Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Review: IT'S ALIVE

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Directed by Larry Cohen
91 mins.  Color.
DVD Trilogy Collection from Warner Home Video

If you read our site with any regularity, you've probably figured out that I love Larry Cohen.

Well, I think part of the reason for that is because each time I see a film of his, I become more impressed.  He has the ability to make genre films that are both entertaining and thought provoking.

It's Alive is the first of a trilogy, the following films being It Lives Again (1978) and It's Alive III: Island of the Alive (1987) (maybe the best title for a film... ever?)  It is notoriously known as "those killer mutant baby movies."  Which is an accurate description, but I think too simplified and dismissive.

At this point in Cohen's career, he had only directed a few blaxploitation films with Fred Williams (Black Ceasar and Hell Up in Harlem).  It's Alive would catapault him into a different genre and define his career.

The Rundown:
*there will be a few spoilers, as I don't believe this is a film I can discuss without giving details*

From the outset, Cohen places you in a contemplative frame of mind.  Bernard Herrmann's beautiful score soars over a dark screen.  Slowly lights bounce up and down.  At first, they seem to be an unrecognizable collage of color, slowly they become a mob of flashlights, and then fade again into the obscure.

It's a small moment, but striking in what it conveys to the viewer.  It's an image that will recycle with the end of the film, as Frank combs the sewers with the police, in search of the Davis Baby.  The terror of mob mentality.  It's also about the unreliable nature of genetics.  It's the procreative process.  The sperm race in, but which ones will have deformities?  Or, how will our bodies react to certain medication?

I was in the perfect place for my first viewing of this film.  I had just arrived home from a double shift and was ready for something crazy.  This opening put me in a state to quietly take in whatever the film had to offer.  I shifted quickly to take it seriously, and my expectations for what Cohen would do with it rose as well.  I was not disappointed.

The film concerns John Ryan (Frank Davis) and Sharon Farrell (Lenore Davis) as they prepare to add another child into their lives.  As we come out of the melange of color, we see the couple asleep in bed.  Lenore wakes up and turns to Frank, letting him know that "it's time."  In a very sweet fatherly moment, Frank gently brings their cat into his son's room to wake him and lays it across his head.  I had reflections of being awoken by our dag Cathy.  It seems like the standard parent wake-up call.  Anyway, they head calmly to the hospital.

While Frank stirs in the waiting room impatiently, other fathers-to-be discuss the merits of bringing a child into such a horribly dangerous world.  Lenore shares her concern with her doctor, knowing that something is wrong.  Lenore is afraid that the new baby will make Frank feel tied down as he did with their first child.  In her moment of trial, anxieties billow out.  The doctor tries to assuage her fears, continually reassuring her that its just a big baby.  But, he soon changes his tune...  Frank leaves the room and waits outside.

The doctor comes running out of the operating room with his throat ripped open.  Ryan rushes to the room, just to find all the nurses are dead in a horrible blood bath.  The baby is missing and the police begin a search for the hideous little creature that Lenore has just birthed.

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What childbirth always looks like.
The whole affair gets into the press, Frank loses his PR job and the authorities continue to search for the missing homicidal mutant baby.  The body count rises daily, as the baby continues it's rampage.

Cohen is not one to leave out political implications to horror films.  Pharmaceutical companies have deep fears that their medication could be found to be the reason for the mutancy.  They work with the police to do their best to not only find the murderous baby, but to make sure that there is nothing left of it to study.  Frank is convinced that the baby must be killed and proceeds to help with the babyhunt.

The Davis Baby makes it back to their home, only to be shot by Frank and escape.  The hunt then goes to the sewers, and Frank is determined to be the one that does the deed.  Instead, he finds it alone, cold in the water, crying for it's father.

The Evaluation:

The thing that makes this movie is so impressive is how seriously Cohen treats it.  This doesn't "feel" like a throwaway trash film.  It's played straight, and very well put together.  The photography is superb and the pacing is perfect.  It slowly unravels, never showing the baby in it's entirety until the end.  

Ryan's performance is amazing.  His torture and shame about his baby is transformed into a beautiful scene where he seeks to protect it from the authorities.  He truly understands a father's love and his tears are genuine.

