NOVEMBER 7, 2009
Bless the heart of the independent filmmaker whose ambition far exceeds his resources, or else HMAD would have folded long ago due to a lack of qualifying films. Movies like The Zombie Chronicles will be forgotten within a week by everyone who has ever seen them, unless there is some strange sect of horror fan that gathers to discuss shot on video movies starring the director's friends and pontificate about their merits, if any. But if that group exists I think they would have asked me to join in their podcast or something by now; Christ, I OWN 50 such movies thanks to the Decrepit Crypt set.
Anyway, what sets Chronicles (slightly) apart from other films in this over-populated genre is that it’s allegedly in 3D. Blockbuster didn’t provide the necessary glasses (red and blues won’t work), so I have no idea how good the effect is, but I CAN tell you that the effect seems to have been created by fucking around with the field dominance in Final Cut and hoping for the best. I’m sure every person who has ever seen a 3D film has watched it for a few seconds without the glasses, and saw that it was just sort of blurry. Well, Zombie Chronicles is blurry AND jittery (it looked like something you’d see emanating from a projector after someone had knocked it over and kicked it for good measure), and since it was obviously not SHOT in 3D, I can’t imagine that it looks much better even with the "Nu-View" glasses.
Luckily a 2D version is included, allowing you to get a headache for entirely different reasons, such as the god-awful score, horrendous acting, excessive snorri-cam usage, and baffling plotlines. And while I guess it’s technically a good thing that it’s so short, I was amazed to discover that this “anthology” movie only has two stories and a wraparound, which means that both stories drag just to reach a feature length minimum (70 minutes). In the first, a complete ass of a man is forced by some supernatural entity (or IS it? No, it isn’t) to do jumping jacks and other exercises in the middle of the woods, in order to save his wife, who is clumsily tied to a tree with toy dynamite hanging loosely from her waist. And the second story is about a group of folks who go camping, and when one of them pisses on a grave, the grave owner comes back and kills them. But this takes over a half hour.
The closest I found myself to being entertained was in the wrap-around segment, because it was so lovably cheap (love the “accident” sequence) and filled with hilarious gaffes (like Dark Fields, she claims to be in the middle of nowhere and completely lost when we can see the busy freeway behind her). Plus, the requisite old guy who tells all (both) of these stories has an odd penchant for nicknames, referring to her as everything from Sweetie to Jack Kerouac (she’s a writer on the road) and, my personal favorite, Lord Fauntleroy. If I had a dime for every time I saw a movie where an old guy referred to a woman he just met as a fictional would-be aristocrat, I could afford to make Zombie Chronicles.
I was also tickled by the number of times in the film where characters have information that they had no reason to know. In the first story, the traveling couple breaks down, and the husband says that he knows a shortcut to the Shell station. Then later, when our heroine inquires about our storyteller character, a pair of broken down motorists (who are so uninvolved in their “repair” work that I thought for sure they were just pretending to have car trouble so that that could rob/rape any good Samaritans that came around), one of the guys knows that the man in question was a local resident who died 25 years ago. Glad he keeps that sort of information in his mental Rolodex.
I have written down something that is either “Buddy” or “Brady”. Either way, not sure what it means.
So is there anything to enjoy for non-ironic reasons? Why yes! Joe Castro’s makeup effects are pretty good, particularly a head ripping that occurs in the 2nd story. Whether they look better or worse in “3D” I do not know, but if I had to guess, I’d say the film has a better chance of living on solely as a showcase for his makeup abilities than their would-be revolutionary 3D process (of which I have never even heard of before this film, and according to the IMDb, is only used by this and a few other films from the same team).
But going back to irony, I also enjoy that the bonus material amounts to a trailer for this film (which gives away every good makeup gag) and a few others from this company, thus limiting the amount of time I spend with these people.
What say you?