Monday, November 23, 2009

Day of the Dead

“Day of the Dead” begins in an all-white room that appears to have been made from cement blocks. There’s a person sitting against one wall as the credits roll.

And now the person looks up, and we know it’s a she, and not just an it. Though I suppose they could just be building to a twist, wherein the only men left in the world try to mate with the one remaining woman, and discover that “she” isn’t actually a she at all.

There’s an award-winning short him in there somewhere.

The woman looks at the opposite wall. There’s a calendar there, with every day crossed off in October. She goes to touch the calendar, and a bunch of undead arms burst through the wall. Dream sequence!

And now we’re in an awake sequence. We’ve got:

Dream woman, dude with a big beard, dude with a little beard, and black dude.

The woman appears to be in charge of the operation, and the operation is this: They’re flying over Florida in a helicopter, in an attempt to contact any survivors by radio. But no one is answering, so dude with the small beard wants to head back to their base.

The woman insists that they land, and tells John (the black dude) that they’re touching down. John says he’ll land, but he’s not stopping the engine and he’s not getting out of the helicopter, and at the first sign of trouble he’s taking the chopper back up.

The helicopter lands, and Big Beard and Dream Woman hop out of the chopper and go looking for people.

The streets are very, very, very empty. Big Beard yells out, using a bullhorn, asking if anyone is there.

At long last, we hear someone walking, and see the shadow. But it turns out that the “person” walking is super-duper dead.

As are the other various and sundry people we see. Although I can’t tell if the alligator is alive or undead.

In the chopper, Short Beard and John radio out to whoever is listening. John notes that it’s a dead place, and that you can hears the sounds of the dead.

In the city, Big Beard takes off, clearly determining that there’s nothing to be done here.

Later, the chopper flies right on back to base.

Base, in this instance, seems to be an actual base of some kind, with a large fence around it. The dead press against the fence, but don’t manage to push it over. That is some industrial-grade fencing right there.

John tells two dudes, who I guess are soldiers, to gas up the chopper. Dream Girl says to wait until dark, because there are too many of the dead things out there and having people in sight riles them up.

John disagrees – if they need to make a fast getaway, then the chopper needs to have fuel in it at all times.

They reach an impasse, and the soldiers, who don’t appear to like working very much anyway, opt to put off gassing up the helicopter.

Dream Girl opens the door of the chopper and talks to Big Beard, whose name is Miguel. Miguel is clearly freaked out, or at Dream Girl puts it, collapsing from stress. Miguel points out that everyone is collapsing from stress, except her, and gets super-defensive about it.

Then he storms out of the helicopter.

Dream Girl looks around and notices there’s a new grave nearby. John walks up to her and says, “And then there were twelve.” Also, he calls her Sarah.

Sarah notes that the burial must be why the dead outside are all riled up. Well, Sarah, you might be correct, but have you stopped to think that you’re the only food for something like 150 miles?

Frankly, if there was one Burger King sitting in the middle of nowhere, and I hadn’t eaten anything in a few weeks, I’d probably be pretty riled up, too.

John isn’t done yet. He points out that what they’re doing is crazy, and presents an alternative – they should hop onto the helicopter, take off, and use whatever time they have left to soak up some sunshine.

Which, as a romantic notion, sounds great. As a practical one, whatever time they have left would probably be cut pretty short by the lack of food available. Or maybe I just have a bad attitude.

No matter. The foursome gets onto a metal platform, Little Beard presses a button, and they all descend into the ground.

A solider yells out, “Another waste of time?”” as they get off the platform. John confirms that’s the case.

Another pair of soldiers pull up in what appears to be a golf cart, and ask if they found anything. Sarah says no, and tells him that they went 100 miles up the coast each way.

The other solider in the golf cart tells Sarah they need to go collect two more zombies. Sarah asks what “Logan” is going with them. So I guess we’ll meet him soon.

Sarah also asks if anyone else can go, and the solider points out that there isn’t anyone else – they’re it.

Sarah says they’ll go, and Miguel decides to join them.

The four people on collection duty drive around the underground bunker, passing, among other things, a whole bunch of boats. Man, would I love to know what those are doing down there.

I suppose it would be helpful to describe the bunker in general, but I have to say, it appears to be some kind of massive mine that’s been re-purposed. Rock walls, rock floor, rock ceiling. And a bunch of random flotsam lying around. So there isn’t much to describe.

Eventually, the group reaches the “end” of the mine, where a large wooden fence has been erected to block off a really wide hallway. Or whatever you call it when it’s a cave. Tunnel, maybe?

Either way, big wood fence.

Sarah notes that the list of zombies taken out from behind the fence doesn’t seem to have been updated recently. One of the soldiers says that sometimes, they forget to update the list. This makes Sarah upset, since they won’t know how many they have left if they don’t keep track of them.

I’d love to say I understand how crabby she is about it, but seriously – it’s not like they can’t collect a bunch from outside, right? I mean, I’m sure it’s tricky and all, but it can’t be all that rough.

The other solider starts screaming, alerting the zombies to their presence. But they’re really slow about coming for the solider.

The first solider points out that the zombies are scared – they’re worried about what “Dr. Frankenstein” will do to them.

Sarah points out that if they really are scared, it means the zombies are learning.

There’s some more taunting, because this is a low-budget movie and it helps to pad the running time a bit, and then Miguel goes to get up on the platform on top of the fence, along with one of the soldiers.

Sarah protests, since she knows Miguel is pretty much on the verge of losing it, and heated and somewhat sexist words are exchanged. Then Miguel goes on up.

The solider hooks one of the zombies using a pole, and then Miguel grabs it by the neck using a hook and collar contraption. They drag the zombie through a couple of gates, to keep it separate from the others, and then we’ve got:

A solider and Miguel up on a platform, each holding a zombie using a pole.

Sarah and another soldier are on the ground, getting ready to deal with the zombie who is already outside the gate.

The zombie Miguel is pole-holding suddenly yanks forward, and the pole comes out of his hand.

Sarah grabs the pole.

This causes the solider up top to freak out. He grabs Miguel by the collar and holds Miguel’s head over the zombie struggling in the pen below.

Sarah cocks her gun and tells the solider to let go, and the solider tosses Miguel to the floor.

Later, the two soldiers chain the zombies to a wall in a laboratory.

Elsewhere, Sarah, preps a sedative for Miguel, who angrily throws it against the wall and says he isn’t going to let Sarah dope him up. Sarah says that Miguel needs a sedative, and that he’s behaving dangerously.

Once again, Miguel says that Sarah hurt his feelings. Sarah walks towards him, and he tells her to stay away. Then he slaps her across the face. Twice.

Then he moves forward to get a hug.

Just a tip, dude – physically abusing the only female around is probably not the best course of action. He also does some crying.

Then Sarah jabs him with the dope. So he lies down on a cot and cries some more.

Elsewhere, a doctor talks to yet another soldier, explaining that they need sterile conditions.

The doctor tells the solider in charge – man, I’d kill for a name right about now – that Cooper promised…

But Head Dude says that Cooper is dead, and that the doc can work with what the doc has got.

Sarah shows up, and asks whey they can’t all just get along. Yes, she really does.

Sarah goes on to state that Miguel needs to be pulled off active duty, but Head Dude says Miguel can’t be spared. Then he offers to put Miguel in quarantine, so that the rest of the men might have a shot with the one available woman in the place.

There are a few more sexist and racist comments tossed out as well, but let’s just skip to the end of the scene:

Sarah tells the doctor, whose name is Ted, that they should leave. Head Dude says he’s calling a meeting at 7 PM, and that everyone needs to be there, including “Dr. Frankenstein and Your Boyfriend.”

Bad words are exchanged.

Sarah and Ted leave, and while walking down the corridor Ted tells Sarah to watch herself – Rhodes is dangerous. Rhodes would be the head dude, I guess.

Sarah asks where Logan is, and heads over to talk to him.

Dr. Logan is in his lab, with a bunch of dead bodies and body parts – and also a zombie with a chain around his neck.

There’s more back-and-forth chatter here, but long story short, Logan is trying to domesticate zombies. Which sounds like kind of an awesome idea, until you realize that there are just way too many of them for domestication to be a practical solution to anything.

While they’re talking, Sarah realizes that there’s a uniform on the floor that says Cooper. Logan took the newly-but-not-dearly-departed Cooper’s body to use as a specimen. He even notes that Cooper is more useful to them this way than he ever was before.

The person buried earlier that day was one of the zombies.

Which isn’t quite a continuity error, I guess. I mean, Sarah did say, “Oh, it must have been that freshly-dead body we buried that riled up all the ghouls outside the fence.” But since they buried a dead zombie, that clearly wasn’t the case.

So what did rile them up? Do they just really like helicopters?

Over on an operating table, one of the specimens breaks his manacle, and as he tries to roll off the table, his guts fall out. Logan takes a drill to the creature’s head, and kills it.

Over at the mess hall, the chopper pilots eat. Short Beard, whose name is McDermott, I guess, says he can’t raise anyone on the radio. Which I thought we already knew.

Which is when we realize that this is that 7 o’clock meeting thing that everyone was/is supposed to be at.

The soldiers berate McDermott for not trying harder, or doing a better job, and McDermott points out that much of what he’s using is World War II technology. When someone points out that they used to be able to reach Washington D.C., McDermott explains that they used to use relays, but now they’re just going over the air. He concludes this thought with: “You know the power’s off on the mainland now in case you haven’t heard, and all the shopping malls are closed.”