Cohen does a wonderful job playing into the fears of becoming a father.  The thousands of things that could go wrong and the deep anxiety about miscarriages, birth defects, or even raising a psychotic kid who becomes a school shooter were going through my mind as I watched it.  

At the same time, he turns this on it's head, as a viewer you quickly feel for the vulnerable and afraid baby.

And, you get all this in a mutant killer baby movie.

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The love of a father
Set Yourself Up:
  • Baby Carrots with hummus (maybe a little red food coloring in the hummus)
  • get your baby blanket out of storage from your mom's basement
  • hold that machete your good friend got you for your birthday tight
The Goods:
I have the Warner Home Video Collection, which has all three films on it.  I think it's pretty great and there isn't really a better release out there.  Hopefully Shout Factory or Blue Underground or Synapse or somebody puts out a special edition of some kind.

-J. Moret

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Review / Rant: CODEX

Directed by Micah Bloom
40 mins.  Color.
Live at the Trylon Microcinema, Monday June 24th and Tuesday June 25th

Micah Bloom's CODEX is a love letter to books.  In fact, it's basically forty minutes of beautiful images of books devastated by the 2011 flood that hit Minot, North Dakota.

That being said, it's also deeply thought provoking.

The physical and textile nature of paper books is an art form that, like the movies we review and love at this site, is slowly dying.  The bindings, cover-art and paper quality profoundly change your experience as a reader.  As all forms of media become more digitally based, the art form of the construction of books dies with it.  Bloom explores this with carefully constructed sequences of technicians cataloging and studying books, as if they are already meant for archaeological digs.

When reviewing movies at this site, we always comment on the art on the box of the film, the construction of special features, quality of transfers and different versions of the boxes because we love the idea of owning pieces of art.  Books are the same way.  With ownership, you have the ability to share and sell that piece as you choose.  You can underline passages and dog-ear important pages.  You have a visual memory of an idea that was in print.  The agency of ownership makes you a part of a cycle, and allows room for the viewer to experience it as he or she wishes.  With digital media, there is no displaying the beauty of a bound book.  There is no loaning that book to a friend.  There is no ownership.  It's completely temporary.

CODEX is simple, but it's implications are complex.  The printing press changed the world.  The digital age is doing the same.

- J. Moret

Micah Bloom will be present at the Trylon Microcinema for all shows on both Monday and Tuesday.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith
a glorious 80 mins.
VHS by StarMaker

John does our first bootleg review of Brian Trenchard-Smith's 1981 exploitation shlockterpiece, 
Escape 2000

Monday, June 17, 2013


Collecting physical media is a quickly dying hobby.  Digital media is becoming more overwhelming and prevalent.  Streaming services offer a seemingly unlimited amount of titles.  However, the titles on Netflix and others are pushed at you based on their restricion rights with the hopes of gaining the most profit.  Likewise, the temporary nature and inferior quality of that digital content offers no sense of ownership.  However, not all physical media is better than the box it comes in, ie: the straight to video  THEY CRAWL

So, Pawn America had a sale on their DVDs... all DVDs are $1.  Well, a $1 will make you take a real chance on something.  This cover was enough to get me to think about it.  I mean, it's a guy yelling with a horrible looking photoshop bug coming out of his eye.  But, I was worried it might just be another Sci-Fi Channel piece of garbage.  However, it's what is on the back that made me actually purchase it.
Mickey Rourke and Rap Superstar Tone Loc!  I'm, not so sure I would describe Tone Loc as a Rap Superstar, but I appreciate the ridiculous description.
The Description on the Box:
"A Computer whiz named "Bean" is among several people (two by my count) found dead with strange strictions, odd puncture wounds and missing internal organs.  Bean's Brother Ted (non-star of anything Daniel Cosgrove) teams up with detective Gina (Tamara Davies, aka poor man's Gina Gershon) to get to the bottom of it.  With the help of a computer hacker, they find a blueprint that reveals the killer who has been terrorizing the city...  a rampaging posse of genetically mutated cockroaches!"

Well, at least they give a spoiler in the description.  I think this movie is probably worth a dollar, but I wouldn't pay more than that for it.

There is a character named Tiny Frank (non-chalantly played by the amazing Mickey Rourke), really bad CG bug deaths, an obviously-not-Mickey Rourke-stunt-double-chase-scene, some weird moments of out-of-focus zoom and 88 minutes of low level boredom.

