Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) movie poster

(1943) dir. Roy William Neill
viewed: 10/30/09

The “B” side to The Wolf Man (1941) DVD was the film’s apparent follow-up, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, possibly the first of the “…Meets the…” movies, teaming up more than one monster at a time (my guess, not based on evidence).  Oddly enough, I had some other sequels to Frankenstein (1931) queued up, namely Son of Frankenstein (1939) and The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) and House of Frankenstein (1944), which will only be confusing for me who likes to see films in relative order.

This film picks up four years after The Wolf Man, with  two grave-robbers awakening Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) a.k.a. “the wolf man” from apparent suspended animation.  He goes on a tear in Wales and ends up in a hospital with a doctor who thinks he’s delusional.

Actually, I’m a little loathe to try and sum up the entire plot here.  It’s basically deus ex machina meets deus ex machina times about a dozen.  There are so many convolusions in the plot that it’s a little hard to re-cap.  And there are more plot holes than there are plot twists.

So, Talbot escapes to mainland Europe, seeking the gypsy woman who helped him int he first film, and then, once with her, seeks out the noted Dr. Frankenstein, who can help him with his curse, not only that to be a werewolf, but to never really be able to die.  Chaney goes around quite a bit begging for death.  But Dr. Frankenstein is dead, so they look up his daughter, and then the doctor from Britain shows up and wants to play Frankenstein himself.  And Talbot finds “the monster” frozen in ice beneath the castle/laboratory of the long-dead Frankenstein.  Why it’s snowy underneath the ground, it’s not clear.  And this time, the monster is played by Bela Lugosi, who in his time managed to be just about every character in the Universal Horror catalogue.

It’s all highly silly, though enjoyable enough.  Lugosi’s Frankenstein monster is stiff and goofy, a caricature of the monster, already a caricature after 10 years of movie stardom.  Though some research suggests that when the film was being made, Lugosi’s monster was supposed to be blind (and also had some speaking parts), following the events of The Ghost of Frankenstein.  This is meant to suggest that Lugosi wasn’t as hammy as he seems here.  But it’s pretty hammy.

The kids started to watch the film with me but Felix took to bed with a migraine and Clara pooped out about 15 minutes into it.  It was late.  Fair enough.

My memories of this film remained mostly on the ending, the “battle” if you will in the only part of the film in which both monsters are on screen at the same time.  And the wolf man’s only plan of attack is to climb on things and jump on the monster.  They all get washed away in a flood when a tavern owner from the village blows up the dam that washes away the monsters and the castle.

Yes, as I said: it’s deus ex machina meets deus ex machina time about a dozen.

The Wolf Man

The Wolf Man (1941) movie poster

(1941) dir. George Waggner
viewed: 10/30/09

Well, the halloween spirit and our adventures in the “classics” of Hollywood monster movies brought us to The Wolf Man, oddly enough another story that the kids didn’t exactly know.  And truth be told, of all of the old films that we’ve watched, The Wolf Man was one that I really hadn’t seen since I was a kid, I think.  I had only the vaguest memories of the actual film.

Frankly, in comparison with Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935), the qualities of period detail get pretty well muddled by 1941.  Or maybe it’s just plain old carelessness.  Here we are in either England or Wales, presumably semi-present day, and yet the local police is very American (played by Ralph Bellamy), and a few of the townspeople as well.  While Lon Chaney, Jr.’s character’s Americanism is explained by his 18 year absence from the family, it’s a bit more of a mishmash of place.

The Wolf Man himself was always kind of cool to me, but kind of disappointing.  I used to rationalize that he was more human-like because he was a “wolf man” and not a “werewolf”.  But the make-up is good, and the transformations, while not up to the quality of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), is still not too shabby.

Chaney is a lunk of a man, and oddly enough, much better in acting the tortured pathos part than the suave, charming lady’s man that he plays in the beginning of the film.  But we get a brief piece of Bela Lugosi playing a gypsy named “Bela” who is the original werewolf that bites Chaney and transforms him into the beast.  It’s interesting how everyone in the film tries to rationalize the story with psychological analyses rather than believe in good old folklore.  Except the gypsies and the villagers, of course.

As far as the major monster movies of the era go, The Wolf Man is a decidedly second-rate franchise-starter, and while the whole film clocks in below 80 minutes, it’s still not the most riveting of thrillers.  But it’s interesting the way that the initiation of the self-hatred and tortured soul of the human being behind the beast is started, a psychological point of sympathy and pathology of its own.