That’s called an in-joke.

Sarah asks if Rhodes wants anything else, and Rhodes says he doesn’t think the weekly reports mean anything. He wants to know, in simple terms, if the scientists are accomplishing anything.

The various soldiers spout some more racism and sexism, and Sarah stands up and gets ready to leave – only Rhodes stops her with a, “Sit down or so help me God I’ll have you shot.”

Sarah stops and turns around. More heated words are exchanged.

Ted tries to jump to Sarah’s defense, and Rhodes demands that one of the soldiers shoot Sarah. The solider yells Bang!

Rhodes stands up, pulls out his gun, and tells the solider that if the solider doesn’t shoot Sarah, the solider is going to be shot.

The solider prepares to shoot Sarah.

John stands up and indicates that Sarah should sit down before she gets shot.

The solider is just about to shoot Sarah, when Sarah decides that not dying would be much more awesome than dying and she goes to sit down.

Rhodes does some monologueing about how he’s in charge, and about how now that he’s in charge, this isn’t a science installation, it’s a military operation. And this is a war. And a bunch of other stuff along those lines.

He points out that their job is not to bring the creatures downstairs, next to where they sleep – their job is to shoot them in the head.

And then Logan appears, and points out that they don’t have enough ammunition to shoot them all in the head. The time to do that would have been at the beginning. Now they’ve been overrun.

The numbers are about 400,000 to 1, by Logan’s calculations.

Logan goes on to say he was unavoidably detained, and he asks if there’s any food.

Rhodes replies with one of the greatest unknown lines in the history of cinema: “I’m running this monkey farm now, Frankenstein!”

Rhodes wants to know what Logan is doing with his time. He asks what’s stopping them from killing all the remaining specimens, taking his men and leaving the scientists here to rot?

Logan asks: Where will you go?

Logan goes on to assert that there’s no way they can kill all of the creatures now – their only hope is to domesticate them.

Rhodes wants to know what that means.

Logan says they should have something to show them in a matter of weeks.

Sarah tries to backtrack, explaining that it could be months or years before they have something concrete.

The conversation starts to loop around again, and finally Rhodes declares: “You’ve got a little more time.” He adds, a moment later, “I ain’t sayin’ how much.”

Bottom line, he wants results, and nothing happens without him knowing about it.

The meeting breaks up, and John breaks it down for Sarah, and the audience. Rhodes won’t kill John, because he’s the pilot. He won’t kill McDermott because the man knows electronics. He won’t kill Logan, because Logan can talk him out of it.

But everyone else is expendable.

Later, Sarah sits on the floor of her office, and has a nightmare wherein Miguel rolls over on the cot and his guts fall out.

When she wakes up, Miguel tells her that she’s afraid, and she tells him to get out. Man, this is going to make mealtime seriously awkward. It’s not like she can hide out in the crowd of people in the mess hall.

Sarah goes to a water fountain to take some aspirin, and hears some grunting. She walks down the hall and all the soldiers, who have gotten into some strange sort of wrestling match, come shooting out the door.

Which is, I guess, what happens when there aren’t all that many women around.

McDermott arrives, and walks away quickly with Sarah in tow, hoping to protect her from whatever might happen. Once they’re in another hallway, he pulls out his ever-present flask and offers her some brandy.

She takes a pull, then a longer pull.

They grab a couple of helmets with lights on them, and head somewhere inside the cave, until they find a trailer marked, “The Ritz.” This is where John and McDermott live.

Sarah and McDermott go in, and Sarah finds that the trailer is nicely decorated. They head out the back door, where John and McDermott have laid out astroturf and lawn furniture.

John asks what’s on Sarah’s mind. At firs she’s reluctant to say, but then she states that John and McDermott never lift a finger to help anyone, even though they eat “their” food and drink “their” water.

John notes, correctly, that his job is to fly the helicopter, and that they don’t believe in what they – they being the scientists and the military – are doing. He holds up a binder, and points out that the cave contains all the important records of the United States of America: Fortune 500 companies, who owes who money, and a bunch of other things that NO ONE WILL EVER CARE ABOUT AGAIN.

The place is a 14-mile tombstone.

He continues: He thinks everything they’re doing is a waste of time, and time is all they have left. What they really need to do is go somewhere, anywhere, and start over. Make some babies. And tell the babies to never, ever come and dig up the relics of what’s pretty much already a lost civilization.

Sarah says, “Hmmm…”

There’s some more philosophical stuff after that, but it all boils down to this: Man, these people are full of speeches.

Later, Sarah sits in her lab, trying to figure out whatever it is they’re never going to figure out.

She stops to take some more aspirin, and sees Ted in his office, where he’s trying to teach a zombie to eat Beef Treats.

Logan shows up, talking about his theories about how zombies can be trained to be good little girls and boys, based on possible future rewards. Just like children can be trained.

He tells Sarah and Ted to follow him, and when the zombie in Ted’s office knocks over a table, Logan shuts off the lights, and says the zombie can just sit in the dark and think about what he’s done. In the background, the “Gonk” music, which played during the “zombies go mall-walking” segments of “Dawn of the Dead,” plays for a couple of bars.

I’m guessing it’s meant to be sort of a trombone “Wah-wah-waaaaah” sort of joke.

I was just going to sum up what Logan does next, but it’s so deeply disturbing as you’re watching it, I’m going to type out his dialogue verbatim. Keep in mind, he’s talking about a zombie here – at least at first:

“I call him Bub. That’s what the club fellows used to call my father. Can you imagine a surgeon called ‘Buuub?’ Nobody seemed to mind, though. He was rich. My father was rich. He used to say that I’d never be rich doing pure research. I’d never be rich. Bub’s been responding so well lately, I’ve let him live. But is he alive or dead? Well that’s the question these days, isn’t it? Well, let’s say that I let him continue to exist.”

Have I mentioned that Logan’s white coat is totally covered in blood?

Logan goes in the greet Bub, and gives him a toothbrush, a razor, and a copy of the novel “Salem’s Lot.”

Bub sort of tries to shave, and ends up scratching himself, which is icky. Then he picks up the book, and tries to “read” it.

Logan says that Bub remembers everything that he used to.

Ted points out that just because Bub “reads” a book, it doesn’t mean that Bub is smart. But then Sarah points something out – Bub isn’t trying to eat Logan.

Rhodes and another soldier arrive, asking what’s going on. Rhodes is going to shoot Bub, but Logan tells Rhodes that Bub is safe, and gives Bub a phone, and sorta-kinda gets Bub to say, “Hello, Aunt Alicia.”

Rhodes drops something on the floor, and Bub looks up – and salutes Rhodes.

(And here, I think is everything that’s either right or wrong with this movie. If you love Bub, if you want him to succeed, if you love the idea of a zombie retaining his humanity, the idea that some small part of us is still human even after we’re dead, you’ll love this flick.

If you’re just waiting for people to get eaten, well, it’s a bit of a hike until you get to that point – and there aren’t many action sequences in the meantime.)

Logan tells Rhodes to salute back, to see what happens. Rhodes decides this is not a good idea.

Logan has a solider take the bullets out of his pistol, which he then gives to Bub. Bub looks at the pistol -–and then yanks the slide. He points the pistol at Rhodes – and pulls the trigger.

Later, Rhodes has everyone in a meeting. He’s crabby because he thinks that the scientists just want to teach the zombies tricks. Whereas Rhodes just wants to see them all dead.

Logan explains that what they’re doing is the bare beginning of social, civilized behavior. And civility is what separates humans from the animals.

And then it’s even later, and the soldiers are pulling a couple more zombies out from behind the wooden barrier they’re storing them in.

The collar on one of the zombies breaks, and it tears the throat out of one of the soldiers.

Miguel tries to stop another escaping zombie, and it takes a bite out of his arm.

Miguel runs away, and Sarah gives chase.

The soldier with the missing throat asks another soldier to shoot him in the head. The soldier shoots him.

Sarah chases down Miguel, finally catching up to him in from of John and McDermott’s trailer. John grabs Miguel, and Sarah whacks him on the back of the head with a rock.

Sarah chops off Miguel’s arm using a machete, then creates a makeshift torch, and cauterizes the rather massive wound.

The moment that’s over, Rhodes and two other soldiers come running up, claiming that Miguel is the reason their friend is dead.

Sarah tells them that she amputated Miguel’s arm, and that he’ll be okay, and that if he isn’t, she’ll shoot him herself.

But it doesn’t matter – the solider still plans on killing Miguel, no matter what. Until John and McDermott pull out their guns.

This puts everyone at an impasse.

A lot of harsh words are exchanged, which happens a lot in the movie. Budget cuts, I guess. Words are, after all, cheap, whereas action sequences aren’t.

Final tally: Rhodes says, essentially, that the scientists aren’t getting anything from the soldiers any more. The soldiers are going to go to the corral and kill all the remaining zombies in there.

The soldiers leave.

Sarah is shaking, and crying, and freaking right out. She falls into John’s arms, and he holds and attempts to comfort her.

And then they’re putting Miguel into a bed.

Sarah says she’s going to need to go to the lab, to get some morphine. McDermott says he’s going with Sarah.

John says if they aren’t back in half an hour, he’s coming after them.