Go watch Squirm instead.

-J. Moret

Sunday, June 9, 2013


Directed by: William Girdler
Released: May 21st, 1976
Rated: PG

Movies about giant killer animals will never get old. Man Vs. Nature is literally the oldest story on earth. There are cave drawings that depict the struggle that man had with nature dating back hundreds of thousands of years.

It's too bad they didn't have rocket launchers back then.

GRIZZLY is a capably made man versus nature story. It came out in the wake of the JAWS phenomenon. Most likely, GRIZZLY was an attempt at a cash grab, however, it is a very enjoyable film in it's own right. Don't get me wrong, William Girdler is no Steven Spielberg and Christopher George is no Roy Scheider, but for a shameless cash grab type movie, this is pretty fun to watch.

And a bear gets shot by a rocket launcher.


It's the story of a mountain side forest patrolled by Park Ranger Michael Kelly (Christopher George doing a Roy Scheider impression). A massive, apparently prehistoric Grizzly bear starts murdering young women (yes, he's trolling for babes, AKA TFB).

About 10 minutes into the movie, we get a POV shot from the bear's perspective. He punches off a sweet camping babe's arm and tosses her into a tree. The mountainside has a problem. It's an 18 foot tall, 2000 lb Grizzly bear.

Good thing this campground has access to a bazooka.

Aside from the death scenes, the movie revolves around Ranger Kelly being too understaffed to handle the campers on the mountain, let alone a giant prehistoric grizzly. His ranger cohorts are pretty dumb. In fact one of his female rangers strips to go swimming in the middle of the hunt. Of course she becomes the bear's lover and lunch.

Beaurcrats and businessmen get involved and demand results because their lucrative business. . . of camping, is in jeopardy. You know, just like JAWS. Except camping is switched with . . . . beaching

We are introduced to Scott (AKA Quint Mk. II). He's a crazy hunter/trapper/douche with a squirrel cape. He goes in depth about how all the bears on the land are tagged and none of them are large enough to cause the carnage they've witnessed. He's they one that tells us the bear must be prehistoric due to his size, which is roughly double that of a regular grizzly bear. Could be an alien for all we know. This dude is an idiot.

Then a real rapey looking hunter's babe gets killed by the bear and drunken, inbred, redneck, hunters try to capture the alien grizzly. Ranger Kelly gets mad and worried more will die due the the negligence of untrained alcoholics with firearms running wild in the woods. He's right.

It's the plot of JAWS with no character development.

But a bear gets shot by a bazooka.

You're Deeeeead honey.


The most notable part of GRIZZLY is that the carnage the Prehistoric Mutant Alien Grizzly causes, is very slasher-esque. The film showcases a lot of POV shots with bear snorts and breathing. A quick cut will occur showing a frightened female camper then shes bloody hanging from a tree missing an arm. During most kills, cheesy looking (assuredly human operated) arms punch and swipe at the bears victims. Totally awesome.

Another technique that ties in with that, which was most likely a budgetary decision and a time saver was how sparingly the actual bear is used. When the bear does appear later on in the film, it's original footage of a real bear, not stock footage. And a Park Ranger shoots the bear with a missile.


GRIZZLY is rated PG. This movie was made prior to the PG13 rating being issued by the MPAA. However, like JAWS, it could be considered violent enough to be an R rated film. Limbs are ripped/punched off, there's lots of blood, a child gets his leg ripped off, a horse gets his head punched off and a bear gets shot by a bazooka.

Bears Rule. Toeheads Drool.


The posters for this movie are king big slam.


I was given a VHS tape of this movie. It comes in a slipcase. . . that you have to open a flap on the bottom of the case to get the tape out. The tape was released by Media Home Entertainment in 1982.

It is available on DVD. After a quick browse on Amazon however, a used copy of the stand alone DVD is $30 and a compilation disc featuring the film is $40 used. The most cost effective method of purchase of this movie is the VHS format, which is slightly less expensive.


- Watch JAWS 5: CRUEL JAWS first
- GRIZZLY sucks to watch alone. Don't do it. Have some friends over. Make up a new story for the movie while viewing, then tie your story own into the kill scenes.
- During my first viewing of the film I was drunk on Gin and Grape Gatorade. That was good.
- Eat junk food you could take camping. I had some Star Crunch, Powdered Donuts and some terrible Doritos JACKED chips.
- Fart
- Shoot a bear with a bazooka and watch as he erupts into an explosion as if he was drinking gasoline.
Dude. . .  Spoilers.

