Zombies and Maniacs

The biggest problem with zombies is that they don't stop. You don't ever have a break with them; no time for a cigarette or a cup of tea or a beer or even to stop and administer first aid to your companions. Zombies just don't quit. They keep coming. Vampires have the courtesy to sleep during the day. You can go after them then or take a nap yourself. Werewolves have an almost indecently long down time and may even assist in coming up with excellent ways of controlling or combating them. You can see the dog/wolf relationship in a werewolf; they truly are man's best monster. Ghosts and things are kind of sporadic. In fact if you want a ghost to give you some peace you just need to call in someone who is offering a large reward for proof of ghosts. But zombies, they're another story. They keep on coming and breeding and coming and in the end they're a lot like cockroaches. No matter how clean you are and no matter how much you swear you'll never have them, you may end up with zombies in your flat. That's exactly what happens to Shaun in the fabulously fun film, Shaun of the Dead.

Directed by Edgar Wright, who says it's a date film and more of a chick flick than you might think, this self-described romantic comedy with zombies works beautifully. When the film opens Shaun, the protagonist, is not living up to his potential, drifting through life, stuck in a job he dislikes, too unmotivated to quit. His girlfriend Liz is unhappy and he's spending too much time with his best friend called Ed. If Shaun is an underachiever Ed is a subterranean achiever, doing nothing but sit on the couch, play video games and occasionally sell a little pot.

When Liz breaks up with Shaun all he wants is to get her back. Unfortunately for him, his timing is bad because the very same night she dumps him the dead return to life and start engaging in traditional zombie activities like eating live people and swarming through the streets, making travel, or indeed living, chancy at best. One of the best things about this film is how utterly clueless Shaun and Ed are. They encounter their first zombie as they leave the pub where they've gone to drown Shaun's sorrows and they react by singing to it and letting the zombie's moans of pain and anguish act as the counterpoint to their song. When Ed notices a zombie girl in their garden the next morning they think she's simply drunk. These scenes are both funny and suspenseful. I held my breath waiting for something horrid to happen to Shaun as he steps over pools of blood, completely oblivious to anything but getting his morning snacks.

Once Shaun and Ed figure out what is really going on they make a simple plan. Take Pete's car, kill Phil, pick up Mom, go to Liz's, pick up Liz, go to the Winchester, have a pint and wait for it all to blow over. I'm sure you are dying to know who Pete is, why Phil needs to die, where the Winchester is and why it's a good place to wait for it all to blow over. You'll find all that out, a great deal more, and laugh yourself sick when you see the film for yourself.

Speaking of not living up to its potential, the film Saw accomplished just that. This horror movie could have been really interesting and suspenseful but somehow didn't quite work. It starts off with three men in a decrepit room, one lying in a pool of blood with a gun in his hand and the other two chained to pipes. The gimmick is that they have been captured by a homicidal maniac who has the time and resources to set up these incredibly intricate and ludicrous puzzles. Solve the puzzle and go free. Of course it's not quite that simple; there is also a strong moral element involved. Cary Elwes (who was so swoony as the farm boy in Princess Bride plays a seedy doctor who is told he can escape if he kills the other man in the room by six p.m. Kill a stranger and escape. Why sure, I'll do that because I always rely on the word of psychopaths and goodness knows I'll be able to sleep easy once I kill the guy and get home safe to my nice, warm, cozy bed.

The tagline of the film is "How far would you go to save your own life?" I suggest we change it to "How far would you go to avoid seeing this film?"