In Logan’s lab, McDermott basically goes, “What’s Logan been doing here?” Sarah collects whatever she thinks she’ll need.

McDermott presses play on Logan’s tape recorder, and Logan’s voice starts up, doing that babbling thing Logan does so well. McDermott realizes there’s fresh blood on his shirt, and he looks down, and sees a sheet covering something.

That something is the head of the solider who was just killed while collecting specimens. Apparently, the solider who shot the guy managed to miss the brain, and now the head is just sitting there, trying to eat people, even though it doesn’t have any way to process the food.

It’s just a head.

Sarah goes to shoot the head in the head, and McDermott tells her not to, since it will attract Rhodes and the remaining soldiers, which is not a good idea.

To say the least.

McDermott says they should get out of there – and that he’s starting to think they should take the helicopter before someone else does.

They go out into the hallway, and spot Logan, who is going to talk to Bub. Bub has headphones on, which Logan adjust to go over Bub’s ears.

And, wonder of wonders, Bub doesn’t try to eat Logan’s arm. Even after Logan turns on Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”

Logan then tries to teach Bub how to operate the tape recorder that’s playing music for Bub.

Logan congratulates Bub on his hard work, and then offers Bub a reward. Fresh meat. Fresh people meat.

Sarah and McDermott take in all of this, but have to turn away at the people eating. Which is right when Rhodes shows up, and demands to know what Bub is eating.

They take Logan to the freezer, where they find the body of the dead solider. Then they shoot Logan. A lot.

Rhodes tells his soldiers to take all of the scientist’s guns.

At the trailer, John grabs a gun and heads out to find his friends.

At which point, Miguel wakes up, or snaps to, or otherwise regains focus.

John finds all the soldiers and scientists, and Rhodes tells John to drop his weapons or the scientists are all going to die.

You know something? Considering how talky this flick is I suspect that with a little work, this whole movie could totally be a stage play. I would go see that in a heartbeat. Get on that, folks with a lot of free time and stage blood.

John drops his weapons, and one of the soldiers takes his machete.

Rhodes tells John that they’re leaving. Now. Just John and the soldiers.

John says no.

Rhodes shoots Ted in the head.

Sarah give a good old-fashioned, “Nooo!”

Rhodes has the soldiers shove Sarah and McDermott into the corral with the zombies.

John pleads for their lives, stating that he won’t fly if Rhodes won’t free his friends.

Rhodes says he’s not making deals.

John tries to grab a gun from one of the soldiers, but it doesn’t work, and Rhodes tells one of the soldiers to beat some sense into John – but not to kill him.

McDermott grabs a board for a weapon, and he and Sarah run into the zombie-filled cavern, away from the gate, figuring it’s their only hope to find safety.

The zombies, of course, give chase.

John punches out a solider, and then gets a few punches to the face.

Rhodes tells John to fly. John says not a chance.

John is just about to get another beating, when everyone hears a noise. It’s the elevator.

Miguel is headed outside.

Deep in the dark caves, Sarah and McDermott try to find a way out – until they get attacked. They fight off the zombies with a board and a shovel. Zany fun kill: McDermott shoves the shovel into one of the zombie’s mouths, and pops off the top of its head – but it’s eyes keep moving, since he didn’t damage the center of the brain.

And now we’re back with Rhodes and John. Rhodes takes his eyes off John for a second, and John jumps Rhodes and knocks him out – but he doesn’t kill Rhodes.

Back in the lab, Bub accidentally releases the pin holding his chain in place. Bub is a free man. Um... thing.

The two soldiers sent to find Miguel discover that Miguel broke all the controls to the elevator. The only way to operate the elevator now is with the hand box, which is currently at ground level.

Rhodes and the previously unconscious soldier awaken to discover that John has taken all their weapons.

This makes Rhodes sad.

John, meanwhile, is running through the caves, armed to the teeth. Although it’s tough to tell which caves he’s in. He might have gone after his friends, but I can’t tell. A bat flies by him, and I can’t say what the significance of that is.

He calls to Sarah and McDermott, so I guess he’s headed after that.

Sarah calls to John, John shoots a few zombies, and McDermott stops drinking long enough to club a zombie in the head. This causes him to drop his flask. Looks like he just gave up drinking.

Outside, Miguel walks up to the fence and opens that bad boy up. Zombies come pouring into the compound.

Miguel then runs to the elevator platform, waits for the zombies to overpower him, and presses the down button.

Is it worth noting the zombie clown? Because there’s a zombie clown. Zombie clown!

The few remaining soldiers, who are all trying to fix the elevator, see the platform coming down with a WHOLE lotta zombies on it, and they run for it.

Rhodes grabs the golf cart and drives away, leaving all his companions behind.

He finds a door, jumps through it, and locks it behind him.

Elsewhere in the complex, Bub locates Logan’s dead body, and shows him that his chain has come undone. Then he realizes that Logan is, like, really, really, dead. Really. Bub is grief-stricken. Really.

Bub spots a couple of guns on the ground.

Out in the caves, zombies are everywhere, and the soldiers are on the run. But we’re running out of movie here, so it’s time for some people to die real bad.

The first one gets his head ripped off his body, but his jaw is still working as it’s pulled off.

One of the other soldiers just keeps on shooting at zombies, but fails to hit any of them in the head. So he ends up dead.

A third solider goes full automatic on the zombie hoard, but aims for their chest area, instead of their heads.

Frankly, I’m shocked all these people didn’t die a long time ago.

The solider encounters the door that Rhodes locked, and tries to open it – and when that doesn’t work, he shoots it open.

The solider heads in the door, and here come all the zombies – including the zombie clown again. I kind of love that guy.

The solider finds Bub, and Bub, who picked up a gun, shoots at the solider.

The solider sneaks into a room and hides behind the door, waiting for Bub. So he fails to see the other zombies who come up behind him and take a chunk out of his neck.

And then – more zombies! It’s a plethora of zombies! All at markdown prices!

But no clown. Seriously, y’all – I want to see the clown eat someone. Can you imagine the nightmares you’d have after seeing something like that?

No matter. The solider finally head-shots a few of the zombies, but it’s too little, too late. He knows he’s on his way out, so he sticks the gun in his mouth and pulls the trigger.

In the caves, McDermott and Sarah encounter… even more zombies. Which I guess should be obvious by now, right? I mean, they aren’t going to get in a slap-fight with a tiger at this point. The word “Dead” is right in the title.

They get ready to fight, when finally, John catches up to them, hands out the guns, and they go to town.

They get all the way through the cave, and locate… another part of the underground bunker. Huh. All right then.

McDermott locates the elevator, which he notes is, “Temporarily Out of Service.”

So John sends Sarah up a ladder. McDermott and John follow, after John shoots another zombie in the head, and just avoids being bitten by another one.

You know what? I think they’re in a missile silo, or something. Though it could be anything, really.

And now, we’re back with Rhodes, who encounters Bub, who is still armed.

Bub shoots Rhodes. Rhodes calls Bub a bunch of bad names, and gets shot again. He ends up crawling along the floor as Bub slowly stalks towards him.

Rhodes yells out, “Come on!” He drags himself to his feet, and pushes himself along the wall, trying to find an open door.

He does, but it’s filled with zombies.

Rhodes screams and turns towards Bub.

Bub shoots him in the belly, and the zombies grab him.

Bub salutes. Rhodes falls to the ground, and they tear his legs off and eat ‘em up real good, as Rhodes yells out, “Choke on ‘em!”

Then there’s like three minutes of eating scenes, because I guess zombie fans like that kind of thing. Or maybe it’s a satire I’m just too subtle to understand. Sometimes that kind of thing goes over my head.

Above ground, Sarah, John and McDermott are now on the outside of the fence. They run to open the gate, and run to the helicopter, and John notes that he really hopes they filled the gas tank.

They run to the helicopter, Sarah opens the door, and screams as someone/something inside goes to grab her.

And then she wakes up.

She is/was asleep on a beach.

The helicopter is behind her.

John is fishing. McDermott is sitting on the beach, doing… I don’t know, some beach-sitting.

Sarah pulls out a handmade calendar, and marks off another day.

And that was pretty much the end of the trilogy, until years later, when George Romero was kinda-sorta forced out of zombie retirement.

Though I guess I should mention that, since this is an 80s movie, it features that staple of all 80s movies – the end credits song. And it’s a love ballad. No lie. With lines like, “Come take my heart, my soul, my life… Take me to the world inside your eyes.”

I’m not going to argue it’s a bad song, mind you. But wow, how astonishingly inappropriate.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dawn of the Dead

“Dawn” breaks (sorry, sorry) with a shot of what looks like 1970s carpeting. Which is what it is, only the carpet is on the wall.

Which makes sense, because it’s a TV studio, so they’re trying to muffle the sound.

The camera pans down, and there’s a lovely blonde woman sitting on the floor, sleeping, then having a nightmare, then waking up.

Everything in the office is chaos. The blonde says, “I’m still dreaming.”

And then things get a little crazy, so here’s what you need to know:

The news is still on the air, but from inside the station, all you can hear is how the information they’re sending out is wrong.

Remember the so-called rescue stations everyone was going to try to get to at the end of “Night?” Well, at least half of them have been knocked out now, but they don’t have an updated list, so they’ve been using the wrong list for at least 12 hours.

The blonde demands that they stop showing the list of rescue stations until they get the new list up.