- M. McSlam

Thursday, June 6, 2013


This summer, Zack Snyder will release his Superman film, The Man of Steel. While I am cautiously optimistic (Christopher Nolan is producing, Michael Shannon is the villain and the camerawork looks beautiful), I think Snyder has shown that even with the best of premises, he can turn things ugly. At the same time, his flashy advertising background and love of high definition slow-motion make his style attractive. Likewise, in interviews he comes off as charismatic. I believe it's worthwhile, however, to draw attention to the fact that he, either intentionally or not, has inserted homophobic, racist and nationalistic elements into his past films. That subtext can be seen as both outward and obvious (300) and more hidden but still present (Dawn of the Dead). At the same time, I think this is actually most apparent in a side by side comparison of his remake of George Romero's 1978 film. I've been stewing on these ideas for a bit and on the eve of the release of MOS, I thought it not horrible timing.

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Start with a heresy of the best. 

The O.G.
George A. Romero, director of the Night of the Living Dead (1968) series, in an interview with Playboy said, "The Zombie films are what I perceive as just my platform, a pulpit.  They have given me an opportunity to at least, not necessarily express opinions or criticize, but observe what’s going on in society.  That puts a bit more intellectual juice into the plot instead of just having a guy in a hockey mask with a knife."

Romero’s political and social commentary is both intentional and current.  His second film in the “Dead” Series, Dawn of the Dead (1978) is brilliant. It's one of my favorite films. It concerns the lives of four individuals as they attempt to create a consumer utopian fantasy in a suburban mall, away from the chaos of a world that is being taken over by zombies.  By the end of the film the African American protagonist, Peter, and the pregnant female protagonist, Fran, are the only survivors.  Their survival is a mixture of hope and despair, but it has deep social implications.  The importance of the film lies in its ironic use of the mall as social commentary.  Dawn of the Dead, similar to Romero’s other zombie films, makes statements about gender, race, class and reproduction.  It also portrays the anxieties of the 1970s and is a prophetic pre-cursor to the 1980s in its critique of consumerism.

And then we come to Snyder...
        Snyder’s 2004 remake involved the lives of nine individuals trapped in a mall.  The social commentary on consumerism was almost nonexistent in this version, however.  There are no long montages of living the good life with all the consumer goods you've always wanted. Likewise, the themes in the film of miscegenation and natality seem to have very little, if any, intentional reason for being in the film.  As a result, the treatment of these themes has both racist and nihilistic connotations.  Snyder’s reasoning behind his films is nearly insulting for its lack of thoughtfulness:
        My instinct is that movies where people are fighting and shooting are the movies I  want to see.  I don’t really look for a movie that has anything specific in tone, action and story.  I’m just looking for something that feels cool to me.  Where I  think about it and say, “Yeah that sounds cool! (Epstein)
        The themes of childbearing and natality hang over both Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and Snyder’s 2004 remake.  Critiques of consumerism and commodification can be seen at the forefront of Romero’s film.  Inter-racial relationships are present in both versions.  However, the presentations of these themes are at odds in the different versions of the story.  Romero’s vision is clearly a radical critique of capitalism and the ability of people to cause their own and other’s downfall.  Snyder’s film is much more ambivalent and can be read as even reactionary and offensive.  The presentation of child-birth, hope and rebirth are likewise portrayed differently in these films.
The Dead Will Walk the Earth in new blue jeans...
        The end of the 1970s and the years following September 11 seemingly have very little in common.  However, both times seem to be an attempt to recoup from national tragedies.  The late 1970s and 1980s attempted to deal with the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement and the 1960s in general, through conspicuous consumption.  Immediately following the terrorist attacks in 2001 President George W. Bush, in a joint session of Congress and the American People said, "I ask your continued participation and confidence in the American economy.  Terrorists attacked a symbol of American prosperity.  They did not touch its source.  America is successful because of the hard work, and creativity, and enterprise of our people.  These were the true strengths of our economy before September 11th, and they are our strengths today."

