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Posts Tagged ‘zombies’

Sam Keeley

“THE CURED” My rating: C+

95 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The new Holy Grail — at least as far as the makers of horror films are concerned — is a fresh take on zombies.

In recent years titles like “Maggie,” “Life After Beth,” “The Girl with All the Gifts” and “Warm Bodies” have sought with varying degrees of success to refresh the whole undead flesheater bit.

“The Cured” offers some intriguing ideas, but can’t sustain the drama when things fall back into the same-old same-old.

At the heart of David Freyne’s Ireland-lensed effort is the idea that zombies can be cured.  Whether or not that’s a good thing is basically what the movie’s about.

Months before the beginning of the film a bug called the Maze Virus swept Europe, turning everyday folks into snarling cannibals.  A vaccine has been developed that brings the infected back to their normal state…with the downside that they can recall all the ghastly things they did while under the virus’ influence.

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Sennia Nanua

Sennia Nanua

“THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS”  My rating: B 

111 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The Holy Grail for the makers of cult films is to come up with an original twist on the zombie thriller.

Netflix has a real contender with its new comedy “The Santa Clarita Diet.”  Another, much more serious candidate is “The Girl with All the Gifts,” which provides a big dose of in-the-moment chills and splatter, but even more importantly builds its own satisfying mythology.

Colm McCarthy’s film (the unexpectedly thoughtful script is by Mike Carey, based on his novel) begins in an underground prison somewhere in Britain. Here unfailingly polite 10-year-olds are kept in cells, fed live worms and guarded by armed soldiers who each day cart them off to their classroom strapped into wheelchairs like mini Hannibal Lecters.

We’re introduced to this world through the experiences of Melanie (Sennia Nanua), a bright, thoughtful and eager-to-please child despite her status as  a prisoner.

Each day the kids are taught by Helen (Gemma Arteton), whose curriculum leans heavily on science, though as  a reward for hard work she reads to her captive students from the Greek legends.

Melanie really relates to those fables.  Especial the one about Pandora. And she likes to think of Helen as the mother she never knew.

Not everybody in this prison is so nice to the children. Sergeant Parks (Paddy Considine) loudly refers to them as “freakin’ abortions” and warns his soldiers to never get too close. Meanwhile Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close) is vivisecting the youngsters one by one.

You see these kids, in the womb when the zombie apocalypse  hit, are half human and half “hungry” (that’s what the flesh-gnawing resurrected are called in this rendition).  They may represent mankind’s only chance for a vaccine to fight the fungoid disease that brought civilization to its knees a decade earlier.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abilgail Breslin

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abilgail Breslin

“MAGGIE”  My rating: C+

95 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Not only does “Maggie” offer a “serious” look at the zombie apocalypse, but it features Arnold Schwarzenegger in what may prove to be his best performance.

Makes me wish I liked the movie more.

Short on mayhem and long on angst, this debut feature from writer John Scott and director Henry Hobson stars Schwarzenegger as Wade, a Midwestern farmer who braves a terrible pestilence to drive to the big city (Kansas City, we’re told) and retrieve his teenage daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin). She has contracted the mysterious disease and is being held in a special hospital ward.

The big brains call the bug the necroambulist virus — basically it turns human beings into zombies over the course of several weeks.  What makes this so terrible is that those bitten know they are doomed, that little by little they will lose their individuality and become snarling, stumbling monsters.

Wade brings Maggie back to the farm he shares with his second wife, Caroline (Joely Richardson), and their  two young children. For the wee ones’ safety they  are sent off to live with a relative  while Maggie  deteriorates.  When the disease reaches a certain stage — but while she still has her wits about her — emergency rules dictate that she will be taken by the local police to a camp where the infected will be destroyed.

Sounds grim…and it is.

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Dane DeHaan and Aubrey Plaza in "Life After Beth"

Dane DeHaan and Aubrey Plaza in “Life After Beth”

“LIFE AFTER BETH”  My rating: C      (Opening Aug. 29 at the ***)

91 minutes | MPAA rating: R

How about a moratorium on zombie movies?  At least until someone comes up with a truly novel way of approaching what is quickly becoming a very worn-out genre?

In “Life After Beth,” small-town doofus Zach (Dane DeHaan) is mourning the death of his girlfriend Beth, who went out for hike one morning and was bitten by a poisonous snake.  As Jeff Baena’s film begins, Zach is dealing with her funeral.

Consumed by heartbreak, our hero starts hanging with Beth’s parents (John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon), sharing memories and bonding through mutual loss. His own family — Mom  (Cheryl Hines), Dad (Paul Reiser) and a trigger-happy security guard sibling (Matthew Gray Gubler) — would just as soon not have  his whiny self around.

One day Beth’s parents start acting strangely. They won’t come to the door. They close the shades.

A bit of sleuthing brings a shocking revelation. Beth (indie “it” girl Aubrey Plaza) has come back. She seems normal…albeit a bit distracted and flaky. But then she always was. How did this resurrection come to be?

Yup. Zombies.

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WW Z“WORLD WAR Z” My rating: B- (Opening wide on June 21)

116 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Even before it hit theaters Brad Pitt’s “World War Z” was making headlines for its behind-the-scenes drama: a mid-production change in direction, major rewrites, more than $20 million in reshoots, a nine-month delay in releasing the picture and, finally, the disowning of the finished film by Max Brooks (son of funnyman Mel), on whose novel it is based.

True, fans of the book will scarcely recognize it in the final version of director Marc Forster’s film. But as a pure movie experience “World War Z” is generally satisfying: breathlessly-paced, competently acted and audacious in its efforts to give us zombies of the sort we’ve never seen before. (Face it…the whole zombie thing was running on creative fumes.)

What makes “World War Z” really interesting is its “macro zombie” approach to the genre. The zombies in this film aren’t treated as individuals but as a part of a huge voracious hive which moves and attacks like a swarm of insects.

Rather than giving us the usual close ups of zombies chowing down on the necks and limbs of screaming victims, the film offers a tsunami of the undead pouring over walls and flowing down streets like unstoppable floodwaters.  This makes for a very different zombie flick, one that got a relatively tame PG-13 from the MPAA ratings board yet still packs a big visceral punch.

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