Her boss gets upset and demands that they keep showing the outdated list, because otherwise people might tune out. They argue, loudly, and more than likely on the air given the crazed nature of the newsroom.

If anyone ever wants to create a video essay on why people don’t trust the media, they could show this clip and slap “The End,” on it, and be good to go.

In the studio, one man interviews another man about what’s going on – and the guy being interviewed is not well liked, since he keeps telling people the truth: These things are getting up, and killing people, and the people they kill get up and kill more people.

A dark-haired man enters the studio, and goes to talk to the blonde, whose name is Fran. He tells her to meet him on the roof at nine o’clock – they’re getting out of there.

Which brings us to another scene of soon-to-be-chaos, which quickly becomes a scene of chaos.

A bunch of military types – a SWAT team? the army? the police? I have no idea – are trying to get the people located inside a massive apartment building to come out. This is probably related to the fact that martial law is in effect, and no one is allowed to stay in a private dwelling due to the fact that the dead are eating the living.

But no one actually says this. You have to use inference.

Finally, several people come out, carrying guns and firing, and they get shot at, or just plain shot, for their troubles.

The SWAT team, or whatever it is, fires off a few gas canisters and moves into the building, sending people outside as they go.

One of the guys, Willy, loses it completely, thanks to the fact that the people they’re moving out are various shades of not-white and Willy is nine kinds of racist. He runs along, killing people at random, until someone shoots him and brings him down.

Then the zombies come out, and the chaos just gets worse.

One of the SWAT team members opts to head to the basement, away from the horror upstairs.

Once he’s there, he runs to a sink to throw up – and discovers he’s not alone. Another SWAT team member asks him if he was in Willy’s group – and our blonde “I’m-getting-out-of-here” guy says he didn’t see how Willy died.

Both men stop pointing their guns at each other, which leaves us with Blonde Guy and Black Guy sitting around, having a smoke.

Blonde guy implies that he’s ready to run away. He asks if it’s right to run.

The answer is yes, Blonde Guy. If people are being eaten, and you don’t want to be one of them, running is a great way to go.

Suddenly, a priest comes out of another room. He tells the men that the people in the building are now willing to go quietly. He tells them that a bunch of not-dead people are locked up in the basement.

And he tells them: “You are stronger than us. But soon, I think they be stronger than you. When the dead walk, we must stop the killing, or lose the war.”

The SWAT team locates a portion of the basement that’s been boarded up, and attempt to clean out the dead. But they pretty much blow it, and are overrun by various and sundry people-eaters.

Black Guy and Blonde Guy locate a small pocket of undead, and shoot them in the head, one by one while the dead feast on various body parts.

And now we’re back with Fran, and her male friend, Stephen. And here comes Blonde Guy, who still doesn’t have a name, and Black Guy, whose name is Peter.

The four of them get into a helicopter loaded with a few supplies, and they take off.

Then it’s the next morning, and the helicopter is still flying, passing over a bunch of cops and rednecks who are drinking coffee and beer and killing zombies in what could be best referred to as a horribly unorganized manner.

The foursome lands at a small refueling station, where they discover that most of the fuel is already gone. They fill up as much as they can, while looking for more supplies.

I’m sorry, let me reiterate: Despite the fact that there are walking dead everywhere, four people with guns decide not to carefully watch out for each other, but instead opt to split up.

Peter goes into the office, where he hears a noise in a closet.

Outside, Fran and Stephen bump into a couple of zombies. Stephen kills one with a hammer blow to the head, then knocks the other one over.

Peter starts shooting the closet, to kills whatever is inside.

Stephen calls to Blonde Guy, whose name is Roger. Roger is being stalked by a zombie with a very tall forehead. This lasts until the zombie crawls up on a box, and gets his forehead cut off by the still-moving rotors on the helicopter.

Inside the office, Peter is attacked by two zombie children, who he shoots in the head.

Outside, Stephen keeps trying, and failing, to shoot various zombies in the head. Roger then moves Stephen’s gun out of the way and shoots the zombies in the head for him.

In the process of doing all this, Stephen almost shoots Peter accidentally. So once all the dead stop moving, Peter stomps out the door, goes up to Stephen, sticks a gun in his face and gives him a verbal beat-down.

And then it’s night again, and the helicopter is once again just about out of fuel. Arguments ensue – where to land, where to get fuel, whether it’s safe to land near a city, and finally, Peter just lays it all out: They’re a bunch of renegades in a stolen helicopter. They’re the bad guys.

The next morning, they spot a mall – with a helicopter landing pad on it. They land, and at first it seems like there are too many zombies around. But Peter and Roger figure out that all the stores are locked up tight, so if they can get in through the roof they should be safe.

Fran wonders what all the zombies are doing here.

Stephen replies: “Some kind of instinct. Memory. What they used to do. This was an important place in their lives.”

That sounds logical, until you realize that really what most people would do if they “used to do” anything, is go to work and sit around in meetings. Which would be funny, but probably not satirical.

The foursome looks through all the windows on the roof of the mall, and finally locate a bizarre office with a bunch of boxes marked “Survival” on them. They head down into the office, and find out that there’s only one way in or out of it.

So they cover it with boxes and everyone gets some survival food (Spam!) and some sleep.

Or rather, Stephen gets some sleep, and Roger and Peter realize that the mall is basically a gold mine of supplies, that there aren’t that many zombies there yet, and that this could be a great place to hang out for a while.

So they give Fran a gun, and warn her that it has a kick, and Peter and Roger head downstairs. Leaving the dude who can’t hit a zombie in a head with a gun and the woman who can’t shoot at all alone to defend themselves.

Peter and Roger locate another office with a LOT of keys, and some walkie-talkies. Then they turn on the power to the entire mall, since they might need it.

This leads to several humorous moments with the zombies, as they fall into the fountain, trip on the escalator, and in general act like the brain-dead monsters they are. Or like *Insert a joke about your least-favorite political affiliates here.*

Fran wakes Stephen up so that Stephen can run down and try to “help” the other guys. Taking her gun in the process. What a great guy.

Downstairs, Peter and Roger go to the center of the mall, which is all boxed in via glass and doors and locks. They almost get eaten, but it’s a little early in the movie for one of our four main characters to die, so they make it out with no problems.

Upstairs, Stephen finds the office the other guys were just in, and locates a gun and a set of floor plans. So he doesn’t see the zombie go wandering by the window behind him. This man’s survival instinct has not at all been honed by the zombie apocalypse.

In the mall, Peter and Roger grab a wheelbarrow and throw a bunch of stuff in it, like a TV, and a radio, and maybe some food, and a jacket, and I have no idea what else.

Then they sneak over to the glass wall farthest away from where they need to go, which is downstairs, and they pound on it, attracting all the zombies away from where they want to go.

Then they run all the way to the upstairs part of the enclosure, unlock the door, and run back to the where they came from, complete with a wheelbarrow full of borrowed goods.

Stephen, meanwhile, has discovered his zombie friend, and chases him around in the dark for a while, finally shooting the zombie in the head at the very last second. It’s called, “Building Suspense,” as I understand it.

Stephen heads back to the stairway, only to be attacked by three more zombies, which he isn’t a good enough shot to deal with, even at point-blank range.

At that moment, Peter comes running up with the wheelbarrow. They all abandon the wheelbarrow and head back to the glassed-in part of the store.

The plan is to go back downstairs and get all the zombies down there again, but while they’re running along, Roger is attacked by a zombie who was just kinda sitting there, acting like a mannequin.

Since no one can shoot the zombie and avoid hitting Roger, Roger instead reaches for the tool belt of the attacking zombie, who I guess was a maintenance guy before he was dead. Roger pulls a screwdriver out of the zombie’s belt, then stabs the zombie in the brain – through its ear.

This sounds so awesome when you say it that way, but it raises a ton of questions. How did the maintenance guy end up in this part of the mall? Why does he only have one screwdriver? How did he die in here? Because he couldn’t have died in the mall and walked in, the enclosure was locked.

I guess you could concoct some strange scenario where a guy who doesn’t actually work at the mall gets his kicks by dressing up as a maintenance guy, so he dresses up in a costume and carries only one screwdriver and hides in the mall when they lock it up, only he has a heart attack and dies when the zombie apocalypse comes.

I’m willing to hear other suggestions, however.

Anyway, the trio heads back down the stairs and does the window-pounding thing, this time waiting a long, long while so all the zombies will come down and not find the door to their secret fortress.

Only one of the zombies finds the door to their secret fortress, and heads up towards Fran.

While this is happening, the dudes converse about maybe staying in the mall for a while, since it has all this stuff they can use. Stephen pulls out the binder with the map of the mall in it, noting that there’s a passageway that runs over all the stores.

The boys go up into the elevator shaft and locate the “shaft,” which is actually a heating vent. They unscrew the cover, and go through the shaft to their hideaway hallway.

Meanwhile, Fran, who was left without a gun because Stephen took hers, is found by a zombie. First she tries to delay him by sticking boxes in front of the door. Then she tries to scare him off with a flare, but as I noted in my “Night” writeup, zombies aren’t afraid of fire. The zombie does stand back in an attempt to not get torched, but he still tries to make a grab for Fran.

Fran drops her flare, and tries to go up the ladder to the roof. But… I don’t really know. She could climb all the way up, it looks like, but I guess there’s a lot more suspense in just having her dangle just within arm’s reach of the zombie.