The kids liked it.

Show Me Love

Show Me Love (1998) movie poster

(1998) dir. Lukas Moodysson
viewed: 10/29/09

This Swedish lesbian coming-of-age film, I’m not sure exactly how it came into my queue, though it was in relationship to Let the Right One In (2008), “the Swedish vampire movie” in that it’s a “coming of age” film with a sweetness to it.  Sounds like a Netflix recommendation.  But I think that I’d seen that it had been directed by Lukas Moodysson, whose Lilya 4-ever (2002) was one of those films that’s been lingering on my queue for some years.

The film is a sweet one, though edging towards a naturalism of life as a young teen, an outsider, whether because of her sexual orientation, or simply her “otherness”, Agnes receives heinous treatment by her high school peers.   It’s not exactly Larry Clark’s Kids (1995), but it shows a harsh reality of the way teenagers treat one another, apparently the world over.  Agnes, who is a beautiful young girl, has a crush on Elin, a pretty, confident, rebellious blonde who is simmering with angst and frustration.  Actually, I kind of like the film’s original Swedish title better than its American one.  Fucking Åmål. Åmål is the town in which they live.  I guess some burg where teenagers feel like nothing is ever happening.  Kind of summarizes the attitude of the kids.

The film flirts with the real nasty pains and cruelties that kids have on one another, driving Agnes nearly to suicide.  But Elin, the wild girl, finds herself equally in love with Agnes.  And the film winds up with a happy ending, something along the lines of an after school special rather than a gritty reality.  Even the spurned loving boyfriend gets another girl in the end.

It’s much more frank and real than most stories about coming of age that you might see in America.  The contemplations and hopes and hopelessness are captured well.  And frankly, I’m glad it all worked out for Agnes and Elin.  They are a cute couple and send a positive message in their commitment to themselves.  So, you don’t go home all heartbroken.  It’s a sweet film, yes, but not the haunting evocative world of Let the Right One In, though it does offer a glimpse into the lives of teens on the outside of the center.

The Girlfriend Experience

The Girlfriend Experience (2009) movie poster

(2009) dir. Steven Soderbergh
viewed: 10/26/09

There was a period, right after director Steven Soderbergh had released Schizopolis (1996), Out of Sight (1998), and The Limey (1999), that I thought he was the most under-rated director in Hollywood, reeking of promise.  Of course, that is when a great deal of the media picked up the same belief, not to mention Soderbergh himself.  Then his commerical rise to prominence began: Erin Brockovich (2000), Traffic (2000), and his re-make of Ocean’s Eleven (2001).  And while I still liked his work, he was no secret, but quite the opposite, a Hollywood darling, with stars fawning over working with him like Julia Roberts (who got her Oscar for Brockovich) and George Clooney, who seems to have become his better-looking best pal.

And then I saw Full Frontal (2002), his first attempt in several years to make an “indie” film, but making an “indie” film with lots of celebrities slumming for him on the cheap so that he could shoot something less commercial and involve them in a project that “felt” different from their gilded movie sets.  And it wasn’t entirely wrong-minded, but it also was.

And after that, not Ocean’s Twelve (2004), nor Ocean’s Thirteen (2007), nor his re-make of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972), nor nothing, had really made me want to watch another Soderbergh film for a long time.  And I hadn’t.

When The Girlfriend Experience came out earlier this year, it got a lot of positive buzz.  Yet again, Soderbergh was returning to his “indie roots”, making a film “on the cheap” by Hollywood standards, using none of his stable of nameable, bankable stars, and using a style that was non-linear and vaguely pseudo-documentary to tell the story of a high-priced call girl who specializes in creating a “girlfriend experience” with her dates, being interactive and interested and creating a pseudo relationship beyond the sex.  And I was intrigued.

The Girlfriend Experience is in essence more true to the spirit of independent filmmaking, not relying on stars or anything very commercial, but leaning on a more thoughtful subject matter and a more complicated approach to storytelling.  It’s non-linear enough that it takes quite a while to realize that there is not only a story arc, but that we’ve been glimpsing segments of the arc out of order already before it fully comes together.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the film is how contemporary it tries to be, keeping in topic with the 2008 election issues and a slant toward the financial present of the film’s creation.  There is much said in relationship to commodities, the economy, the marketplace, transposed through a lens of the relationship between Chelsea/Christine and her boyfriend.  They are two people trying to “make it” in New York.  Chelsea as a high-priced call girl, and her boyfriend, also in a job related to the human flesh, a physical trainer, who is striving to develop more of a career and a paycheck.  And Chelsea gets a lot of advice from her clients in passing, to invest in gold, how to manage her money, how to develop her career.

