NOVEMBER 28, 2011
Like a jazz riff, zombie comedies are all pretty much the same, relying on their own little inventions and moments to stand out amidst all the others. Last Of The Living is a good example – at its core is just another version of Shaun of the Dead, with two slackers (there’s actually three, but counting the other guy is like counting NPH as part of Harold & Kumar) sort of lazily dealing with a zombie apocalypse with video games before finally springing into action (using their video game expertise, no less). But it more or less works as a fun excursion, with the New Zealand setting and a pretty good pop/rock soundtrack (including a theme song!) adding some flavor.
One thing I particularly liked was that they actually address what exactly still goes on after zombies first start appearing. When our heroes pass by a music store, one of them wants to see if they have an album that was finished recording just before the breakout. The others argue that there’s no way that the label bothered pressing the album to disc and sending it to stores when there were much pressing matters to worry about, and then they break in to see who’s right. It’s something I’ve often wondered about myself in these things, particularly in the Romero films since they span decades (until he rebooted the timeline in Diary anyway). Like in Dawn, they have technology that didn’t exist in 1968 (the time of Night), so did the world keep developing things and manufacturing “non-essential” items, or was this just a goof (or an example of fluid time, not unlike comic books). Since these movies aren’t usually taxing my brain, I can ponder these pointless things without losing my way with the storyline.
The chemistry between the guys is fun too. Too many of these things end up having one guy be the “serious” one and the other more of a loudmouth, and while you can Morgan and Ash in those categories, it’s not as much of a contrast as say, Mike and Brent from Deadheads. It’s more like Trey and Matt in Baseketball, where the difference is fairly inconsequential and only seems to exist to provide SOME semblance of conflict. But it’s equally balanced – Morgan is slightly more inconsiderate but he’s also the one who takes charge more often than not, whereas Ash takes things a bit more seriously but is also a bit of a nebbish who’d be long dead if not for the fact that Morgan was watching his back.
Oh, and they actually call the things zombies, which is always a plus. Just last night I watched two characters on Walking Dead argue if they should be called “Walkers” or “People”, and I just sat there thinking “What about ZOMBIES?” Again, after over 40 years of this type of zombie, I think they’ve made their presence known to the world like vampires or werewolves – you don’t see anyone in a recent vampire movie trying to come up with something to call them. I know the argument is that they’ve been around for nearly two centuries, but how long does a monster need to exist before he is accepted as “canon”? It’s not like it took 100 years after Stoker’s novel for the basic vampire myth (which is what made it popular, much like Romero’s film did with zombies) to be something we all took for granted.
I was also impressed on a technical level; it’s not the prettiest movie ever, but it’s energetic and well-staged for the most part, and they got some great production value – not a lot of low budget horror movies have the bulk of their climax set in an airplane, and their journey takes them through several locales, giving it a scope that even Shaun lacked. Speaking of scope, it’s scope! Ballsy move for low budget – you risk showing off more of the obviously not really deserted world around you, but I think they do a pretty good job of showing a “dead” world (certainly better than I Am Omega anyway). Director Logan McMillan also works in a lot of fun transitions with sliding doors and such, though after a while he mostly settles for standard Star Wars-ian wipes (guess he ran out of ideas but wanted to keep the basic theme going).
One thing that baffled me was the rather melancholy opening and downer ending, which went against the more care-free tone of the rest. Shaun (I hate to keep comparing, but it’s the one everyone knows, and it’s also the best) found a nice balance between the need to take things seriously but retain the overall spirit of the film – I think McMillan was a bit off here (the death of a major character is also much too casually dealt with, too). And he should know better than to include fart jokes – at that point he’s just ASKING for an unfavorable comparison to Edgar Wright’s film.
I’m also baffled how it ended up on a budget pack with 3 other movies already – it’s only a couple years old, and it’s a lot better than the usual drivel on these things. You guys got a shit deal!
What say you?