The boys arrive just in time, and club the zombie in the head. The zombie dies. Fran cries. Roger and Peter take the zombie into the downstairs hallway and leave him there. Then they start hauling all their awesome loot up the stairs.

They get a test pattern on the TV, but no information.

The radio is not much help, either, though there is some information we can’t hear, and is therefore not important.

Peter notes that Fran looks sick, and Stephen confesses that she’s pregnant. Peter asks if Stephen wants to “take care of it.”

Stephen says no, then goes into another room, where Fran is on the floor, smoking, and wondering why her vote doesn’t matter.

Discussion is had. Are the four of them safe here? Can they sleep through the night, or should someone keep watch? Are they still planning on going to Canada?

The next morning, two things happen:

One, Fran declares that she wants a say in what’s going on. And that she’s not going to play Den Mother to all of them. And that she doesn’t want to be left without a gun again. And that she wants to learn to fly the chopper.

Two, the boys decide to use all the Eighteen-Wheelers parked nearby to block the doors, which they can then lock from the inside. This will keep the monsters from piling up and breaking into the mall.

So Stephen flies the boys down to the semis, and Roger hotwires a couple of them, and then they’re off and running, slamming into zombies as they go. It’s awesome, especially once you read the credits and realize they only had two stunt guys, which means they just kept hitting the same guys over and over and over again.

Once they get to the mall, Roger jumps out of his truck, and hops into Peter’s truck, and then they head on back to the truck stop, or whatever that place is, to grab another truck.

Now, of course, they’ve attracted some attention. The creatures come for Roger, who left his door open when he went to hotwire another truck. This is the kind of thing that gets you killed in zombie movies.

Roger tries to grab his rifle, but the strap gets stuck. There’s some suspense, but Peter and Roger manage to headshot the zombie attackers.

Roger pretends he isn’t shaken up by being attacked. Though he does go out of his way to run down even more zombie stuntmen.

Roger jumps from his truck to Peter’s truck, pausing to shoot a few zombies in the head. They drive away. Suddenly, Roger realizes he forgot his tool kit in his truck.

Peter grabs Roger by the collar and asks if Roger has his head screwed on straight. Roger insists he’s all there.

They head back to Roger’s truck, and get the toolkit. And also, Roger gets bitten. In the leg. And the arm.

He’s doomed.

Roger says, “There’s a lot to get done before you can afford to lose me.” Roger is not really in touch with his feelings, I fear.

And then it’s later. Fran bandages Roger up, and plans are made – it’s time to clean the zombies out of the mall.

Stephen and Peter head to the guns and ammo store (which you ALWAYS find in malls, of course) and get… lots of guns and ammo.

LOTS of guns and ammo.

And then everyone heads into the mall, loaded up with lots and lots of guns. And ammo. Peter pushes Roger around in the wheelbarrow.

Once again, they head to the glassed-in center of the mall, which they unlock and go into. They head to hardware and get a bunch of blowtorches. The plan is to run out of the glass enclosure and lock all the outside doors.

Fran suggests they use one of the cars sitting in the center of the mall.

The boys decide this is a swell idea, and escape out the door. Stephen almost forgets to leave the keys with Fran, but she yells to him, and there’s a tense moment where Stephen tries to get the keys off his belt while a single propane torch putting out the flame of maybe three matches protects him.

To call it silly is an understatement.

The men head right for the car, which seems like a good idea, until you realize that they’re all totally gunned up and should kill the twenty or thirty slow-moving zombies before bothering with the car, and then they’d have all the time in the world.

Two of these guys have a lot of gun training. It would probably take them maybe two minutes to kill everyone in the immediate area. Or am I being too logical?

Roger goes through the back of the hatchback car and starts hotwiring it, only a zombie grabs him by his injured leg and opens up his wound again.

Peter shoots the zombie attacking Roger.

Roger gets the car started, and they head to the first set of doors, locking and latching all of them, then setting the alarm.

Then they head to the next set of doors.

(Here’s a thought: People will tell you how thoughtful this movie is. How it’s a parody of consumer culture. How it’s got dark streaks of humor running through it. True? Sure.

But this movie is pretty much wall-to-wall action. That’s why people like it. They’re so busy thinking about all the ideas in the movie after watching it that they totally forget that something like every two minutes, someone’s sorry bottom is on the line.)

Later, all the work is done. The doors are locked, and every last zombie in the mall has been shot in the head.

And then it’s later again, and Stephen and Peter discuss putting up a false wall, which will hide the fact that the four of them are in the mall from anyone, zombie or living, who breaks in. By hiding the door to the upstairs, no one can possibly find them.

Unless they come in through the roof, of course.

Meanwhile, Roger’s leg is infected, and he’s a-gonna die. This makes the other three people in the crew alternately depressed or, for a change, more depressed.

Some time later, Stephen and Peter build the false wall while Fran has morning sickness, which she doesn’t want Stephen to see.

Peter notes that the bodies are all going to start rotting soon. So they take all the dead bodies and stick them in the walk-in freezers. Which is pretty astonishingly unsanitary.

Then the boys go to take some money from the bank. Peter states: “You never know…”

And then it’s a shopping montage. Or a stealing montage. Whatever you want to call it.

Followed by a scene where everyone plays video games.

Followed by the one scene everyone knows in the movie, where Peter says, “When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.”

Which leads to Roger writhing in pain as he dies. Roger asks if Peter will take care of him when he goes. Roger also notes that he’s going to try not to come back.

Time goes by. Roger zombies up. Peter shoots him in the head.

And on the TV, a scientist says people have to remain rational and logical.

Peter and Stephen bury Roger in a little park-looking thing in the mall.

Later, Stephen and Fran practice shootings mannequins.

Even later, Peter serves a romantic dinner to Fran and Stephen, then heads off to drink champagne and toast their fallen comrade.

Back at the dinner, Stephen offers to rings to Fran. Fran says, “We can’t Stephen, not now. It wouldn’t be real.”

That night, the two of them lie in bed, looking depressed. Especially Stephen, who has probably just realized that there’s exactly one woman around, and his chances of getting a mistress are pretty slim.

Time passes. Dates get marked off on the calendar. Fran looks more pregnant.

Also, their living space looks more like a living space, with furniture, and various other things I guess they dragged up the stairs somehow, even though they walled themselves in.

That night, the boys play poker while Fran cooks. They go to eat. Stephen refuses to turn off the TV, even though there hasn’t been a broadcast for three days. Fran turns the TV off. Stephen turns the TV back on.

Fran asks: “What have we done to ourselves?”

Fran clearly isn’t thinking about the alternative option, wherein she gets to be an especially rare rump roast.

Later, Stephen practices flying the chopper with Fran. She’s very excited to have learned how to fly, even though all they do is go up in the air about a foot, and come back down.

And anyway… it’s a bad thing.

Because there’s a gang of raiders not far away, who spots the moving chopper.

The raiders attempt to radio to the trio, first asking how many of them there are, and then telling them that they don’t like people who don’t share.

And here come the raiders. Complete with motorcycles and guns. Stephen notes that there are hundreds of creatures on the ground, and Peter notes that the gang is, basically, a professional army.

Stephen and Peter head downstairs to shut all the gates.

The bikers break in through the loading docks. Peter notes that the raiders are going to have their hands full, and probably won’t even notice Peter and Stephen.

You know what? Doesn’t matter. If it were me, I’d still hole myself up and keep low until it was all over.

The raiders come in, and steal… valuables. Which are pretty much not valuable at this point. I guess we could argue that this is meant to demonstrate that professional armies are populated with stupid people, but it’s tough to say what Romero was going for here.

And then – they start throwing pies in the faces of the zombies.

And spraying them with seltzer water.

The raiders continue looting. Stephen basically freaks out and starts saying, “It’s ours. We took it.”

Then Stephen starts shooting. Because he really doesn’t value his own life.

Either way, his cover is blown now.

And so is Peter’s.

Now it’s war.

And by war, I mean the mayhem factor goes up a bit, with raiders shooting at zombies, and running away from zombies, and cutting off the heads of zombies. While Peter and Stephen shoot at raiders. And raiders hunt for them.

Stephen heads for an elevator.

Peter heads up into the ceiling, to the shafts.

The lights go out. By which I mean the power goes out. By which I mean Stephen is trapped in the elevator.

Stephen goes up the elevator shaft. The power comes back on. The elevator goes down.

Stephen gets shot by raiders, who fire up into the elevator shaft.

Things start to fall apart.

Some of the raiders take off. Some of the raiders get eaten.

Stephen goes back to the elevator. Peter radios Stephen and says he’s coming to get him. Stephen tries to climb back onto the top of the elevator. But it’s too late. The elevator opens, and the zombies come for him.

Their bologna has a first name, and it’s S T E V E.

Peter escapes through the shafts and goes back to Fran. Fran figures Stephen is dead. Peter says he heard Stephen’s gun, so maybe Stephen is okay. They’ll just wait a while and see.

Later, Fran tells Peter that Stephen hasn’t answered the radio for hours, and that they should go.

In the mall, things are looking very crowded, in a zombie-type way.

And then the elevator opens, and there’s a very living-dead Stephen.

Here’s an interesting question: Why are the Valentine’s Day decorations up? How bored WERE these three?

Stephen, who might be dead but still has an awesome memory, finds the false wall that leads the upstairs, and breaks through it.

