Shadows Of The Dead (2004)

DECEMBER 18, 2010


Some movies would have been better as Twilight Zone episodes, but Shadows Of The Dead is that rare film that should have just been a short story. One in a collection with lots of other stories so that you can be like “well that wasn’t very good but it was a nice change of pace for the20 minutes it took to read it, and I could skim.” Because spending 90 minutes with this ‘alternative’ take on becoming a zombie was one of the most grating experiences of the year for me with regards to HMAD-ing; the type of movie that makes me wonder if I should just quit.

Now, I’ve certainly seen worse movies this year (hell, this MONTH – thanks, Killer Car!), but most of those were worth my time to watch – I certainly wouldn’t have passed up the Nightmare remake or a long-shelved mess like Chain Letter. But this movie? No one even knows what it is! There won’t be a defense; hell I doubt anyone else even bothered watching it when it was released nearly 7 years ago, and if they did they probably don’t remember anything or care enough to comment. So I annoyed myself for 90 minutes for nothing.

The problem with the movie is that it introduces our characters as annoying idiots and turns one into a zombie about 25 minutes later (his girlfriend follows shortly after). Fine, if the movie was about them dumb-fuck stumbling their way through life as zombies and going on silly adventures or something. But no, this movie is about how depressed one gets when they realize they are turning into a zombie, so once they realize they’re doomed they cry and argue and talk endlessly about how sad or angry they are.

Now, if I liked either of these people, this might work. Hell, they could have taken the old shortcut of hiring two actors everyone loves (in this particular age bracket, I guess that would be Shia La Beouf and, I dunno, the girl from Glee or some shit), retaining their annoying introductions but allowing the audience to use their fondness for the actors to get past it. But no, in the very first minute the girl is yelling at the guy about wanting some French fries, and a few minutes later he’s yelling at her for taking the ‘tools’ out of the trunk, thus preventing them from fixing his flat tire. But since so much of the movie hinges on feeling bad for them, I can’t help but think that maybe just showing a couple who are very much in love, cracking jokes and saying sweet things to another might be a better way of going about it.

(That this sort of thing was covered in Zombie Honeymoon doesn’t help either.)

At one point the male narrates “All great love stories end tragically.” I disagree. Notting Hill had a very happy ending. The makers of As Good As It Gets might also scoff at this notion. Also, again, it’s only tragic if you feel something for one or both of the lovers – something this movie forgets to include. Especially when you consider that their “tragedy” is brought on by their own idiocy – they find a “corpse” in the woods and the guy keeps poking and throwing things at it, eventually getting bitten. And then later he bites her. Yeah, that’s up there with poor Jack freezing to death to keep Rose from doing the same on her makeshift raft.

Unless the actor is referring to the tragedy of his name being spelled differently at the beginning of the film than it is at the end. If he was SAG, he could fine them! Also tragic.

And you know, even with all of these issues, I STILL would have given the movie some benefit of the doubt if they didn’t wait until the final 15 minutes to DO something (besides bicker and whine more – most of the movie takes place in the tiny cabin they were heading to in the first place). He goes out and kills some folks in the woods, including a guy who was about to rape a girl. Zombie superheroes are cool – why didn’t they explore this sooner? No, instead, he just does it the one time, and then it’s back to the cabin for more bickering and pouting. They go on and on about how it’s unfair that they won’t be able to live their lives, but based on what we learned while they were “alive”, they’ve actually been spared a full life of nagging one another.

Luckily, I neglected to look up any information about the film prior, or else I would have learned that it was from the same director as Shattered Lives, an uneven but interesting film that I’d put in the “win” column. Had I been aware of this, I may have had higher expectations for this thing and liked it even less. But I guess it’s nice to know he has improved much as a writer and director since, and I still look forward to his next film, which will hopefully continue his growth.

Final note – if you for some reason must watch this movie, please ignore the back of the DVD, which tells you that its for films like 28 Days Later, The Evil Dead, and "House Of A 1000 Corpses" (close enough!). It’s kind of hilarious, because those films share almost zero in terms of tone or style to begin with, but apart from the very VERY basic similarity to Evil Dead (young couple going to a cabin, though that’s more like the plot of Evil Dead as the sequels tell it), I can’t think of a film LESS likely to appeal to fans of those than this one. I’d suggest it for fans of Shatter Dead though – it’s also an unforgivably boring and pretentious zombie movie!

What say you?

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