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Using consumerism as both a bulwark against economic hardship after a disaster (Inflation in the late 1970s or the market response to September 11) and escape from the feelings of vulnerability, Americans were, in essence, told not to worry about it.  And, Romero believes, they did just that.  “That’s where we were going.  Everybody was just dancing.  The crisis was over and we were just listening to the Beegees."  What else could they do?  The Cold War and the War on Terror were both originally based on an unbeatable enemy, an implausible and illusive idea.  One military strategist argued, “Declaring war on terror is like declaring war on air power” (qtd. in Danner).  In the shadow of an enemy that cannot be stopped, is possibly one of us, and seems to be almost a type of disease that creates more of itself the harder we fight it, the symbol of the zombie does not seem like crazy science fiction. The Secretary of Defense during Vietnam, Robert S. McNamara, stated in a memorandum to President Lyndon Johnson, “the enemy must be taking losses… at the rate of more than 60,000 a year.  The infiltration routes would seem to be one-way trails to death… and it appears that he can more than replace his losses."  Similarly in a secret memo in 2003, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld asked the question, “Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?"  
Symbols of American Prosperity
        Romero’s Dawn of the Dead is an extremely important film, because of its biting satire.  By placing a mall as the centerpiece of a zombie film it immediately draws attention to the image of the zombie as capitalist consumer.  The late 1970s and 1980s was a time of unprecedented prosperity and consumption.  It is not only the mall and the zombies that work as stand-ins for capitalism, however.  The four “heroes” of the film are seen as similar to the zombies and to the later “raiders” that will eventually break into the mall and end their utopian existence.  Through similar actions of consumption and glorification of things, these three groups are linked.  
Stephen comments that the zombies are at the mall because, “it’s an important place in their lives.”  Yet, it also becomes an important place to Stephen, as he refuses to stay quiet as the raiders come and begin to take a lot of the commodities in the mall.  He argues, “Its ours!  We took it!”  Here, the capitalist fight over commodities ends up being Stephen’s death.