Peter knows the score and says it’s Stephen, and that the zombies are coming up.

Peter tells Fran to get out of there. Peter doesn’t want to go.

Zombie Stephen gets into the upstairs. Peter shoots him in the head.

Peter tells Fran to move, and Fran goes up the ladder to the roof.

Peter then heads into a different room and closes the door.

Fran starts the helicopter.

Peter sits in another room, with the door closed, while zombies climb up the ladder to the roof. Peter puts a gun to his head. It looks like this is it.

Fran opens the door of the copter and looks out at the zombies that are coming up on the roof.

And then: Triumphant Music! Peter fights his way through the zombies and up the ladder! He gets to the roof!

But wait! Fran has taken off!

But wait! Fran lowers the chopper just long enough for Peter to fight his way past the zombies so he can get in.

Peter asks: “How much fuel do we have?”

Fran: “Not much.”

Peter: “All right.”

And they fly away into the sunrise, giving the movie a really up and really down ending, all at the same time.

Then, as the credits play, we get to watch zombies walk around in the mall.

Feel free to speculate whether our two remaining heroes lived or died – because “Day of the Dead” isn’t going to tell you.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Night of the Living Dead

Ah, “Night of the Living Dead,” the movie that says, “Hey, you know what’s cheap to shoot? A bunch of dudes eating a bunch of other dudes!”

And I guess roads are cheap to shoot as well, since the movie begins with a long shot of a car driving down the road, followed by another shot of a car driving down the road.

In there somewhere, you get the credits, and here’s something curious: The title of the movie is spelled like this: “night OF THE LIVING DEAD.” And the word night is a bunch of outlines of letters. So even the title is a kind of jump scare, wherein the creator of the titles whispers the first word, then yells the rest of it at you.


Also worth noting in the titles, the fact that the screenplay is not just by George Romero, but also by John Russo, who just for fun would go on to create a whole lot of movies that attempted to cash in on the fact that he was the “Night of the Living Dead” guy.

By the way, that whole driving along the road while the credits roll thing? That takes up two solid minutes of movie. They even drive past a sign that says they’re going into a cemetery, just in case you thought they were headed into Lawn Ornament World when you started seeing all those headstones.

Another curious fun fact – the screenplay is credited to George Romero, but the director is listed as George A. Romero. I wonder if those guys are related?

After more than two minutes, we finally meet some people: Johnny and Barbra (I know it looks funny. They spelled it that way in the credits). They’re brother and sister, and their mother has tasked them with driving to a graveyard three hours away to lay some flowers on a gravestone.

Johnny is very cranky about this, noting that the flowers say “We Still Remember,” even though he doesn’t remember the man. Who I guess is his dad. That man gave you life, Johnny – remember that!

Barbra and Johnny head into the cemetery, bickering all the while. Johnny is mad that they got there so late (it’s 8 PM, and it’s the Spring Forward part of Daylight Savings, something they keep pointing out, even though it means nothing at all).

They put down the flowers, and Barbra goes to say a prayer, while Johnny whines some more about how praying is for church.

Also, he sees some dude walking along in the cemetery.

And he puts on some driving gloves. Because that’s what you did in 1968.

Johnny starts reminiscing about the time he scared the poop out of Barbra in the cemetery. And also, about how scared of the cemetery Barbra used to be. Barbra tells him to quit talking about it, and Johnny says (come on horror fans, you know this one): “They’re coming to get you Barbra!”

Here’s a tip, folks. If you’re in a horror movie situation, don’t be a jerk. It’ll just cause people to cheer when you get your throat torn out.

Johnny keeps on taunting Barbra, pointing to the other dude in the cemetery, and joking that he’s getting out of there.

At which point, the other guy in the cemetery grabs Barbra.

Johnny, who may be a jerk, but who still doesn’t like it when people try to eat his sister, jumps on the man and tries to fight him off. A fight breaks out which would probably be pretty spectacular, if only the filmmakers could have afforded stunt men.

Finally, the zombie whacks Johnny’s head against a grave, and Johnny dies.

Or is knocked unconscious. Or is faking, because he’s decided he values his own life more than Barbra’s.

Either way, the creature gets up and lopes after Barbra.

You know, considering how much people complain about fast zombies in movies, this dude is pretty speedy. He might not make it all the way to an outright run, but he’s got the speedwalk/jog thing down.

Barbra runs away, tripping and falling, at which point she pulls off her high heels, making her the smartest horror movie heroine alive.

She hops into her car, locks the doors, and discovers that the keys are missing. The zombie catches up, and breaks the window glass with a rock.

Barbra releases the emergency brake, and the vehicle, which just happens to be parked at the top of the hill, rolls on down while the zombie gives chase.

Barbra crashes into a tree, because she’s driving a massive vehicle with no power steering, and she runs for it. She heads down the road, and spots a farmhouse off in the distance.

So she just keeps on running for it, with nary a shoe to her name.

It’s funny, though. She keeps running into things and then leaning over them in what I have to assume the actress thought was a dramatic fashion.

Finally, she gets to the house and tries to get in, only the front door is locked. She does not try knocking, instead opting to run off the porch. And fall down.

She heads around the house, pausing for another lean and react, and there’s an open door.

She runs in while thunder crashes in the background, despite the sunny skies outside.

Inside, it’s pretty dark, even though Barbra kept talking about how sunny it was outside.

Barbra grabs a knife from the kitchen and starts walking through the house. She does not call out to the owners. I guess she really takes the whole finders/keepers thing seriously.

Barbra keeps prowling around the inside of the house, while the zombie runs around outside. Among other things, he tears down a clothesline and the pole that holds it up.

Thing is the strongest zombie ever, I swear.

Barbra finds a phone and tries to call someone, but there’s no dial tone. Also, given the fact that Barbra hasn’t said anything for a while, I can only assume the folks making the film realized that she’s not much of an actress, and keeping her away from dialogue is the only responsible thing to do.

Barbra looks outside, where it was light just a minute ago, and it’s full-on dark, and there are a couple more zombies.

Barbra runs away from the window and heads up the stairs, where she finds a dude whose face has been chewed off.

She runs downstairs and is about out the front door, just in time for a tall black fellow to park his truck out front, and run into the house, dragging Barbra along with him while spouting exposition, like, his truck is almost out of gas, and the gas pump out front is locked.

He asks Barbra if there’s a key.

Barbra doesn’t say anything. He asks if she lives there.

She doesn’t say anything.

He tries the phone.

Barbra, meanwhile, wanders over to the stairs, so that the dude can see the dead guy, and the movie can get the full value for their props.

Dude decides to go looking for food, after noting that they need to go somewhere and find some more people.
Meanwhile, Barbra just keeps on wandering around, holding the knife and not saying anything.

Until she does. She opts to go for, “What’s happening?” Dude tries to do some more expositioning, and then it’s time for another action sequence, so a zombies breaks the dude’s headlights. For some reason. Perhaps light makes them angry.

Dude asks Barbra if there are any more of the creatures, and she says she doesn’t know at a really loud volume, so you’ll know she’s distressed.

So the dude goes out and bashes the zombie’s heads in with a tire iron. Just to show them who’s boss.

While this is going on, another zombie wanders into the house, and slowly ambles after Barbra, who is sitting on a chair, emoting.

Dude walks in just in time to save her bacon, by jamming the tire iron right into the dead dude’s head.

Dude runs to the open door, smacks another zombie in the face, and the zombie stumbles back so that the director can offer up a dramatic shot of all the other zombies ambling towards the house.

Dude closes the door.

Barbra is looking at the dead guy on the floor, which is freaking her out even more. Dude tells her not to look, and drags the dead guy outside. Then sets fire to him.

This causes the other zombies to stumble back, terribly afraid of the fire. This will mark the only time this trick will work at all in a “Dead” movie.

Dude goes back in the house, slams the door, and sticks a card table up against the door. Yeah. That’ll keep them safe.

Dude turns on the lights, and tells Barbra to turn more lights on in the house. He finds a couple of conveniently placed toolboxes and goes through them, grabbing a hammer. Then he goes looking for nails, finding a ton of them in the junk drawer.

He tells Barbra to go find some boards so they can nail the place up.

Barbra just keeps wandering around, freaked right out (or perhaps, thinking she’s a very talented actress) and Dude starts yelling, then decides to go with the, “Talk to her like she’s a scared toddler” method.

Barbra goes into the living room and, instead of looking for wood, starts up a music box, so that the director can do creepy music box shots.

Inside the kitchen, Dude locates as much wood as he can, often by tearing boards off of things like cabinets.

Barbra locates four tiny pieces of wood and brings them in, and then finally does something useful and holds onto one side of a loose door while Dude nails it across the door to the outside.

Dude then tasks Barbra with putting in some more nails, while he goes to nail up other doors and windows.

Later, Dude monologues a whole tale about a truck crashing into a gas pump, creatures encircling a diner, and how the truck out front isn’t his. While this is going on, a REALLY LOUD cricket plays on the soundtrack, to remind you that it’s nighttime.

Then Barbra takes a turn at the monologue trough, and tells the story of how she got to the farmhouse, even though we, the audience, saw that part already.

Really, there should have been a subtitle: Take Pee Break Here.

You know what’s funny? Even Dude looks sort of bored by the whole thing. So he opts to just keep on boarding things up. Oh, and he tosses out a, “Why don’t you just keep calm?”

