June 20, 2011
Ladies and gentlemen, the American horror movie is dead. Sure, we’ll occasionally get a self-aware gore-fest like Feast or Hatchet, but all in all, it’s like we just stopped caring.
Recently, Mary and I sat down and, in order to tune out of the world for a bit, decided to just watch a bunch of horror movies. It would be mindless fun. We ended up watching, among other films, Dead Snow and Le Horde. Do you know what I learned?
America has mostly lost its nerve when it comes to horror. Both of these films did GREAT things with their respective genres. Both had the same set-up as any zombie movie: motley group is trapped in the middle of a zombie invasion. One had students battling Nazi zombies, and the other had cops grudgingly teaming up with gangsters to fight against the undead.
Le Brains! Le Brains!
Both movies had subtitles. For a lot of people, this is a deal-breaker. Personally, I think it makes movies more interesting. And if you’re too lazy to read subtitles and enjoy a foreign movie, don’t complain when the inevitable American remake sucks.
I don’t know why, but for me, good dialogue is key to a good movie. If the dialogue doesn’t sound right, the movie is going to suffer for it, and it’s very hard to write good lines. Dog Soldiers, what I would argue is one of the best horror movies of the last twenty years, had incredible lines for all its characters. Contrast that with, say, Twilight’s stammered and redundant lines of what I can only assume are a monkey bashing a keyboard until words appear on the screen.
Since I speak neither Norwegian nor French, it would be unfair to judge the movies based on what I read as I watched them. However, the delivery and the emotion in Le Horde made it feel like any number of action films. These were hard-boiled cops and ruthless Nigerian gangsters. These were not a scrappy bunch of survivors. They were packing and they were more than willing to kill each other, and their performances and delivery showed it.
Earn Your Level In Badass
There’s nothing worse than a static character. Going back to Twilight, Bella does not change in any way throughout the series (not counting finally turning into a glittering faerie in the last book). In Dead Snow, we get our group of medical students. While several are killed off pretty quickly, those that make it past the initial attacks move on past their jerk attitudes. In one case, a hemophobe (yeah, someone with a blood phobia in medical school) really earns his stripes when he goes from jerk boyfriend to one-man army complete with Evil Dead tribute.
Gore and some spoilers below.
Likewise, it would be hard to see how any of the already-tough-as-nails characters in Le Horde could get any better. They’ve already waged war on each other, teamed up to fight fast-as-frak undead. They’ve turned on each other again. They meet an old man who thinks he’s still in the Pacific War and just happens to have some really big gear for them.
Then, as things go from bad to worse, one of the cops puts on one of the greatest Last Stands I’ve seen in a movie. It’s totally unrealistic, but what makes it awesome is the sheer scale of it. Plus, he looks like a 19th century French pugilist.
Was It Worth It?
Both movies reached their impressive crescendos by the time the credits rolled. Dead Snow was a comedy and made no apologies for it. It took too long to get to the meat of the story, though. The zombies don’t really show up until the halfway mark, though they make a few stealth kills, but once they do, everything moves FAST. Sure, the exposition of what is going on lasts for what seems like an hour of one guy talking about local Norwegian history, but once we get all that nasty back-story out of the way, we get to what we really came to see. It’s Sin City-like in its cartoony violence, but that’s really the only way to approach it. If we hadn’t spent so much time watching these students just hang out, it might have been a much more enjoyable movie, but for what it was, it’s a good way to spend an hour and a half.
Le Horde, on the other hand, didn’t really stop for anything. It starts with an illegal raid, some C4, and guns going off, an execution, everything. It looks to be a gritty, in-your-face crime drama/action film. Then, at the fourteen-minute mark, we get one of the creepiest intros to the undead I recall seeing. Five minutes later, we’re watching Paris burn. No explanation for where the plague came from. Nothing. Okay, next crisis. While there’s something to be said for the slow, Romero-style zombies, Le Horde actually makes the fast variety seem creepy and not just gory.
There are very few American movies that leave me wanting more. Let the Right One In, Sherlock (miniseries), as well as these two films are leaving me more and more disillusioned in American entertainment. Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of shows I enjoy watching, but they include things like No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, shows that show more multiculturalism than our country is generally known for.
Anyone have any movie or television show suggestions?
No links today. I have to clean the remains of a taco-making party in the kitchen, but links for Wednesday!