You Got it All Wrong, Snyder...
        The critique of capitalism so prevalent in Romero’s film seems to fade into obscurity in Snyder’s remake.  Snyder’s film takes place in a mall, yet zombies are rarely seen inside the mall itself, they simply congregate outside.  Likewise, the zombies are not portrayed as mindless and clumsy consumers who desire things for no other reason than to possess them, but as very frightening predators who are not distracted by the flashy commodities in the mall.  They seem more like rabid animals than people.  They move very quickly and a single zombie poses an immediate threat.  As Kim Paffenroth states in her book, The Gospel of the Living Dead, “This softened or lessened criticism of materialism is also seen in the depiction of the zombies in the film, for they are both more bestial and subhuman, but also therefore less odious and sinful."  
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Cool outfits with no logos, guys
The 1978 film’s tagline was “When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth."  The tagline for the 2004 remake was “When the undead rise, civilization will fall."  It's clear that who is at fault is essential to the film.  In Romero’s film capitalism is at center and so it seems a logical extension to argue that the sins of conspicuous consumption and the immorality of global capitalism has brought the dead back to life.  However, there is also a continuation of Romero’s critique in Night, as he portrays racism still at the center of the sinfulness.  Near the beginning of the film Peter and Roger, the two police officers who go to the mall, are part of an attempt to contain the zombie outbreak in poor African American and Hispanic tenement housing.  One police officer with them does the same as the rednecks in Night and uses the opportunity to kill as many of the residents as he can.  In essence, in Romero’s view, the world, and the U.S. in particular, have brought it on itself.  His film portrays the inexcusable actions of humanity and leaves the blame nowhere to go but on ourselves.
        In Snyder’s re-telling mankind is not at fault, a disease has simply ravaged humanity.  Or, if we are, it is because of the anger of God because of sexual immorality.  Ken Foree, who plays Peter in the 1978 version, is seen as a televangelist saying the tagline from the original.  However, he follows it up by claiming that homosexuals and those like them are the cause.  Nothing is said to disregard the statement.  There is no other argument to say that homosexuality is the cause, but by no means does the film work against stereotypes or attempt to prove that homosexuals have any place within the group.    Glen, a homosexual man, feels the need to confess that he is gay to the two security guards, and one of them replies “I’m in hell!”  Later, as the group is attempting to escape, Glen is seen to be too weak to handle the chainsaw and ends up killing one of their own in the group.  No group is shown to be at fault, but Glen is certainly not shown to have the ability to survive in such a dangerous climate.
        In the same way that the fault seems to lie with no one, the greed of mankind does not lead to the destruction of the group in Snyder’s version.  In the 1978 Dawn a combination of the raiders’ and Stephen’s greed lead Peter and Fran to flee the mall and search for sanctuary.  In the remake a benevolent action to attempt to save a neighboring gun shop owner from starvation leads to the demise of the group.  This heroic action has not been unseen in national tragedy.  The firefighters and policeman at the Twin Towers on September 11 were similarly selflessly heroic.  However, it is not the heroism that is telling, but the fact that the survivors are almost entirely without fault. Basically every character, but one wealthy man, is redeemed within the span of the film.  The group does not jealously guard the mall, nor is anyone else attempting to break in. The group only wishes to help one another.  This state of simplicity calls to mind the national response to the terrorist attacks of September 11.  Many posed the question, “Why do they hate us?”  President George W. Bush would respond by offering similar simplistic and escapist thinking such as, “They hate our freedoms."  This type of response leads to the assumption that nothing could have been done and that American foreign policy could in no way be at fault.  However, what this line of thinking ignores is the persistent and forceful entry of American Cold War policies and capitalist venture into the Middle East.  What Snyder’s remake does is connect to this same sense of simplicity.  And, simplistic thinking, in turn leads to destructive outcomes.
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Carpeting Walls should probably come back in a big way
Birth Pains
        The zombies and the mall in Snyder’s film, as has been seen, offer only ambiguous social critique.  Even if the vision of disease as cause for zombiefication may work as allusion to AIDS or cancer it seems difficult to draw bigger conclusions than that.  The theme of childbirth in both Romero’s and Snyder’s films do provide opportunity for drawing conclusions, however. In George Romero’s film, Dawn of the Dead (1978), the African American protagonist, Peter, learns of the pregnancy of Fran, the female member of the foursome, and asks her lover Stephen, “Do you want to abort it?  It’s not too late and I know how.”  This question comes after the audience has learned that the Pittsburgh area has descended into chaos due to the dead rising back to life to devour the flesh of the living; a decidedly bad environment to bring a new life into.  Stephen responds by shaking his head in disgust at the idea.  The camera then pulls into the room where the pregnant Fran is sitting.  She has not been included in the decision of their future child and is appropriately disturbed at the aspect of it.  She later mutters to Stephen, “nobody cares about my vote.”  The theme of child-birth and the complications of such a decision is one of many themes the Dawn story intertwines in its politically post-apocalyptic vision.
Fran and Stephen’s relationship seems uncertain.  Stephen attempts to propose to her with a ring that he took from a jewelry store in the mall.  She proves to be the strong one and refuses the forced marriage, saying “It wouldn’t be real.”  Stephen dies at the hands of an unstoppable group of zombies, leaving Fran and Peter with the question of what to do.  Fran has since learned how to drive the helicopter and shoot and is prepared to run from the mall.  She had correctly predicted, “You’re hypnotized by this place.  It’s so bright and neatly wrapped.  You don’t see it’s a prison too.”  Peter nearly succumbs to despair and is going to kill himself.  At the last minute he decides to fight for life.  He shoots, punches and kicks his way through zombies to join Fran in helicopter escape.  This ending is hopeful for two reasons.  Peter and Fran have shown themselves to be competent survivors and the audience will recognize their high chance of survival.  Likewise, Fran’s child, a signifier of a future generation and hope, is in good hands with the inter-racial couple.  Peter knows how to abort a child, and so most likely knows how to deliver one.  Likewise, the pairing of two disenfranchised members of society, an African American male and white female who have bore the brunt of society’s systemic oppression, is evidence of the strength of the oppressed.  The creation of inter-racial relationships, black men and white women, occurs in both Dawn and Night.  Here, Romero implies the struggles of these groups have a better chance of success if they bind together.  This theme of hope does not appear in Snyder's 2004 remake of Dawn.
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Racist CG Baby that looks terrible
        In Snyder’s version the pregnant woman, Luda, seems to be nearly nine months along when she is introduced.  She is Russian and white, her lover, Andre, is an African American man determined, “to give that baby everything I didn’t have.”  What the audience finds out soon after is that Luda has been bit and she is slowly turning into a zombie.  Andre keeps her in hiding so that he can continue to deliver the baby.  By the time Luda goes into labor she has started to turn.  Andre goes on with the operation.  When the baby finally comes it is born a zombie.  Although the film is created in our supposed post-racial society, the implications are dreadful.  The age-old fear of miscegenation, inter-racial procreation, is evoked.  The black man and white woman have created an abomination.  It is neither black nor white and it is a menace to society.
        Fran and Peter’s relationship, although seen as decidedly non-sexual, portrays the positive possibilities of such a couple.  Andre and Luda, on the other hand, show the racist fears of such a relationship. To make sense of this in the post September 11 world it is necessary to think about the extensive “other-ing” of the terrorists and concurrent fear of illegal immigrants.  Alongside the innocence response to the attacks there was also a racializing of the “enemy.”  The fear of terrorists has become a fear of all Arabs and even included Latinos in a race to seal off the border between the U.S. and Mexico.  The racial fears prevalent in Snyder’s Dawn are representative of these images in popular culture.
        The frightening aspect of horror films like these is their ability to capture the period.  Romero’s incredibly insightful denunciation of the escapism of late 1970s consumerism offers possibilities for resistance to cultural consumer hegemony.  Likewise, by offering a solution to this problem through an alliance between oppressed groups of society Romero gives an example of effective resistance.  On the other hand, Snyder’s supposedly politically banal reading of a highly radical political horror film offers only a racist and hopeless view of the current situation.  Whether intended or not, this vision supports American historical and political ignorance while at the same time endorsing racial and isolationist fears.  In essence, when Peter responds to Stephen’s plea to join others by saying, “Wake up sucker.  We’re thieves and bad guys, we’ve got to find our own way,” he accepts their reality and creates the possibility for them to become the good guys.
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Slo-motion Owl Fascism
And, it only gets worse...
Snyder's films after Dawn only cement this idea of his apparent racist and jingoistic view of the world. His follow-up film was the very successful 300, a film so racist and celebratory of violent nationalism that it seems almost unnecessary to discuss. It is also about 95% slow-motion. Seriously. Based on the Frank Miller comic book, 300 is the story of the Battle of Thermopylae, an inspiring tale of 300 Spartans who stand up against the onslaught of the tremendous Persian army of Xerxes. A similar legend as The Alamo, it is likewise simplified and exploited for nefarious political reasons. Here, the Spartans are a stand-in for the West, while the Persians are a stand-in for the Middle-East. The Spartan soldiers are white, burly and virtuous. The conniving politicians are portrayed as weak and evil. The Persians are shown to be dark-skinned, immoral, and unmerciful. Much more can be said, but for the purposes of this post, I'll just leave it at this: Iranian bloggers and journalists were so taken aback and offended by the film that they wrote headlines like, "Hollywood Declares War on Iranians."

