The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'dead creatures'

2004/12/1

I just got around to watching Shaun of the Dead, the latest zombie flick to have come out of Britain in the last few years. It was entertaining enough, in a lighthearted way; a cross between a smugly feel-good britcom (it is, after all, from Working Title, who are responsible for most of the British films with mass appeal over the past decade or so) and an early Peter Jackson splatter film; blood, guts, middle-class relationship-issue angst and huge dollops quintessential Englishness. As one would expect from Working Title, it's a stylish package, with meticulous attention to detail (even the cheapness of the zombie effects was undoubtedly art-directed to the last detail, footnoted with references to John Romero and the like), and packed with elements to appeal to as many segments of the audience as possible. It's set in a reasonably leafy, suburban part of North London, considerably more middle-class and pleasant than the high-rises of 28 Days Later (Danny Boyle's edgier brit-zombie flick), and doubly more so than the Ken Loach-esque kitchen-sink grimness of Dead Creatures (the best of the recent wave of British zombie films, in my opinion), and also is a much lighter affair (don't expect meditations on the dark side of human nature or the plight of those who fall between the cracks; this is essentially a feelgood flick; having said that, the film's take on the lasting influences of the zombie phenomenon, with the undead being pressed into service-industry jobs and TV game shows, were amusing, and possibly worthy of expansion).

The cast featured some familiar faces to watchers of recent British TV comedy; one I noticed (from the credit) was Look Around You's Peter Serafinowicz as the barman; Black Books' Dylan Moran also made an entry as an irritatingly smug prig of a housemate.

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2004/7/30

This afternoon, I saw the Film Festival screening of Dead Creatures. This is basically a British kitchen-sink social-realist zombie film; in it, zombies are just ordinary people like us, with two exceptions: they have an insatiable craving for human flesh and, over the course of a year or so, their bodies start to decay; their condition is the product of some contagious disease, spread by attacks from other zombies. Other than that, they are fully lucid and aware of their predicament, living for the moment, adjusting to killing to survive, and clutching onto futile hope until the end. The film follows a colony of zombiefied women, as well as a vigilante zombie hunter, and shows all stages of the process: a naïve newly-infected recruit adjusting to the realities of their new life, another late-stage victim, delirious and physically decaying, and between that, others rationalising their predatory habits, agonising about the loss of their futures and lives, and coping with the onset of decay. It borrows heavily from the British kitchen-sink tradition: it's set amidst the social decay of working-class London, and the system is oblivious and uncaring; even the vigilantes who hunt zombies do so for selfish reasons rather than out of idealism.

Dead Creatures was made in 2001, before Danny Boyle's more apocalyptic brit-zombie flick 28 Days Later, and, in some ways, is an excellent horror movie. It uses little in the way of special effects (some very convincing prosthetic makeup, latex models of dismembered limbs and the obligatory cool custom weapon, a zombie-killing bolt gun), but its strength is in capturing the despair and futility of those afflicted; of showing the inevitable end, the countless acts of murder committed in the interim to survive to reach it, and then the journey of one newly afflicted. The reality depicted is grim and affecting; one really empathises with the characters, in a way that goes beyond feeling the usual rollercoaster ride of tension and release, and comes out just about ready to donate to a charity to help ease the zombie plight. One could say that this is a horror film for Guardian readers.

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