And there is the rub.  The other experience is the “girlfriend experience” which she fakes for pay, yet plays out in her regular life with her boyfriend.  But then again, she doesn’t.  She’s built a solid wall around herself, seems immensely emotionally detached all of the time, shows her boyfriend a complete lack of commitment, falling for a client because of some personality algorithm or astrological/numerological system in which she believes.  While not entirely so, in many ways she comes off as a cipher, a shallow or unknowable soul, whose depths are never registered.  And the relationship analysis, the commoditization of her relationships, the parallels in her boyfriend’s work, it’s all out there, but it’s not clear really, what Soderbergh thinks of it all.

What I think is both oddly strange and vaguely disturbing is that in casting porn actress Sasha Grey as Chelsea, there has been, at least in the marketing and critical reception, and perhaps in the casting as well, some sense of verity from a person who is a sex worker (though of a different sort), who carries the gravitas and “realism” of person.  And the thing about Grey is that she does make an impression in the film, her flat manner of speech, her simple pretty-ness if not beauty, and her blandly detached character are key to the power of the film.  But what does her other experience have to bring to that that another actress or even herself could have brought to the role without having experience as a sex worker?  Why does she carry more weight in this in other than projected ways?  Would you not be able to see the film and not need to know that she was a well-known porn actress?

And I think that this was my problem with the film (though on the outside of the film, not within the film itself), and I don’t know whether to attribute that to the marketing or perhaps the concept in casting her.  In the film itself, she is good, as a character, the character that she is, whether she was being herself or acting the emotionless, disconnected beauty.

But her character is a strong contrast to her boyfriend, who loves her and cares for her, in full knowledge of her career.  He is only hurt when she chooses some random guy as more important than him, showing that she, in a sense, is playing her role throughout her life with everyone.  Is there someone beneath the veneer?  And her boyfriend seems more sympathetic and genuine.  Is Soderbergh making some reference about femininity?  One of his characters consulting the boyfriend describes all women as “evil”, their “species”.  And while the boyfriend discounts this, he doesn’t raise a rhetorical argument.

The film is interesting, and it’s interesting as well to see Soderbergh making something not purely marketable.  It has a weird vibe of this sort of pseudo-experimental, off-beat, disjointedness, that is then intercut with some rather interesting music, some from street musicians, but giving a more produced sound to the soundtrack.  It’s an odd, mixed bag, with some vaguely troubling issues.  I’m interested in seeing The Informant! (2009), his latest film, which also received good reviews.  So, maybe my little lag from him is over.

Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!

Not Quite Hollywood (2008) movie poster

(2008) dir. Mark Hartley
viewed: 10/19/09

This film just blew through town a couple weeks ago, and it got covered a fair amount in the local rag.  It seemed interesting and fun, and it brought to mind a little documentary extra that I saw when at the end of the DVD for Lady Terminator (1984), which was about the Indonesian exploitation film market.  The parallels between the two are quite abundant, in that neither country had much of a film industry and both had quite strong censorship rules that were suddenly lowered, creating a space for cheap film-making.

With the Aussies, though, they went through more genres than the Indonesians, starting with a lot of Erotica and sex romp comedies, the stuff that enabled pay cable channels of the mid-1980’s in America to fill their late night schedules.  But they also went for Gore and Horror, multiple forms of Exploitation film-making, even martial arts.  Most every aspect of it was all on the cheap, and the notable films, well, the only one that the average person has probably heard of is Mad Max (1979).

This film is full of cheery folks reminiscing about the outrageous films and outrageous people and outrageous times that were had in the day, interspersed with myriad shots of either frolicking nudes, exploding heads, marsupial werewolves, giant boars, blood, cars, explosions…  Actually, while the movie keeps a lively pace, it’s so quick cut between this frantic array of images and quips that much gets shuffled under the next one or ten.  I mean, there is a lot of stuff to work with.  And there are some amusing tales.

But with the main proponent being Quentin Tarantino, who actually is less obnoxious for some reason than normal here, there are a couple of staid and grouchy Australian film critics who have nothing nice to say about the films.  It’s not the most balanced or directed of discussions.  It’s also broken down by genre rather than by chronology.   But it gets to be a muddle in many ways, lacking any real high points, nor proving out any masterpieces (despite Tarantino’s opinion).

