The Would-Be #6: Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later
The Good: This is a fast-paced, no-nonsense, and involving horror flick with one of the coolest and most inventive “monsters” in recent memory. Even with the low budget, the effects are brutally realistic and well…effective. It surprisingly doesn’t go over-the-top with its violence either.
The Bad: It is a little obvious that this is a low budget film, with 99% of it taking place in a gas station. Clearly most of the money went to the effects, which I cannot complain about. The ending feels a little rushed and unsatisfying as well.
Overall: If you like your horror movies entertaining and more character focused than those most recent “torture-porn” films, then this is one for you. Leading man Shea Whigham provides us an awesome hero and Jill Wagner is great to look at. The acting is there and the monster is extremely well done and most times terrifying.
4. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
The Good: Zack Snyder, director of recently popular 300 and Watchmen, starts his career off with one of the best remakes in movie history. This takes George A. Romero’s original classic and ratchets up the intensity, effects, and even character development.
The Bad: The problem with modern-day zombie movies is that they are less focused on the message and more on the shooting of zombies. This is clear in a few scenes in this film, but due to the great cast being under smart direction, it never becomes tedious or takes away from the film as a whole.
Overall: This film is action-packed without overlooking its characters and their motivations. In these times, that has apparently become impossible to do. With some truly horrifying scenes (most notable, the fantastic opening 10 minutes of the film), good actors, and smart direction, this is one of the best remakes of any genre.
3. The House of the Devil (2009)
The Good: As a throwback to the 70s/80s horror films, this film succeeds immensely. It uses the familiar “lonely babysitter in a creepy house” effect to its advantage with a very slow-burn storyline that leaves a constant sense of dread. In the end, you are certainly not disappointed with the result.
The Bad: There could have been a good five minutes or so shaved off of Jocelin Donahue being alone in the house, no matter how attractive she is.
Overall: This is great nostalgia for those horror films we all used to love. The tone, picture, and story are spot-on to those of the late 70s and 80s horror flicks. Tom Noonan gives an intensely creepy performance and is one of the most engaging parts of the film. Director Ti West effectively builds our imaginations and raises the hairs on our neck to a terrifying conclusion.
2. The Descent (2005)
The Good: This is really two horror movies in one if you are even semi-claustrophobic. The tight direction, good number of scares, and the consistent feeling of dread make this a very effective horror flick.
The Bad: I usually like my movies to have more of a realistic basis – unexplained epidemics (zombies), satanic worshipers, etc. Unfortunately here, there is a bit of abandonment of realism halfway through the film…but in no way does that keep it from losing its tension.
Overall: The acting is superb, the scares are genuine and in abundance, and the character development is important and effective. The film never really strays from being able to scare us.
1. The Crazies (2010)
The Good: A great cast and talented director turns this film into something more than another “zombie” flick. The scares are genuine, both terrifying and emotional.
The Bad: Not much to call out here on the side of negatives. The last couple of minutes lose a bit of steam from previous…but what’s 60 seconds or so? In the end, you are still engaged in the characters and their journey.
Overall: The real stand-outs here are Timothy Olyphant and Joe Anderson. Olyphant has a great presence, sense of authority, experience, and quality to him that makes you want to follow his character wherever he goes. Anderson has a very challenging role in this film, having to be both somewhat annoying, honorable, and heart-wrenching at different times. The transformation of his character is indeed one of the most effective parts of the film. Is his condition a product of the epidemic? Or of the present surroundings?
As you can see, I tend to like my horror films at least somewhat based in reality. I believe the key to that is to keep the characters real and relatable. Character and real terror is where ‘The Crazies’ truly triumphs. The epidemic that spreads does not turn the infected people into zombies, but what it really does is take away their sense of morality and sanity. These people are still themselves, they can still think and talk and act at their own will – their darkest thoughts are just able to become reality. There are some very well done scenes here that paint that picture in a brutal and emotional way. Another strong point this film has is how realistically our protagonists react to each of the events they encounter.
Overall, this remake of another Romero flick more than triumphs over the original without having to add buckets of blood, but by using genuine scare tactics.