. He’s brought vampires and werewolves into the real world, so I was looking forward to seeing what he’d do with zombies.

I love zombies. But I really only love them when they’re presented in a unique way, not relying on standard cliches. Unfortunately, I found myself wondering when the bad zombie movie would end.

Zombies are wonderful beasts. They’re men, but they’re monsters. Add in the fear of disease, the dead rising, and the repulsion of teeth ripping human flesh and organs, and you can really push some buttons. George Romero knew this when he wrote and directed Night of the Living Dead in 1968. He and other directors and movie makers have been terrorizing moviegoers ever since.

More recently there have been some great zombie novels that have been reinventing the genre. Mira Grant’s FEED and Jonathan Maberry‘s Patient Zero have been among my favorites. Grant merges blogging, politics, and a zombie apocalypse and Maberry uses biological warfare to spread a zombie plague.

With Emson’s previous reinvention of vampires and werewolves, mixing myths and history with the modern day, I was expecting more inventive approach to zombies. That “inventiveness” only went as far as having the dead rise during a particularly nasty heat wave in Great Britain.

Three main characters drive the action… Carrie Asher is a mother seeking to get through a zombie-infested London to rescue her six-year-old daughter Mya. Vincent is a young man stuck in a Welsh castle with the girl he loves and the zombies closing in all around. And Craig Murray is trapped with his family in a traffic jam in Scotland. Not only must he battle the undead, but the people seeking to prey on the weak during a time of crisis.

Woven into the narrative are all the typical zombie tales… They eat flesh and infect those who get bitten and manage to survive an attack. The survivors are like zombie grenades thrown into the future. When the victims die, they become zombies themselves. Add to that the people who break under the pressure – relying on their dogma to explain the situation, controlling others through fear and intimidation, and the people who simply give up.

I really like Emson’s prose, but I couldn’t get past all the cliches. Perhaps if I’d seen this on the big screen instead of read it as a novel, I would have enjoyed it more. But it’s been done to death, no pun intended.

If you’re interested in how the zombies capture London, I’d recommend the book. But if you’re looking for an original take on things, I’d avoid Emson’s Zombie Brittanica. Instead, check out his books Skarlet, Maneater, and Prey.

This article first appeared on BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Check out these great books below:

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DVD Review: Day of the Dead (2007)

Hi all…

Every once in a while, I have to take in a horror movie to see whether I find it a) comical, b) grotesque, or c) all of the above. Day of the Dead is definitely in category c) for me. However, even though it was comical in places (I have a sick sense of humor), I thought this was a decent zombie movie remake. It was smart, had decent special effects, and generally held together to the end.

Rating: ★★½☆

The 2008 version of Day of the Dead is a remake of the original Day of the Dead from George Romero. Director Steve Miner and writer Jeffrey Reddick helmed this one, starring Mena Suvari, Nick Cannon, Christa Campbell, and Ving Rhames.

This version of the movie was set in the small mountain town of Leadville, Colorado, but not filmed there. (Similar to Alien vs. Predator: Requiem that was set in but not filmed in Buena Vista, Colorado late in 2006.) An outbreak of zombie-making virus hits this pleasant mountain town, spreading like wildfire. Funny enough, you CAN have a quasi-scientific reasoning and behavior for a virus that turns you into a zombie!

Day of the Dead DVD CoverWhat did I learn about surviving an attack of virus-infected zombies by watching Day of the Dead?

  1. Don’t let your boyfriend bleed on you during a city-wide quarantine.
  2. Don’t let a friend’s mother cough on you during a city-wide quarantine.
  3. Don’t lose your keys when wrestling with a zombie. You never know when you’ll need to become a world-class sprinter to get to your car in the parking lot.
  4. If you are responsible enough to carry a gun, be sure to also carry a few extra clips and keep it loaded at all times.
  5. Don’t lock yourself into a “safe” place with infected people who really want to eat you when they change into zombies.
  6. Be sure when building a hospital sure to be attacked by zombies that you use industrial-strength ventilation ducts.
  7. If your name is Ving Rhames or Mena Suvari and you want to keep your career going, be sure to find a new agent who will give you better scripts.
  8. If you’re a zombie and need a snack, the following items will work in a pinch – your own eyeball, the intestines of a high school girl, and your wife’s face.
  9. It’s very freaky when you see a zombie crawling on the ceiling.
  10. And lastly, when it starts raining zombies from second and third story windows, it’s time to RUN!!!

I’d really like to know when high school students became marksmen, but other than that this wasn’t a bad zombie flick. It doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t. A virus infects people. People become zombies. Those people not zombies either become food or fight back to escape the area. Pretty much the same plot in nearly every zombie movie I’ve seen, with minor variations.

My favorite part of this movie? Zombies with guns! They weren’t great marksmen, but they more than make up for it in enthusiasm. Also, who ever would expect to hear the words “Zombie” and “Crush” in the same sentence?

My least favorite part? Mena Suvari. Yes, she’s cute, but this was not her kind of role. Ving Rhames, though under-used in this film, actually did ok and probably enjoyed becoming a zombie during one scene!

The DVD includes several extras, including:

  • Cast And Crew Commentary
  • On the Set
  • an Alternate Ending
  • Several trailers (International, Unrated, and Theatrical)
  • a Photo Gallery
  • and Interviews

Overall, I have to give this movie a 2.5 out of 4. It was better than I expected, followed the traditional zombie formula, and had some great one liners. I’ve seen more intelligent zombie flicks, but this one was ok in my book.

This Day of the Dead DVD will be released on September 9, 2008 at major retailers across Canada and the United States.

Thanks!

–Fitz

p.s. If you’re interested in purchasing the Day of the Dead, check out these Amazon links:

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