I knew I was going to marathon some horror movies tonight, but I hadn’t planned on following any theme beyond scary Halloween movies. But it turns out I watched three movies in which the main characters are trapped inside a building. Which maybe wasn’t the best idea for a night when I’m here all by myself.
First there was The Mist. I actually watched this almost a year ago to the date, but this time around, I checked out the black and white version Frank Darabont included on the DVD. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this version, and Darabont in his introduction says he prefers it over the color one, that it gives the film the feel of a 1960s horror film. But aside from the scene where the flying beasts break into the grocery store illuminated by the portable lights, and the bright flashes of gunfire when Thomas Jane shoots everyone in the jeep, I didn’t really find it that much of an improvement. Part of the problem was that, even without color, the film just looks too good, too polished, too modern to get that feel Darabont was talking about. However you watch it though, it’s still a great film, filled with an amazing sense of growing dread and hopelessness, some fantastic creature design (and smart sparing use of those designs), and one shattering ending.
Next up was an intentionally black and white film, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. No chance of this looking polished or modern, and that’s part of its charm. What I like about this is how it starts off like it’s going to be a simple horror film; the first zombie we see isn’t all that gory, and wouldn’t look out of place in a Hammer film of the same period. But as the film goes on, things get more and more intense and grim, and what once seemed to be a funhouse ride ends up as this stark tale with no good outcome for anybody. Another thing that struck me was how there really isn’t a zombie apocalypse here. You get the impression at the end that after a long night of a bunch of good ol’ boys shooting zombies in the head, things are pretty much under control. Strange that the film that essentially launched the genre lacks what’s come to be one of its core elements.
I’m wrapping things up right now with Zack Snyder’s 2004 take on Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. A lot of zombie fans consider this film to be sacrilege, what with the double crimes of daring to remake the original and featuring running zombies. For me, I love that Snyder didn’t feel so behold to Romero’s legacy that he simply made a slavish imitation. The basic elements are the same, but while Romero went for horror mixed with satire, Snyder’s in it solely for the shock, and on that level, the film works like gangbusters. The pre-credits sequence is as fine a bit of world-ending as you’re likely to see, and then the opening credits come along set to Johnny Cash’s “When the Man Comes Around” and really sends everything over the edge. By the time the story gets going, you’ve been through as much of a wringer as the characters have.
Now, I just have to worry about getting any sleep tonight.