This doesn’t work, and as Barbra concludes her story, which conveniently leaves out Johnny taking a whack to the noggin, she first says they need to wait for Johnny, then upgrades it to a Full-On, Community-Theater, “Please! We’ve got to go get Johnny!”

She stands up and runs at Dude, who tries to explain what’s going on outside. Barbra slaps him. He punches her. She doesn’t fall over, but does go unconscious.

He catches her before she falls, then places her gently on the couch and unbuttons her coat.

Later, Dude flips on the radio and tries to find information.

Since the world in mass chaos, the man on the radio basically says, “We don’t know what to look for…”

While exposition goes on the background, Dude looks out the window, and sees some of the creatures getting closer. So first, he lights a fire in the fireplace, in case zombie Santa Claus decides to come down the chimney bringing gifts and mayhem to all the edible girls and boys.

Then he throws a bunch of lighter fluid on a chair. He follows up this act by grabbing a curtain, yanking a strip off of it, tying it around a table leg, and then setting fire to his makeshift torch.

He runs to the front door, shoves the chair outside on the porch, sets fire to it, and shoves it off the porch.

The zombies back away, making unhappy noises. Which never happens in any of the other movies.

Dude goes back in and keeps on hammering away, at one point moving a door, revealing what appears to be a cellar door. The camera zooms in on it, so you know that it’s important.

He work finished, Dude lights up a cigarette.

Why worry about cancer when you’re probably going to get eaten?

Dude opens the closet and finds a gun. No, I don’t know what kind. Some sort of pump-action rifle, I guess. Does it matter?

While this is going on, Barbra wakes up. Then decides to stare straight ahead, saying nothing.

Dude tells her that the place is boarded up pretty well now, which is hilarious, because the window directly behind him isn’t boarded up at all. Dude also notes that they have a gun, and some bullets.

Did I mention he’s telling her all this while he’s putting some shoes on her that he found in the closet? Because he totally is.

He also points out that they have food and a radio, then tells her that he’s going to go upstairs, but that if something tries to break in, he’ll hear it and come down and take care of it.

Barbra just sits there through all of this, staring straight ahead, not saying or doing anything. It’s probably the most effective acting Barbra is going to do in this film.

Dude heads upstairs, where he finds the dead person, who it turns out is a female. He covers her in a rug and drags her away from the top of the stairs, but doesn’t do ii carefully enough that we can’t see that this person doesn’t look anything like the half-eaten face we saw earlier.

Downstairs, Barbra keeps on sitting and listening to the radio, where it’s revealed that the people doing the killing are also making a light snack of their victims. We get a minute of this, while the camera dramatically zooms in on Barbra, then the radio, then Barbra, then the radio…

And suddenly, a door shifts, and Barbra starts screaming, and two men come out of the cellar.

Upstairs, Dude hears the screaming and runs downstairs holding the gun.

The Bald Dude from the cellar says, “A radio!” And runs over to listen to the whole people-eating-people story.

Dude (wow, all these dudes are going to need monikers, because the movie isn’t giving us any… I guess it’s going to be Black Dude for a while) – Black Dude berates the two dudes from the cellar, asking why they didn’t come up and help him.

Bald Dude says that Black Dude “could have been one of those things…”

Black Dude gets seriously crabby about the fact that the people in the basement didn’t come upstairs to help him, first claiming they couldn’t hear, and then claiming that there was so much noise they thought the place was being ripped apart.

Young dude calls Bald Dude Mr. Cooper, so we’ve got a name for him. And Mr. Cooper calls Young Dude Tommy.

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.
Mr. Cooper tells Black Dude that “those things” turned over their car. He thinks that the cellar is the safest place for all of them, since there’s only one door they have to protect.

Black Dude says that the cellar is basically a death trap, because if the creatures come for them, then there’s no escape route.

Cooper says he’s going down there and boarding the place up, and not letting anyone in, so Black Dude and Tommy need to decide whether they’re coming down or not.

This makes Tommy crabby, because he wants to talk options first.

Tommy looks out the window, and says there are something like ten creatures out there.

Black Dude leads Tommy to the back window, noting that there are more of them out back.

Suddenly, the creatures jam their hands through the window. Black Dude sticks the gun through the holes in the boarded-up window, and shoots one of them in the chest. It staggers, but doesn’t die.

Tommy, meanwhile, grabs a kitchen knife and cuts at the creatures’ hands, chopping off a finger or two. Which doesn’t stop the beings from grabbing at them.

Downstairs, Mr. Cooper’s wife calls to Mr. Cooper, asking what’s going on.

Cooper says it’s all right, even though this is a total lie.

Black Dude fires again, hitting the same creature in the chest. The thing stumbles, but doesn’t fall over. So Black Dude shoots him again, this time in the head. The creature falls over, dead again.

Outside, more creatures are coming at the house. One of them, a female, grabs something that’s kind of hard to see, and eats it. I think it was a snail. So much for desperately wanting human flesh.

Inside the house, the argument escalates. Black Dude tells Mr. Cooper that if Cooper wants to be the boss, he can be the boss of the cellar. Black Dude is the boss up here.

Also, Cooper is told he can’t take any food or the radio or Barbra into the cellar.

When Cooper says that his kid is down there, and she can’t come up, Black Dude says it’s too bad that her dad is stupid.

Cooper heads for the cellar, with a whole, “Yeah, well, I’m not letting anyone play in my cellar-fort once I’m down there, so N’yeah!”

Just before Cooper gets his stomp-down-the-stairs on, Tommy calls to someone downstairs. It’s Judy, Teenaged Girlfriend.

Judy comes up. Cooper goes down. Then he puts one whole board in front of the door. Yes, a single board, fitted into little slots. They’re totally safe now. There no way anyone could get down there. Without kicking the door a little.

Tommy says that “The three of them” could board things up real good upstairs, if only Cooper would listen. Because, as we know, barricading a house is man’s work.

Cooper tells Mrs. Cooper that they’ll be safe, and the people upstairs are stupid.

Mr. Cooper asks how his daughter is. Little Cooper is lying on what appears to be a workbench. She’s unconscious.

Mrs. Cooper says she seems to be a little warm, and that it might be shock. Mr. Cooper lights up a cigarette and rants about how he can’t wait for the monsters to get in the house, and for the people upstairs to beg to come downstairs.

His wife points out how that’s really important to him – for him to be right and everyone else to be wrong.

Apparently, Mr. Cooper doesn’t get to be the boss down here, either.

Mrs. Cooper finds out there’s a radio upstairs, and demands that Mr. Cooper take the boards off the door. Mr. Cooper says no.

Mrs. Cooper says, “We may not enjoy living together. But dying together isn’t going to solve anything.”

Sadly, Mrs. Cooper is wrong. Dying together pretty much solves all their problems, and will be much cheaper than a divorce. I’m just saying.

Tommy calls down to Mrs. Cooper, and says they found a TV. Mrs. Cooper tells Tommy and if Judy comes down to watch the kid, who isn’t even awake, then the Coopers can come upstairs. What a fun trade!

And so, five minutes after giving multiple ultimatums, Mr. Cooper opens the door.

The Coopers come upstairs, and Mrs. Cooper sees Barbra for the first time. Barbra is staring at a doily on the couch.

Ben (Black Dude finally has a name too!) yells from another room that he needs help with the TV, and the menfolk go to assist him, while Mrs. Cooper sits in a chair and takes a long, hard look at doily girl.

Finally, Mrs. Cooper pulls out a cigarette, and Barbra kind of notices her. Mrs. Cooper says Barbra doesn’t have to be afraid of her.

Then here comes Mr. Cooper, who points out that there are a million weak spots in the house. He demonstrates by going to the window and pulling an admittedly weak little board, which bends.

Cooper then goes to his wife and demands a cigarette, which gives us a look at the ceiling, which has a really lame plaster job. I’m surprised Cooper hasn’t commented on that.

Mrs. Cooper reminds Mr. Cooper that Barbra’s brother was killed. Mr. Cooper goes back to complaining about the windows.

Mrs. Cooper asks why he doesn’t do something to help somebody.

Ben and Tommy arrive with the TV, which they set up on a couple of chairs.

Mr. Cooper shakes a finger at Barbra and tells her to pay attention to what’s going on when the TV comes on.

Mrs. Cooper asks if there’s anything she can do to help.

Ben ignores her and reminds Mr. Cooper that Ben, yes, BEN is giving the orders up here.

Tommy turns on the TV.

The news is on. The first couple minutes are a rehash of the whole people are eating people thing.

Then, a new report! The unburied dead are rising and attacking the living.

Also, there are now safe places to go, and instead of staying their houses, people are encouraged to go to rescue areas.

Ben says that they could escape in the truck, but there’s no gas. Tommy says there’s a pump outside, and Ben says they need the key to get into the pump.

The news continues: Apparently, space experts are being consulted, and the news reporter reminds everyone that recently, a satellite was sent to Venus, which then came back. But the science people had it destroyed in orbit because of dangerous levels of strange radiation.

News Guy then connects the dots between the exploded satellite and the recent “mass murders.” Because news guys aren’t paid to say, “We really have no idea what’s going on. Here’s a picture of an ocelot.” No, they need to spout theories, or people might CHANGE THE CHANNEL!

Now that the news guys have spoken, Ben thinks they need to get out of the house and go find safe harbor.