He followed up 300 with Watchmen (a brilliant graphic novel turned simplistic artifice), Legend of the Guardians (a children's film about the dangers of fascism that we must fight with military might) and Sucker Punch (a supposedly empowering film with all female leads, but they are all presented scantily clad and use only violence to solve their problems..)

As this post is already too long and overblown, I'll leave it there. So, here's hoping that Man of Steel is different.

-J. Moret
Some sources:
1. Becker, Matt. “A Point of Little Hope: Hippie Horror Films and the Politics of Ambivalence,” The Velvet Light Trap 57 (2006): 42 -59.
2. Danner, Mark. “Taking Stock of the Forever War,” New York Times Magazine.  11 Sept. 2005. (No page numbers available, acquired on internet)
3. George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.  Dir. George Romero.  Perf. David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reniger and Gaylen Ross.  DVD. The MKR Group, Inc., released 1978.  Distributed By Anchor Bay, 2004.
4. Herring, George C.  The Pentagon Papers.  United States.  McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1993.
5. Loudermilk, A. “Eating ‘Dawn’ in the Dark,” Journal of Consumer Culture.  3 (2003): 83 – 108.
6. Lowenstein, Adam.  Shocking Representation: Historical Trauma, National Cinema, and the Modern Horror Film.  New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.
7. Waller, Gregory A.  The Living and the Undead: From Stoker’s Dracula to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.  Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1986.