It's Pride weekend here in Atlanta. Spooky and I have managed to avoid the festivities for the third year running, but it's still wonderful seeing the city entirely swamped in queers. Also, I've been listening to the Billy Corgan solo disc, The Future Embrace. It's nice, I think. But mostly it makes me miss the Smashing Pumpkins. Spooky and I saw Land of the Dead on Friday afternoon, but before I say more, I should state two dictums:
1) Beauty really is, ultimately, in the eye of the beholder. Xtina Aguilera and the stuff I've written for Frog Toes and Tentacles is all the proof we'll ever need of this.
2) People get crazy about George Romero zombie movies.
I've never been much of a Romero fan. I've always been impressed and frightened by the original Night of the Living Dead, but, in my opinion, the second and third films were neither half as scary nor a third as smart as most people seem to think they are. They were, however, a bit better than Land of the Dead, which Spooky and I hated with such unexpected force that we both admitted, afterwards, that we wished we'd walked out and demanded our money back. Problem is, we were too busy being bored senseless to act upon our better judgment. I actually drifted off twice during the film (I never do this). This film is not frightening. It's not funny. It's not a clever, timely satire of America under W. It's not even successfully gory. Mostly, it's just dull and witless and not very well done. The makeup effects weren't even very good, which seems the very least one should ask. When I can spot the lines between skin and latex, something's amiss. The acting's missing as well. I'm pretty sure that Dennis Hopper was reading his lines off a teleprompter. He was actually more menacing in Waterworld. And as long as we're talking about things that were missing from this film, what about the script? Missing. The whole thing comes off like some drunken improv. Indeed, in the end, I find but a single redeeming feature of this silly film — Asia Argento, and even she looked bored. Land of the Dead bolsters my contention that the shambling zombie film is, well, dead. Twenty Eight Days Later frightened me. Zack Snyder's remake of Dawn of the Dead scared the beejeesus out of me. More importantly, both these films were well-written, well-directed, and well-acted. Both had vision and passion. Both were artful. Land of the Dead is none of these things. At times, it felt as if Romero was purposefully making the sophomoric mistakes he makes in this film in dogged defiance of more recent, more effective zombie films, staging some bizarre die-hard display of old-skool guts and gore. Whatever. I say wait for the DVD, and then think twice.
However, we did get a pleasant and unexpected surprise Thursday night, when we rented Cursed (Wes Craven, 2005). I came to this film with no expectations whatsoever, and was rewarded with a thoroughly enjoyable movie. Think Fright Night and The Lost Boys, that sort of '80s horror spoof, toss in some pretty good werewolf effects, Christina Ricci, and the surreality of Scott Baio as himself, and out comes Cursed. And Shannon Elizabeth's death early in the film is far more disturbing than anything you'll see in Land of the Dead. Plus, there's a great "documentary" on becoming a werewolf, which includes Greg Nicotero (who did makeup for both this film and Land of the Dead) making banana bread. Definitely worth a rental. I say, skip the zombies. Cursed may lack the painfully superficial sociopolitical commentary of the new Romero film, but at least it's fun and occasionally creepy. Oh, I should also mention that the costume party scene in Cursed includes masks crafted by the amazing E. L. Downey.