Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I Sell the Dead, Zombi 3, Predator

I Sell the Dead is a horror-comedy from 2008 that was written and directed by Glenn McQuaid. It stars Dominick Monaghan and Larry Fessenden as two turn of the century graverobbers who stumble upon the otherworldly in their grisly career. It's told as a series of flashbacks as Monaghan's character relates his story to a priest (Ron Perlman) as an act of contrition before he is executed with the individual sequences being linked together with comic book panel style segues.

The film is pretty good, if not as funny as it should've been. That's really the only thing that I found to be lacking in the movie. The performances were great, the cinematography was fine, the music was good, and the special effects were good, but there was too much telling of the story and not enough showing the adventures of the two graverobbers. Disappointing.

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Zombi 3 is probably best known amongst the real deal horror fans as an unfortunate entry into the filmography of the Godfather of Gore, Lucio Fulci, who was very ill and absolutely miserable for his short time on Zombi 3 and for the next nine years of his life. When he left halfway through production, Bruno Mattei stepped in to "save" it.

One can't really review a film as notoriously bad as Zombi 3 with a straight face. Even the title is a misnomer; the first film in the series, Zombi, is actually the Italian title for George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead. Zombi 2 (known in the States as Zombie, in the UK as Zombie Flesh Eaters) is the true first entry into this particular series, which was written and directed by Fulci as a way to capitalize on the popularity of Romero's film, but then bloomed into the Italian horror renaissance we fans know and love, usurping Giallo's place as the main Italian horror export in an eruption of grue. There are quite a few Zombi flicks out in the ether, including retitles of older zombie flicks to cash in on the name, and it gets confusing, but I think the only "true successor" to Zombi 3 is Claudio Fragasso's Zombi 4: After Death (Zombie Flesh Eaters 3.) See what I mean?

While this is a terrible film even by 80s Italian horror standards, Zombi 3 does have a couple of interesting, if not well utilized, ideas and set pieces. Sentient zombies, for example. While a few of the ghouls in Return of the Living Dead were able to communicate ("send more cops!" and "your brains are spicy...") I think that Blue Heart's arc was a bit ahead of its time. It was also the only interesting character arc in the entire thing, but no one really watches Fulci or even Mattei for the character development, do they? That said, Claudio Fragasso's script, while inept and painful, aspires to be more than it really ends up being and in a couple of instances actually succeeds. Perhaps that credit should be given to uncredited writer Rossella Drudi, but I really have no idea.

I'm an unabashed fan of Fulci, which would probably amuse him no end. He was pretty damn misogynistic (Zombi 3 star Beatrice Ring's stories from set are truly chilling), but there's something amazing in his work, even in what little of his work on Zombi 3 remains intact after the bumbling, thieving Mattei got his damn dirty paws all over it. As you can tell, I'm NOT a fan of Bruno Mattei's stuff. The Beyond is my personal favourite Fulci flick, with The Gates of Hell (City of the Living Dead) and Zombie tied for second. Mattei's work is pretty bland and lifeless (haha) whereas Fulci never seemed to like to cut film to get another angle (probably to save dough) so his shots are filled with zooms and pans. His trademark eye gouging is missing in this flick and the loving caress of a gentle pan over a gorily ripped up body part is almost totally absent, but the effects for this film were pretty subpar anyway and not deserving of Fulci's attention.

The theme music was good, but repetitive and it seemed like they were trying to emulate Goblin's and John Harrison's work on Romero's Dawn and Day respectively.

I can't really recommend this flick, even as it descends past Return of the Living Dead-style slapstick with a straight face which just makes it funnier. If you'e a horror fan, and I mean a true horror fan, you've probably already seen this at least twice; once for yourself and once to show your friends just how bad it was. If you're looking into what makes Quentin Tarantino weep with joy when it comes to Fulci, you might want to skip this for now and watch a couple of his Giallo meanwhile, like The Psychic (Seven Notes in Black) or Lizard in Woman's Skin. If you're learning the history of Italian horror or of Fulci himself, at least watch Zombie first then come back for this one, but don't skip it entirely. You might just learn how NOT to direct something, like male lead Deran Sarafian who went on to become a successful American television director (he's worked on Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, House, and the CSIs amongst others.)

