Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Road: all the makings for a zombie movie, but the zombies

What a fantastic base for an amazing zombie film. It had it all, a mysterious holocaust, stunning post apocalyptic visuals, just oozing atmosphere. Some truly superb acting. Fear and despair, resulting in tragic suicide as the world as we know it comes crashing down. Roaming bands of thugs, that would kill you for what little you possess (and probably even eat you too). A story of personal strength and determination in face of the ultimate adversity.

So what one single thing could make a zombie movie with so much going for it fail and drop to the depths of being possibly the most painful two hours I have spent watching a movie in a long time? How about not a single bleedin' zombie in the whole damn movie. What happens when you take the zombies out of a zombie movie? The answer NOT A GOD DAMNED THING. Boredom and tedium. This is the movie The Road.

OK, so in all fairness The Road was never actually a zombie movie. The idea of adding zombies would likely have made the writer and the director spew pea soup from every orifice. But it would have definitely made the whole thing a lot more watchable. Even on it's own merits, the roaming bands of cannibals could have made the film a lot more tense and interesting, but it failed miserably there too. Although they were clearly looking to avoid any trappings of an action flick and keep the whole production to some higher plane of artistic film making, they just managed to make a painfully dull and unimaginative picture. Good god, it made the Blair Witch Project seem watchable. If the idea was to create such an atmosphere of dread and despair that the audience can so relate to the characters that the viewer wants to put the Smith and Wesson in their mouth just to put an end to it, well then it is a success. But this is the only scenario in which I would consider it so. And I don't say this with the air of one of the many movie critics looking to make him/herself seem worldly and emotionally complex. Telling you this film will bring you to revelations of previously unexperienced emotional and psychological distress (hey for the fun of it lets label it emo-porn), because believe me there are better soul scorchers if leaving a theater with a sick feeling is your goal(Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door for one). As good as the book may have been (I admit to not reading it), this is just one long, amazingly boring and plotless wrek.

I'm thinking with some creative editing from a number of existing zombie fests, this movie could really be something, but until the time comes that someone goes to that effort I would strongly recommend avoiding it like... well, the zombie plague.



G. Macabre

14 comments:

Jack Ketchum said...

Small minded idiot, you wouldn't know real cinema if it bit you because you'd think it was a zombie.

Gary said...

Ha ha ha. The true irony here is that because this movie has some unconventional (and crippling) cinematic devices that you are under the impression that it is some how "real cinema".

Certainly a post-apocalyptic movie doesn't have to be an action film or a zombie fest, but it does need to tell a story and have a cohesive plot. I felt this movie lacked both. For the sheer number of flashbacks, they could well have started there and had some character development to boot. The characters were so linear and unexplored the premise that I am to somehow sympathize and relate to their situation and experience the obviously desired emotional baggage they carry is ludicrous. By that reasoning I should sit at the sea shore and weep openly for the oysters and the snails that once inhabited the shells.

By the simplest of definitions a story consists of a beginning a middle (a denouement would be nice too) and an end, and this movie lacked three of those four criteria. In a more open minded acceptance of storytelling, I felt the characters lacked any substantial motivation for their actions (curiosity to see if LA actually fell into the ocean perhaps?), the obstacles they faced really brought up no sense of drama or suspense whatsoever. In fact every possible opportunity to inject meaningful conflict into the story (which really is the essence of a story) the characters just ran away with the exception of one scene, and even then that scene concluded with them simply running away and hiding again. Scenes like the cannibal farmhouse really did nothing to progress the movie whatsoever, rather the characters were introduced to the setting for no other reason than having an excuse to show the macabre location, but we already know there are cannibals, so what does showing how they live add to the depth of the story. Now in a book where the the author can make a brief departure to better place the story and add context, that is fine but for a movie with already terrible pacing it is completely pointless and self indulgent of the director. (And that was one of the better parts of the movie).

A good translation from book to film does not necessarily have to be a dogmatic regurgitation of the text, it should suit the medium. To ignore that reality and adhere to the book as they did in this case results in uncompromising failure. If this approach wsa so important to the film makers then I suggest this is likely not a book that should have been put to film because in the film medium it is a gross failure. Glad you enjoyed it, but to me it was bomb, and not because it wasn't an zombie flick.

I also find it amusing you used the screen name of a writer whose book was fantastically crafted into a film and one which I complimented here previously and actually linked to in this very blog entry.

I would greatly appreciate you articulately defending your position on why this is in fact "real cinema".

GM

John W. Morehead said...

I had the opportunity to rent the movie on Friday night having heard positive things about it from Cinefantastique Online. I came away from the film with a very different appreciation for it. The way in which the film dealt with the popular topic of post-apocalyptic in cinema was refreshing, and it provided an interesting framework for a moral drama on the conflicting ethics of doing whatever you have to do to survive vs. maintaining some sense of compassion for others in the face of the breakdown of the social order. In my view this was a great piece of cinema that suprasses much of the "been there, done that" in zombie films, a subgenre that I love. Thank goodness for differences of opinion in film and pop culture.

Gary D Macabre said...

Cheers John, Certainly compared to the blockbuster apocalyptic film offerings we have seen recently, it was a jem. Being a horror blog, and a fan of the zombie subgenre, the connection was practically mandatory for the sake of the blog. Although I did use the comparison almost as admonishment for the film's short comings as I view them. That in itself I suppose is equally critical of the lack of originality rampant in the zombie subgenre. Anyway, thanks for intelligently voicing a contrary opinion.

GM

countnicholas said...

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what do you think?

Meow said...

In a more open minded acceptance of storytelling, I felt the characters lacked any substantial motivation for their actions (curiosity to see if LA actually fell into the ocean perhaps?), the obstacles they faced really brought up no sense of drama or suspense whatsoever. In fact every possible opportunity to inject meaningful conflict into the story (which really is the essence of a story) the characters just ran away with the exception of one scene, and even then that scene concluded with them simply running away and hiding again. Scenes like the cannibal farmhouse really did nothing to progress the movie whatsoever, rather the characters were introduced to the setting for no other reason than having an excuse to show the macabre location, but we already know there are cannibals, so what does showing how they live add to the depth of the story. Now in a book where the the author can make a brief departure to better place the story and add context, that is fine but for a movie with already terrible pacing it is completely pointless and self indulgent of the director. (And that was one of the better parts of the movie).

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