It was interesting to me that many of the people interviewed acknowledged the influence of Wake in Fright (1971) and Walkabout (1971), among other films made about Australia by non-Australians, as the influence for the industry to spark, to make films initially about themselves, though in a lampooning and cheeky start.  And they have great disdain for the more artistic market of films.

Still, there is interesting stuff here, probably several films that I will seek out, just to see what I think.  All in all, though, this is not a bad film, and kind of fun, but never really makes a mark of anything particularly significant.  Ah well, if you’re not Quentin Tarantino.


Them! (1954) movie poster

(1954) dir. Gordon Douglas
viewed: 10/16/09

The first of the “big bug” monster movies, and apparently one of the first monster movies that stemmed the origin of the monster from nuclear radiation, Them! is a recognizable classic in 1950’s B-movie horror.  It’s funny, but growing up with a particular penchant for these films, I had my group of “favorites”, among which, Them! tended to stay.  None of the other “big bug” movies were quite up there, though I always kind of liked Tarantula (1955) but I don’t know if I ever saw The Deadly Mantis (1957).  As for other nuclear influenced monsters, 1954 was also the birth of Gojira (1954), the biggest and most popular of such creatures.

This was Friday Night Movie Night with the kids with this week’s installment being played out to all four kids of the household, both Felix and Clara and the girls from upstairs.  My internal marketing of the film (talking it up a tad to the kids during the week: giant ants, nuclear radiation, little girl screaming “Them!”) has apparently paid off.  And actually, despite what you might think, they all really liked the movie.  I think Samantha summed it up well in saying something akin to: “I like these movies because they are scary but not too scary.”

They were even asking for more.

I saw Them! some years back on one of the cable channels that plays horror films over the Halloween month of October, and I had recalled that it had continued to impress me many years later.  And as I watched it this time, I sort of recollected a thought that had struck me the time before, how not only was this movie a prototype of a kind in its time, but in many ways seems to lay out quite a lot of the template for much of James Cameron’s Aliens (1986), particularly when James Whitmore, James Arness, and Joan Weldon venture down with gas masks and blow torches into the hive of the ants (after having gassed them with poison).  They venture into a maze of dead beasts til they find the birthing place of the hive, with egg casings, and seeking the queen, and then they end up battling it out with a few of the workers that had survived.  This trope is played out again in the finale in the underground waterways of Los Angeles.  Obviously, the aliens carry a heavier art design and are more foreign, but it’s interesting that something from a B-movie 30 years before could find it’s way into a big film of that era.

Watching it with the kids has its downsides.  They ask lots of questions, some important, some frivolous, but so many that we had to stop the movie several times.  It’s part of the pleasure, certainly, talking about the film (though I prefer to do it after the film rather than during.)  And I kept having to tell them that if they stopped talking and listened, they would have most of their questions answered.

But, part of marketing the film to them puts some of the ideas into their heads, and while they are awaiting the appearance of the giant ants, the build-up of the “mystery” is challenging for them to fully appreciate, though this film offered a good example of why that structure works.  Because the film begins with some police cruising in the desert, looking for a reportedly lost and wandering little girl, who they find, catatonic, and then her trailer, torn to shreds, missing her parents and sibling.  This is followed by the finding of a convenience store, also torn asunder, with the dead body of the owner down in the basement.  I was having to explain that the police didn’t know that it was giant ants yet, they had a mystery on their hands.  And this part of the film intrigued Samantha the most.

It’s a great flick, very much of its era, and while the giant ants themselves are little in comparison with special effects since that time, they are strong enough to get a fair amout of screen time and the killings of a couple of characters is shown with moderately graphic intensity.  Of its type, Them! is a true classic of the period.  And it holds up pretty well.

Right now, we’re thinking The Fly (1958) for our next film, though I’m also considering The Wolf Man (1941).  Samantha was also asking for us to return to Buster Keaton.  After Halloween, I told her, after Halloween.

Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2008) movie poster

(2008) dir. Sacha Gervasi
viewed: 10/12/09

While many reviewers referred to Anvil! The Story of Anvil as a real life This is Spinal Tap (1984), and while there is a modicum of truth there, the story of the Canadian heavy metal band Anvil is really something much more substantial than just some cheap laughs at the lovable losers of “Rock”.  I mean, the drummer’s name is Robb Reiner.  There is a glimpse of an amplifier that goes to 11.  There is lyrical content for “Thirteen” that is painfully laughable.  And there is a moment where one of the guys admires the texture of a painting that he has of a piece of shit in a toiletbowl.

