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In your he-ead, in your he-ead

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There’s a few articles about Danny Boyle’s zombie film at the moment, probably because it’s due to open in the US. John Quiggin is concerned by the film’s evident lack of originality:

My question is, can a film be a shameless ripoff of two completely different sources at the same time? I guess it can be if it takes the plot from one and the cinematography from another. I don’t think I’ll bother going to find out, though.

Probably the only thing really limiting the number of sources a given film can rip off, of course, is the running time of the film. Otherwise I’m sure it’d be perfectly possible to craft a movie without a single original aspect to it, where every bit of action or plot or dialogue has been nicked from other films. Such a film has probably already been made in Korea or India or some other country with loose copyright law observation. In this article, Alex Garland gives an idea of some of the elements he tossed into his screenplay for the film:

“If you’re familiar with horror films, you’re going to recognize a lot of references to The Omega Man and Dawn of the Dead and The Evil Dead and other movies in 28 Days Later, because I definitely ripped them off,” Garland says.

It’s the preceding paragraph of the article, though, which strikes me:

28 Days Later is also the first of several horror movies heading our way that reclaims the genre from the elegant, restrained suspense of recent hits like The Ring, The Sixth Sense and The Others and treats it the way it deserves: as a source of intense frights, gruesome violence and visceral shock where the humor, if it exists at all, never detracts from the nightmare.

Is there something wrong with “elegant, restrained suspense”. then? Would anyone say there was necessarily anything wrong with those films as genre pieces, unless they were one of those freaks whose definition of “horror film” revolves around large quantities of gore and killings? I’m equally irritated by something said here:

Braaaiins! Everyone knows that zombies love to snack on them, but many movies about the shuffling cranial-crackers also target grey matter with social commentary hidden beneath the horror.
While lunging from the shadows with outstretched, rotting limbs, zombies serve as metaphors for failed ambition and mindless conformity, the way vampires can symbolize sexual aggression and Frankenstein’s monster represents science run amok.

Where that’s supposed to leave those cinematic zombies who predate George Romero’s re-conceptualisation of zombies as cannibals (at least, I always credit him with that, or were there cannibalistic zombies in movies before Night Of The Living Dead?) is something I don’t know.

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About James Russell

  • Yeah, Romero (and co-writer John Russo, let’s not forget) were the ones who made cannibalism and brain-snacking a part of the zombie mythos: prior to that landmark release, their primarily function was as a symbol of white colonialism and slavery (as in pics like White Zombie and I Walked With A Zombie).

    I’m looking forward to 28 Days Later, if only because I hope Boyle is able to bring the same visceral energy he showed in Trainspotting to the modern zombie genre. . .