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Predator is the action/sci-fi hybrid from the late 80s that stars Arnold Schwarzenegger (I didn't even have to look up the spelling!) as the bestest human commando soldier evar!1eleventy! who, whilst in the middle of a mission for the CIA, is attacked by the bestest alien commando soldier evar!1eleventy! and has lots of eyesex with Carl Weathers before covering himself in mud and making things go esplodey blah blah blah.

I don't like action movies, which is ironic considering I like writer Shane Black, who is IN this flick as Predator Fodder #1. He wrote The Monster Squad (*squee*), The Long Kiss Goodnight (I quote this movie all the time), Last Action Hero (which I liked a lot), and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (oh, Robert Downey, Jr...I heart you...)...oh, and the Lethal Weapon flicks (which I've not yet seen.) I found this flick to be pretty dull, honestly, and the music to be so bombastic as to start out laughable and finally just fade into the background, like the annoying buzz of a fluorescent light in an office. The editing was good and it was a solid flick from the technical and effects points of view.

My main problem with the idea of the Predator is that he's great at hunting with all of his equipment, but you strip him of all that and a guy who could barely wipe his own butt for all of the muscles on his skeleton was able to defeat him. If Ahnold had died, then I probably would've thought this a neat flick, but you can't have your action hero die at the end of the flick unless it's the thing that pushes the real protagonist into action to get revenge. American audiences just don't dig it, y'know? Perhaps Billy should've survived and gone on to kick the Predator's butt to avenge Ahnold.

Also, the mud mask? It doesn't work. It'll mask body temperature for a few minutes, but to maintain a low temperature, one would have to be frozen, therefore hypothermic and therefore dead. And you can't cover your eyes with mud and eyes give off a heat signature, too.

This is the first flick (that I know of anyway) to give the Governator the snappy one liners that would go on to be his trademark for his 80s action flicks. Even as much as I love The Running Man and Terminator 2, I find the snappy one liners to be a complete mood breaker. For other, the whole reason they watch his action flicks is because of the one-liners.

Whatever floats yer boat, I guess. Chances are you've already seen this flick and don't need me to say yay or nay on it. i think I'm one of the few people on this planet who hadn't actually seen the whole thing, but I thought it was boring. Ah well.

4 comments:

NoelCT said...

I find the snappy one liners to be a complete mood breaker.

But without them, we wouldn't get works of art like this. :)

I'm an old PREDATOR fan and think McTiernan directed the hell out of it, even though I fully acknowledge that the script is nowhere near as good as it should have been and it's could safely lose 20 minutes. But that creature is some of Stan Winston's best work.

I just can't do Fulci. I've seen THE BEYOND, and there's fantastic stuff there, but my stomach can't take that level of gore without Peter Jackson making it funny.

Lori said...

Noel:

I was good with the movie up until the first one-liner and then you might as well have stuck a fork in me 'cause I was done. Maybe it's one of those flicks that if you wait too long to see it, it gets built up and built up and then there's no way it can meet the expectations instilled in you over decades.

Fulci is a rough one for gore, absolutely. It's because of him that I have a pretty strong stomach. I watched Saw III and at the pig part thought, "This is freakin' gross, but it ain't no Fulci film..."

Marvin the Martian said...

Never seen the Lethal Weapon films? First one's the best. Second's kinda preachy. Third one I don't remember. Fourth one had some obnoxious insults to the NRA, for which the studio was flooded with hate mail. They wisely stopped making them after that.

Predator was cool, but I hate those "hunt until everyone but the hero is dead" films. Pitch Black, Alien, etc. Sigh. But seeing Jesse whatsisname (the governor of Minnesota) hose down the jungle with a Minigun was a hoot.

Lori said...

Marvin:

I've always been pretty genre-focused and action is not that genre. I plan on watching at least the first Lethal Weapon and the first Die Hard at some point. lol

I like it when the "kill 'em all except the hero" does something different or surprising in some way. Riddick is an antihero, Ripley is a woman, that sort of thing. When the cast is made up of relative unknowns and Arnold Schwarzenegger, you know ahead of time that everyone but Ahnold is going to die.