Massawyrm's Fantastic Fest Day 1!! DIARY OF THE DEAD And TIME CRIMES!!
Published at: Sept. 21, 2007, 2:53 p.m. CST by merrick
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
One of the problems with being a die-hard science fiction fan is having our heart break most every time we sit down to watch a story involving time travel. As we all know, it is rarely done right. Most often the story involves setting up an internal consistency, a set of rules explained to the hero that eventually the hero will end up breaking anyway for story reasons. And we, the science fiction dorks of the world, are left to walk out arguing the logic. And we're rarely happy with it.
Enter Timecrimes, the new Spanish entry to the genre and perhaps the best time travel movie in decades. Unlike its predecessors, Timecrimes has an almost slavish devotion to its internal logic. In fact, the entire story is about a man struggling against the rules that get set up, only to deal with the constant frustration of them not breaking. It is a tense mystery about a man accidentally gets shot backwards in time and sets out to try to make everything right so he can go home again. Sadly, nothing wants to go right and the movie becomes a slow, slippery slope of watching how far a man will go to get his life back to what it was.
And what really works is that hard core sci-fi buffs will have this one figured out for a while. There comes a moment in which every time travel nerd figures out every step of the film, sits back with his arms folded and says I know what's going to happen next - and they do. Until the end of the second act. And just where you think the movie will end rather predictably, an x-factor comes out of nowhere and changes the whole scope of the movie, creating a pulse pounding third act that is wildly unpredictable.
All this culminates in a perfect ending that will send you out into the lobby talking, dissecting and marveling at what first time feature director Nacho Vigolondo has accomplished. This movie is tightly paced, brilliantly constructed and will send any sci-fi buff into spastic fits of joy. This is that time travel movie that we sit around and wish someone would make. The special effects are sparse and every dime went into the caliber of actors and making sure every shot is perfectly executed. If you're at Fantastic Fest and you missed this first screening, you owe it to yourself to catch the second one. I don't know what the hell is going on over in Spain right now, but they've sent over several of the best genre films not only of the fest, but all year. I hope to god a distribution company here in the states gets a hold of this and puts it in theatres. This is exactly the kind of thought provoking science fiction we fans live for. This comes with The Highest of Recommendations.
Diary of the Dead
I've had a number of conversations with friends recently about many of the geek masters who have seemed to be slipping in recent years. Their films, which while still entertaining, lack the power and presence of their early work. And I've remarked that many of these guys need to go back to school so to speak - to get back to their roots with almost no budget and make a film like they have something to prove. I mean, I LOVED Grindhouse, but how awesome would it have been if rather than making a $70 Million film that looked like 2 $1 Million dollar movies, they instead just made 2 $1 Million movies – attempting to make the best god damned movie they could with the same tools that their inspirations had? Last night I saw such a master make a no budget zombie movie in an attempt to recapture the glory of his early days. And the proof is in the pudding. Romero is back and doing what he does best.
Romero himself talked about how he just HAD to make this movie - that he set out to make it for a direct to video market if he had to - just to tell a great zombie story again, to get back to what made them scary in the first place. This was a film not made to capitalize on the market, but a story that was clawing its way out of him. And one can hardly blame him. He created a mythos that has gotten away from him. Zombie movies have all become about "The rules." We've all heard or taken part in the discussions. Zombies can to this, zombies can't do that. Fast zombies versus slow zombies. Yada yada yada. Hell, look at what happened to Romero himself when he dared to continue the evolution of his own universe and created a smart zombie horde. People whined and groaned that the idea of a smart zombie was stupid. Because that's not how zombies work.
Well, Diary of the Dead is the reset. The reminder of Romero's rules. If you die. You come back. Period. Not if you are bitten. Not if they vomit blood on you. If you die. We are taken back to that very first night when all hell broke loose but tells a completely different story than Night of the Living dead. This isn't the story of a group of people locked up in a house and waiting for it all to end. This is the story of a group of people on the road, just trying to get home to their families. It is about crisis and the selfishness of humanity. It is exactly the same while being completely different. In all the right ways.
And, as usual, Romero has something to say – this time about the globalization of information and the desire for everyone to have their voice heard among the millions of others screaming to be heard at the same time. Many have already trashed the conceit of this film, comparing it to The Blair Witch Project. And yet, while watching it I never got that feeling. Mostly because this movie is ABOUT the guy holding the camera, about his desire to let the world see through his eyes, to tell the truth in a world where the media lies to us. He wants to be the hero and for him the hero isn't the guy killing zombies to save his friends, he's the guy filming the guy killing zombies to save his friends. And the film is very much about wrestling with that idea. In a world in which we can turn to youtube and see a number of horrific videos – we all ask ourselves and our friends the same question. Why the fuck didn't they put down the fucking camera and try to stop it? The soul of this movie is about answering that very question – for better or for worse.
But what makes this film so god damned good is that it gets back to the roots of survival horror. It is set in a universe where zombie movies and comics and videogames aren't part of the culture. No one knows that you have to shoot them in the head – they have to LEARN that. No one knows what a zombie is. No one can grab their copy of the Zombie Survival Guide off of their bookshelf and know exactly what things they should be taking along. It's watching these people try to survive in a crisis. It's about the best of humanity and the worst of it.
It is exactly the type of story we love Romero for.
I loved the hell out of this movie, and I think it makes a great bookend to the first two movies in showing us that "First Night" mentality. The last two films, Land and Day (which I both dig) are about long-term survival. They're about being locked up and dealing with a wait that may never end. But the first two are about that initial survival, about Darwinism at its best, culling the idiots while the strong rise from the rank and file into hero status. And this gets back to that.
And lets face it, if you always hated the idea of smart zombies, dude, they ain't around. They could still exist, but they aren't here yet. This film is everything about the original Romero films that we love and nothing that the detractors of the later films don't. Romero got back to being who he is and making a film that really stands out in a VERY populated field these days. And God bless him for it. This one comes Highly Recommended. I cannot wait to see it again. The Weinstein's cannot get this into theatres soon enough.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.