But wait! There’s more stuff on the news! A reporter has cornered some people who work for the government and he wants to know whether or not the satellite is responsible for the dead coming back to life and eating the living.

The government guys don’t agree with one another about whether this is the case or not.

So now it’s back to The Debate Show! Starring the people in the living room.

As stated before, Ben wants to get out of there – the TV just showed that there’s a safe house in Willard, which is only 17 miles away.

Cooper doesn’t think it’s possible to get there, what with them having to drag a sick kid along. And also, you know, women. Who are totally incapable of doing anything.

I’m amazed no one’s tossed him out the front door as bait yet.

Tommy figures this is as good a time as any to tell how he ended up at the house. It seems that he and Judy were going to go swimming, only they heard the news reports. So they came to the house, and found the dead person upstairs.

But opted to just leave ‘em lying there.

Point of order! Why didn’t the dead person upstairs get up and try to get herself a midnight snack? Maybe she isn’t dead?

Moving on.

Anyway, Tommy and Judy came to the house, and found the dead person. Then the Coopers showed up, so they all barricaded themselves in the basement, where thanks to a single two-by-four, they figured they would be safe.

Ben tells Mrs. Cooper to go downstairs and check on her kid, and to send Judy upstairs.

Judy comes up, and Ben tells her to go find some curtains or something, and to make strips of cloth.

Then the plan starts to come together:

Step one: Make molotov cocktails.

Step two: Make Cooper throw them from the second story, to scare off the creatures.

Step three: Ben and Tommy run for the truck, unlock the pump, and put gas in the truck.

Step four: Everyone runs out to the truck and hops in, and everyone drives away.

It’s a brilliant plan, with no flaws, and it should go off without a hitch. Right? Of course. It’s not like this is a horror movie… Uh…

Judy and Tommy start putting the molotov cocktails together, using jars from the fruit cellar. And also kerosene from the cellar. And rags made from curtains.

Judy is sad because the phone is down and she can’t call her parents and tell them what’s going on. She’s also not sure that they’re doing the right thing, trying to escape and get to the rescue station.

Tommy replies, “Well, the television said that’s the right thing to do. We’ve got to get to a rescue station.”

Yes, Tommy, the television said it’s the right thing to do. It’s a good thing you never lived to see infomercials. You’d own sixty-seven of those food dehydrators.

Judy is at least honest enough to admit she just really, really doesn’t want Tommy to be the one to have to drive the truck and unlock the gas pump. Finally, she gets herself a hug and kiss and everyone goes back to work.

You know what? This movie has been running for over and hour and no one has been eaten yet. Hack the first five minutes off the movie, and this could be a story about a bunch of folks who just really, really don’t want to have to talk to the Mormons walking through the neighborhood.

Mr. Cooper tells Ben that Barbra needs to go down in the cellar during their gas-and-go rescue mission, and Ben agrees. He tells Barbra that she needs to go downstairs, but that soon they’ll be able to leave.

Barbra almost has an emotion, and she and Judy head downstairs. Because she and Judy are just baggage to be hauled around, and not actual people.

Mr. Cooper heads upstairs and gets ready to throw the flaming cocktails.

Tommy and Ben pull the boards off the door, and Ben wishes Tommy good luck.

Outside, the creatures are just wandering around, not really headed for the house at all.

Mr. C tosses a couple of cocktails on the lawn, and the creatures yell and stumble away.

Ben and Tommy run outside, and Tommy almost gets attacked. But he makes it to the truck.

Judy yells out, “I’m going with him,” and she runs outside.

Now Tommy and Judy are in the cab of the truck, and Ben is on the back of it, waving another table-leg torch around.

Suddenly, it’s a lot brighter outside. Not the best job on the day-for-night photography there, Mister Director of Photography.

The trio makes it to the gas pump, and the gas pump key doesn’t work. Ben shoots the lock off the pump.

Tommy goes to put gas in the truck, and squeezes the pump too early, spraying gas on everything – including on the torch.

Fire abounds.

Tommy says they need to get away from the pump, and drives off with Judy still in the truck with him.

They realize, too late, that the truck is on fire. Tommy gets out, then goes back to help Judy, who is stuck, and BOOM! Flaming truck. Dead people.

Ben picks up his torch and uses it to ward off the creatures. He runs to the house, and knocks on the door, which Mr. Cooper locked after everyone went out the door.

Ben calls to Cooper, who is standing in the doorway to the cellar – maybe fifteen feet away.

Cooper does nothing to help, and Ben kicks the door in. He spots Cooper, and realizes that, yes, Cooper is going to experience no character arc in this movie. He’s going to start off as mean and unwilling to help his fellow man, and he’s going to end that way too.

Ben runs into the house, slams the door, and grabs a nearby freestanding door. Time to nail the front door back in place!

Cooper runs to help, and after everything is nailed back in place and everyone is relatively safe, Ben punches Cooper in the face a whole bunch of times. He concludes the pummeling with, “I ought to drag you out there and feed you to those things!”

Cooper almost looks chastised, but he’s not that good an actor.

Outside, the creatures go to the burned out truck: It’s eatin’ time! And hey, there’s some conveniently roasted meat. Flash-fried, if you will. This leads to a solid minute of creatures eatin’ people.

And a legendary film franchise is born.

There is some more discussion. It comes out that the Cooper’s car is at least a mile away, that the kid was bitten on the arm by “those things,” and that Barbra has pretty much lost it, as all she can contribute to the conversation is the Johnny has the keys to the car.

Ben offers to get to the car himself, only the Cooper’s car was turned over by the creatures, so that isn’t going to help.

And so, everyone goes back to watching the news.

There’s some more talk about “mysterious radiation,” and yet more information about how to handle what the news people are now calling “ghouls.”

It seems that if you shoot them in the head, or administer some blunt head trauma, that’ll be enough to kill (or re-kill, I suppose) the ghouls.

The nice newscaster asks a member of local law enforcement if they’ll be able to wrap up the problem in 24 hours. Something worth noting here: All the news guys are really calm about this whole thing. Almost painfully so. You wonder: Were they prepped to handle this kind of event at newscaster school?

If I were a reporter, I’d be all, “Dude, that guy just ATE that other guy. I’m out of here. I’m not being turned into Tender Vittles just so I can get a Pulitzer.”

But these guys? Totally unflappable.

Cooper goes to check the window. Ben looks at Cooper. And then the power goes out.

Ben goes to check to see if the fuse box is in the cellar. Mr. Cooper goes to his wife and says he has to get the gun away from Ben. After all, two people have already died, and things could get worse.

Mrs. Cooper is nonplussed.

Outside, the creatures start picking up heavy objects and whacking on the doors and windows.

Ben tries to hold a board in place, and drops the gun.

Mr. Cooper takes the gun, and tells his wife to get in the cellar.

Ben runs at Mr. Cooper, and takes the gun. He shoots Cooper right in the chest.

Mrs. Cooper, who is trying to hold the front door in place, is grabbed by several hands that have broken through the door.

Mr. Cooper stumbles down the cellar stairs. He collapses on the floor next to his daughter.

Upstairs, Barbra suddenly gets off the couch and goes to hold the front door shut. So Mrs. Cooper, who I guess doesn’t realize that isn’t a one-woman job, goes downstairs, where she discovers that her daughter has eaten her husband.

Mrs. Cooper panics and falls over, and her daughter grabs a trowel off the wall and comes after her mom with it. Time for a good old-fashioned trowel-disemboweling.

No, really. Mom just lies there and gets a trowel in the guts over and over and over again.

Upstairs, Ben tries to fight off an army of arms, while Barbra continues to pitch in. This works until Johnny breaks down the front door, grabs Barbra, and drags her, screaming, into the crowd of creatures.

Ben backs away from the window, and is almost bitten by the little girl from the cellar. He tosses her onto the couch and, irony of ironies, boards himself up in the cellar from which where is no escape.

The dead people come pouring into the house.

Remarkably, the cellar door holds.

Ben goes downstairs, where he finds Mr. Cooper, who is just getting up, having discovered his inner living dead guy.

Mrs. Cooper wakes up shortly thereafter.

Ben shoots them both in the head.

Then Ben gets into firing position and sits back from the stairs – he’s ready to put some more holes in heads.

Later, dawn breaks. A helicopter flies by overhead, zipping past rednecks with guns and various zombies.

The helicopter lands.

I have no idea what that had to do with anything.

Near the house o’ doom, the local long arm of the law and various other people with guns hang out. The local long-arm tells the local reporter-type that they should have things wrapped up in three or four more hours.

Then the local long-arm tells a couple of folks to check out a nearby house. And we all know which house that is.

In the cellar, Ben is asleep. He hears noise outside and wakes up.

Outside, the local long-arm walks by the burned up truck, and notes that someone, “Had a cookout here.”

As dark jokes go, that’s pretty dark.

Elsewhere, folks with guns shoot various and sundry people-eaters.

The local long-arm tells some folks to build him a bonfire.

Inside the house, Ben creeps to the window.

Outside the house, the local long-arm tells one of his buddies to shoot the “creature” inside the house right in the head.

Bang. Ben, who lived the whole night long, is now dead.

As the credits roll, a bunch of folks with meathooks pick up Ben, our now-dead hero, and toss him on the bonfire with all the other bodies that need burning.

And we go The End with a big, fat bonfire. How’s THAT for grim?