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5.22.2008

Day of the Dead

What an era we live in! There was a time in American life when a trip to the video store was something to be savored. Maybe even anticipated. I think there are loads of erstwhile entrepreneurs across this great country who look back wistfully at those lucrative days of the VHS gold rush. There was a time when operating a video store wasn't only profitable, but it was creative. Individual stores flourished outside the shadow of corporate influence. Believe me, I know. I managed a Videoland in McMinnville, Oregon, while I attended Linfield. It was a lot of fun, but completely useless as a societal resource. We tried to make it a better store. We hyped our favorites and I set aside a "staff favorites" section. Most of us made used-car salesmen look like shrinking violets when it came to talking movies. We knew our shit, and we were good.

Then Blockbuster bought Videoland. Things changed. The store was much different the last time I visited, maybe a decade ago.

Hmmm. Where is this going? I pay Blockbuster 21.99 a month for my online rental (and five in-store swaps) service. I watch, probably, fifteen to twenty DVDs a month. Sound like a lot? It's sparse, compared to where we used to be. When Jeanne and I were back in college, it was a movie a night. Often, it was a double feature. And there was some time left over for us both to make some decent grades on the side.

But now my only choice is Blockbuster. I have a store two miles from the house. And I've found they have a lot (not all--not nearly all) of what I'd like to look at in the online catalogue. And I can drop the discs in the mail and not feel too bad about watching the stinkers. Which leads me back (see--tangents always come home!) to Day of the Dead. If I'd rented this one from Blue Mountain Video, our local shop back in John Day, Oregon, well...I'd have been angry about spending my $2.99. It would have dissipated quickly because my mom would have also rented Double Dribble for me and we would have had pizza from Klondike's (Canadian Bacon and hot cheese), but still...

Another question. Why did VHS rentals, regardless of the national economy, always rent for $2.99? It's like there was a national collusion to only rent a tape for three danged bones!

Ok, Day of the Dead is not completely without merit. I'm sure those aren't the words director Steve Miner wants to hear from anyone commenting on his film, but there's not a heck of a lot to write home about on this one. That said, Miner can frame a scene and some of his work here is solid.

The shambling, stumbling horde is back in this one. Or are they? Actually, we get screaming, sprinting, ceiling-crawling(?) zombies. I like my zombies slow and shuffling. The fast ones were pretty cool in 28 Days Later. But what can I say? When it comes to my undead, I'm a bit of a traditionalist.

Miner sets the tone poorly in the opening scene by using a slow-mo/speed-up technique that has become soooooooo played out now in the horror field over the last three years. I'm sick and tired of the tricks with the camera! Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was awesome because of its slow build! Jeepers Creepers' first forty-five minutes were great! Then someone had to drop that ridiculous monster into the thing. We horror fans can sit still. You guys don't need to whore out the pathos to the detriment of the story.

Stop. With. The. Camera. Effects.

The casting was interesting. Mariah's boo Nick Cannon shows up here as a caricature. Ving Rames is Ving Rames. And Mena Suvari, she of the excellent American Beauty, makes an appearance. None of them can do anything with the script. I liked Cannon, by the way, in Drumline. That was a pretty good film.

The story is set in Leadville, Colorado. It's a fine town. My dad spent some time up there during his years with the United States Forest Service (we lived in Pueblo, Colorado, for eight years prior to moving to Oregon). Here, it's repeatedly disparaged as a "shithole." It's a running joke.

Yeah, it's that kind of movie.

But, like I said, Miner's work isn't all bad. He can build tension adequately. I liked the scene in the hospital waiting room, when the infection begins to manifest itself and all of the injured seem to "go blank" at the same time.

But the story just has too many holes in it and not enough to redeem it. My 'C-' is probably generous, but I didn't have to drop three bones on it so I'm feeling charitable.

But guess what came in the mail today? A real zombie movie.


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