Reevaluating Dead & Breakfast (2004)
As one who views horror films with a more critical eye than your weekend popcorn devouring ticket buyer, I've found a fairly solid truth between the two camps. When the casual moviegoer hears positive word of a particular movie that he end up hating; the broad blame is placed on the work itself. When someone like myself with debilitating OCD hears positive word of a film that he ends up hating; the blame is placed on those perpetuating such nonsense that made him interested in the first place.
I must confess to a weakness for being lured by pull quotes; you know, those cherry-picked sentences splashed on DVD covers meant to entice one into believing what they hold might lead to a conscious-altering experience. Naturally, this very rarely occurs and I'm left wondering just what the faces behind such words saw in the flick. Not to sound pompous, opinions are indeed like assholes, but I constantly find myself baffled and at odds over contradicting perspectives and perceptions. I like to believe fellow genre fans can decipher xeroxed cinema from something that exhibits acute tendrils of influence. Individualistic quality from schlock. Just cut the superlatives and inform on how a film generally snaps into the realm of horror cinema.
A value lesson can be gleaned from revisiting widely praised films that simply failed to personally click. This is where Matthew Leutwyler's Dead & Breakfast comes in. --This is where I stopped but in short I've grown to love this film despite initially disliking it thoroughly. Like other great horror comedies, it manages to be quite funny and quirky while firmly being a horror film without an atmosphere of mocking condescension. Highly recommended and I'm baffled as to why I disliked it so much at first.
Some quick thoughts on Devil Girl (2007)
Pre-judging Howie Askin's Devil Girl, I figured this cult/horror road flick could possibly be one of several things. Perhaps an adaption of the famous R. Crumb "Devil Girl" character or a take on the kitsch that graces truck mudflaps and head-bobbles in Tiki Bars. Maybe a Rodriguez From Dusk to Dawn riff. Or, like the cover's pull quote alludes, something aping Rob Zombie's fast n' loose cinematic endeavors.
Ultimately, it's a bit of all those things wrapped up in a nifty little genre brew of an indie. Think something akin to White Zombie's La Sexoristo: Devil Music Vol. 1 with the feel and editing of the video segments seen in the PC version of Road Rash. Sorry if that's a bit of a muddy comparison, but I couldn't shake both while watching this flick spew its devil may care attitude in music video fashion.
Some quick thoughts on Distant Lights (1987)
.Still mourning over the sudden loss of his wife, Bernardo (Tomas Milian) is shook again after his young son runs off one night. The boy is found unharmed in the ensuing search, but claims he visited his deceased mother and even has the necklace she was buried with. Determined to find an answer, authorities spurred on by the puzzled husband open her sealed coffin to reveal an empty crypt. Soon Bernardo begins seeing other recently passed or thought gravely ill yet suddenly healthy people living the lives they used to...
Aurelio Chiesa's Distant Lights is something an anomaly in late '80s Italian genre cinema. Instead of going an easier route of gory exploitation trending familiar waters; this film skews that entirely in favor of what's essentially a drama with sci-fi tendencies. Unfortunately, the wrapping of a cheap Italian production with overdubbed sound and ramshackle everything persists even with this orthodox approach. Chiesa commendably attempts for the viewer to "feel" through these issues; however, one can't help but always be aware of this film being shoddy instead of experiencing a natural absorption into its story.
Surprisingly Tomas Milian, best known to genreheads for his vibrant turns in spaghetti westerns and crime films, makes for a very boring lead here. Despite trying to emote with every line, a pudgy Milian comes off as simply tired like an Italian version of Hugo Stiglitz complete greasy beard and perpetually bad hair day. The impression one gets is that Bernardo is supposed to be an everyman, but we're not even informed at what he does for a living.
Some quick thoughts on The Dead Matter (2010)
Last year, this independent feature from a first time writer/director Edward Douglas appeared at Hot Topic stores on DVD with its own little display (Fangoria article here). Before anyone looks at their screen funny, I only occasionally endure their shitty merchandise and smug staff in the hope of finding something horror-related, like NECA's action figures which they seemed to have stopped carrying for months now. Anyway, last time I stopped in the SE release was discounted to ten bucks and temptation got the best of me.
So how is The Dead Matter? In a word, dodgy. The kind of backwash eventually confined to the pages of a future horror movie guidebook with the starting line of "Confused, forgettable mess". --After realizing I'd probably get a migraine articulating in detail how much this ultimately sucked, this entry later merely became this short n' sweet ditty...
Some Unsurprising Love for Dawn of the Dead (1978)
George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978) is unquestionably one of those films and needs no introduction. A horror film pièce de résistance that was initially well received but only found its immense status with the passage of time. This quasi-sequel to Night of the Living Dead is my favorite horror film of all time to such a degree that it sits apart and on a higher level than my other favorites. Being that my mind everything else swirls around its presence, Dawn is the greatest horror film ever made. Not one of the greatest, but the de facto standard by which all other genre pictures are to be judged. This isn't a slight against the countless others. I love horror, so there's numerous works and filmmakers I cherish, and wouldn't cast them off if they can't live up to this lofty standard.
Horror fans, myself certainly included, love to corral genre examples with neat little labels. A perfectly understandable desire and the majority of horror films are lucky to just so one thing well that fans in turn can recognize them by. Dawn acts as both the best film involving the living dead thus far and the best horror film in spite of the living dead theme. The secret is the fact that it's not really about the dead at all.