The lifespan of Anvil, thirty years plus, took them from the late 1970’s/early 1980’s as teenagers just looking to “rock” to their near height of success, admired by peers, playing big gigs in Japan.  But then nothing ever really quite panned out.  Twelve albums later, they are in their 50’s with no label, families, debts, and all but broken dreams.  But that is the thing.  Singer/guitarist Steve “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Reiner somehow have managed to continue their pursuit of the rock’n’roll dream despite everything.  And they end up on a somewhat misbegotten European tour that ranges from some big festivals to tiny pubs who failed to advertise and fail to pay up.  The non-glory reality of touring with no real manager.

They turn to an old friend/producer to help them record their 13th album.  Which they can’t then find a label to take.

But really, the film is enriched not so much by their dream and their undying hope, but by Reiner and Kudlow’s time-spanning friendship.  And the commitment and love and support of their families, wives, children, and siblings (one of Kudlow’s sisters puts up the money for the recording of their album).  In fact, one of the film’s catch-phrases is “Family is important shit, man.”  And ultimately, despite their thinning locks, aging selves, egos, and disappointments, they really are not bad guys.

You really wish they would succeed.  Even though their material isn’t the best.  They aren’t some lost gem of genius.  They are just guys who have lived part of their dream and have continued to pursue it against numerous odds, challenges, set-backs, and losses.  But the hope burns bright.  And really, this movie may do for them what years of poor self-management, professional production, toil, and commitment could not.  It may bring them to a broader audience who will root for them and want to see something positive happen to them.

But in the end, you have to wonder, if they are not somewhat better off for never having succeeded, crashed and burned in a public spotlight, turned to drugs and alcoholism.  Or maybe they did and the movie skips that part of it.  It was, I think, filmed by a former roadie.  And it’s a good film.  It’s sweet.  It’s rock’n’roll, the reality of trying to make it, not the pseudo glory of success.

It would be an interesting pairing with DiG! (2004), as in a sense utter counterpoint, or even Air Guitar Nation (2006), another film about an absurd quest for glory.  It’s not the laugh riot that I expected, but much sadder and heart-warming than I expected as well.

From Beyond

From Beyond (1986) movie poster

(1986) dir. Stuart Gordon
viewed: 10/10/09

H.P. Lovecraft was not really ever recognized in his time, but somewhere along the 20th Century, he was brought back to culture, and then eventually came to have a huge influence on the culture of Horror writing and filmmaking, both in adaptations, concepts, and style.  Yet, he’s still on the obscure side, even now, probably to the world at large.

Writer/director Stuart Gordon, along with writer/director Brian Yuzna nearly single(?)-handedly brought his work to film culture in the 1980’s and 1990’s and nowadays, the film adaptations are all over the place.  If you look up Lovecraft in the IMDb, you see only a handful of adaptations starting in the 1960’s (he died in 1937) before Stuart Gordon got a hold of him in Re-Animator (1985), a cult classic of its time.  Stuart went on to direct From Beyond, Castle Freak (1995), and Dagon (2001), all from Lovecraft works.  And Yuzna went on to direct Bride of Re-Animator (1990) and Beyond Re-Animator (2003) from Lovecraft, though he also wrote and produced many of Gordon’s works, too.

Gordon is kind of an interesting director in the B-movie, cult world, having also directed Robot Jox (1990) a proto-Transformers sort of thing, Space Truckers (1996) whose name probably speaks for itself, and even Edmond (2005) which I heard was interesting, and the one I most recently watched, Stuck (2007).  He also wrote the story for the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989), not that that is a plus, but more just a demonstration of the odd breadth of his work.

From Beyond is a solidly strange and gory 1980’s horror flick with some good effects.  A mad scientist (professor) who is obsessed with a world “beyond” our world, though in co-existence with ours.  A part of the brain can be stimulated to make the other world visible.  Unfortunately, that other world is populated with all kinds of strange monsters, some a eel-like, others like floating jellyfish with lots of sharp teeth.  And of course, you need to die to evolve into this other realm, but then you can “see” hallucinatory visions.  But then you seem to crave eating brains.  And you become in a constant state of sexual arousal.  And you transform into all kinds of wiggling spewing flesh.

The film is neither overly serious nor overly comic, riding a line of absurdity, while keeping a foot on the ground of genuine attempt at being frightening.  It’s got a lot going for it, really.  It’s gross, strange, comic, absurd, fantastic and weird.  What would Lovecraft have thought of it?  I don’t really know.  He’s a mysterious figure himself, but he’s got a solid cult following which I think that these movies helped to accentuate 20 some odd years ago.  And I’m going to have to re-visit more of Gordon’s work.

