Monthly Archives: October 2013

Scream

‘Scream’ Commentary Offers Education in Horror, Any Way You Slice It

(I doubt people would read a review of the commentary before seeing the movie itself, but just in case…SPOILER ALERT!)

With Scream, writer Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven very consciously set out to play with horror movie conventions. Part of this approach included using characters who were aware of the genre and used that knowledge to defend themselves. Since smarter characters could only be killed off by a smarter villain, the whole movie was brought to a higher level.

This elevation of the material also carries over to the DVD commentary, which is by far one of the best I’ve heard so far. Continue reading

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Dawn of the Dead (2004)

‘Dawn of the Dead’ (2004) Commentary D.O.A., and Stays That Way

(I doubt people would read a review of the commentary before seeing the movie itself, but just in case…. SPOILER ALERT!!)

The Dawn of the Dead remake (2004) was not only director Zack Snyder’s first big movie, but the first of a trifecta of solid movies, the others being 300 (2006) and Watchmen (2009). It hit theatre audiences fast and hard, with the first zombie attack coming a mere four-and-a-half minutes into the film. In a sense, Snyder’s zombies ate at both his characters and audience from the inside out (pun fully intended). The first attack takes place in the bedroom of protagonist Ana (played by Sarah Polley). She escapes by climbing out a window, only to find that the whole world’s gone to hell. With that world firmly established, Snyder wisely takes the time to introduce and develop characters that are worth knowing, if only so our cringe will be heartfelt when they bite the big one…or vice versa. At times the film possesses a sense of humour as morbid as it is hilarious, which is appropriate considering the situation these characters find themselves facing. That humour provides some insight regarding how notions of propriety might change in a post-zombie apocalypse world, and how these characters are coping with those changes.

Unfortunately, the commentary isn’t nearly as insightful or entertaining. Continue reading

Donnie Darko

‘Donnie Darko’ Commentary Informative, but Fans May Prefer to Stay in the Dark

(I doubt people would read a review of the commentary before seeing the movie itself, but just in case…. SPOILER ALERT!!)

Director Richard Kelly’s commentary track will certainly shed some light on some elements of his debut film, Donnie Darko, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Let me be clear: I love this movie. The performances, music, atmosphere, cinematography, and concepts are all top notch. I first saw it in 2002 and bought it a few years later. As much as I enjoyed watching it, I also enjoyed thinking about it. It seemed like a puzzle that could be assembled in a variety of ways, each of which formed a distinct image. After all these years, I was interested in discovering how Kelly sees it. Also featuring star Jake Gyllenhaal, the commentary reveals a number of surprising facts about the characters, their actions, and the forces at work in the film. The problem is that, in this case, “surprising” usually means “totally illogical.” Continue reading

Evil Dead 2

‘Evil Dead 2’ Commentary is Groovy

(I doubt people would read a review of the commentary before seeing the movie itself, but just in case…SPOILER ALERT!)

The Evil Dead trilogy is the only series of movies that I’ve watched in reverse order. My dad and uncle introduced me to Army of Darkness sometime in the mid-‘90s, when I was in my early teens, and I loved its mix of horror, medieval epic, and comedy. I didn’t realize it was the third part of a trilogy until sometime later (gimme a break; I didn’t see Evil Dead 3 anywhere on the box, and I thought the opening was just a prologue). When I saw Evil Dead 2 a few years later, I missed the one-liners that were the hallmark of AoD, and I was surprised that the mix of horror and comedy clearly favoured the former this time, but the darkly hilarious scenes – Linda’s reanimated corpse dancing the ballet with (and without) her head, Ash’s hand turning on him, and his laugh-along with the furniture – totally won me over. There’s a special place in my heart for any movie that can take flower power slang like “groovy” and link it to chainsaws.

Evil Dead 2 still seems close to the hearts of Raimi, Campbell, Spiegel, and Nicotero, as well. These guys are so eager to talk about Evil Dead 2 that they skip the introductions and dive right in, Continue reading