Night of the Demon

Night of the Demon (1957) movie poster

(1957) dir. Jacques Tourneur
viewed: 10/10/09

One of those movies that I’d wanted to see for years and for reasons impossible to understand, I never did until now.  Director Jacques Tourneur is one of my favorites, noted mostly in his pairing with producer Val Lewton, but he made a number of the most haunting horror films (Cat People (1942), I Walked with a Zombie (1943)) and one of the greatest film noirs (Out of the Past (1947)). And Night of the Demon fits well along with these other excellent films.

What is most shocking about it in some ways is its focus on demonism, black magic, Satanic cults, and the like.  The subject matter, devil worship, and the summoning of a demon, somehow, seem more foreign in this time period.  I don’t know if it’s truly so unique in that way, but it’s how it struck me.

Starring Dana Andrews as a professor who has come to England to help debunk and disprove the teachings and statements of a bizarre demonologist, the film ties the depths of devil worship back to pagan times, even pulling Stonehenge into the picture, carved with mystic runes.  Having been publicly decried, the villain summons a demon upon his critics, the disbelievers who only disbelieve until it’s too late.

The demon itself is both campy and scary, quite iconic in its own way.  Though there is some dispute over whether or not Tourneur wanted to display the demon or not, the effects that display it in its two appearances are striking: sparks in the sky, an unfolding cloud, and then the demon, a horned beast, who grows to enormous size and wreaks his vengeance.  The ending, I believe, has long been considered one of the scariest of horror films by many.

I ended up watching the version called Curse of the Demon, which is a truncated version released in the US.  I didn’t do my proper research ahead of time, or I would have watched the Night of the Demon version, the original, longer UK version of the film.  I skimmed it, but didn’t see significant enough differences enough to watch it again, though I was certainly willing.  My recommendation would be the slightly longer original, just for propriety sake, not that it’s so importantly different.


Zombieland (2009) movie poster

(2009) dir. Ruben Fleischer
viewed: 10/09/09 at AMC Loews Metreon 16, SF, CA

I was up for a double feature of horror films, if not a triple feature (turned out “if not”), so after watching Paranormal Activity (2007), I turned into the next theater to watch Zombieland.  The funny thing about Zombieland (and there are a few funny things about it) is that it’s a total pastiche, a collision of genres, the latest post-modern mash-up of characteristics whose highest moments come even with a dearth of originality.

It’s a horror film (without the scares).  It’s a comedy (spoof? or just comedy).  It’s a teen romance.  It’s a road film.  It even features Bill Murray playing himself in a post-zombie world.

Actually, Bill Murray is the best part of the movie, as probably isn’t so surprising.  But Woody Harrelson is also quite good as the redneck zombie-killer extroirdinaire.  It also features Jesse Eisenberg, who I’d last seen in another film set in an amusement park, Adventureland (2009).  Zombieland / Adventureland, he’s pretty much the same hoodie-wearing, sweet-natured virgin, who doesn’t know his way around a girl.  Just here, he’s also got zombies to worry about.  A little tired of him already.

The style of the film features lots of “words on screen”, 3-dimensional encapsulations of Eisenberg’s character’s rules to live by, which also get whacked and dented as if they were part of the scenery.  It’s something not unlike a truck commercial or a Visa commercial in some ways.  And where the film has moments of style, perhaps best played out in the opening credits, featuring slow-slow-motion 3-dimensional feeling snippets of people running from zombies, it’s also quite banal most of the time.

As much as I wasn’t overly impressed with the film, I would be loathe to say that I didn’t enjoy it at all.  It’s relative fun.  And maybe hedging one’s bets on genre allows room to fiddle with stuff without overly committing to a set of genre requirements.

And what is kinda sad, the disease that triggers the zombification of the world is said to be some variation on mad cow disease.  It’s a very limp premise.  With all the things that could lead to the destruction of humanity, and all the ones that have been used as premises for zombie movies over time, this was is given seriously short shrift.  I guess they just needed to leave the room for all the fucking product placement: Mountain Dew Red, Twinkies, FedEx (demoed multiple times), and probably others that I was trying to blot out of my mind.

Product placement gives you a strike in my book.  Sorry.  It’s a further note of soullessness in corporate-produced “entertainment”.  We’re not the zombies.  Are we?