Life, Death, Beth

Life After Beth looks at love and zombies. Unlike a similar zombie love story, Life After Beth does not get existential nor does it give a point about life. Instead the dark comedy starts off entertaining but then plods along like a zombie in the last stages of decay.

Zach is emotionally lost after his girlfriend Beth dies from a snake bite. He visits with her parents and plays chess with her father to help them both mourn. Then suddenly the Slocums stop answering the door or the phone. Zach finds out that Beth is alive. At first he thinks Beth’s death was a hoax but then it becomes apparent that the girl he knew has changed. She is in fact a zombie. Zach is faced with conflicting feeling: relief that she is back and fear for what she has become.

The set up for the movie is great. Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy loses girl. Girl comes back to life. Boy gets girl back.

It’s an interesting concept that makes you think about what it would be like if your loved one did come back. The movie is balanced with humor to keep it from becoming a mushy mess. But then the movie takes a weird turn leaving behind the emotional struggle Zach goes through.. A second love interest is awkwardly added in and more zombies arrive.  . Had the movie the movie just followed Beth and Zach, the film’s themes would have been more clear and the movie would have been more enjoyable.tumblr_n8vggp44841qgbfyko4_1280

The best part of the film is Matthew Gray Gubler as Zach’s spaz of a brother.  A security guard for the neighborhood, Kyle pines for more and is always ready to put a perp down. Gubler captures the spaz aspect easily and it is fun to see him more than the nerdy Reid from Criminal Minds. Gubler handles the humor with ease and gives the best performance in the film. John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon dazzle as Beth’s confused parents but the rest of the cast falls short of truly capturing their character with finesse and grace.

Funny but often absurd, Life after Beth tries too hard to be more than a typical zombie flick.  What begins as a supernatural dark comedy turns into a zombie cliché mess. It’s worth a watch but it isn’t going to be a landmark of the genre.

Our Vampires, Our Selves

ONLY-LOVERS-LEFT-ALIVEVampires are windows to our souls. The fascination with the creatures of the night has always been ingrained in human history and psychology. The stories started with our lack of medical knowledge and what happens to our bodies after we die. Many a poor body was mutilated for fears that they were actually vampires. But as medical knowledge prevailed, we stopped putting stakes in hearts or bricks in mouth to keep the body from rising. Instead, they became an existential study of our selves. Human are drawn to these supernatural tales as a way to come to grips with their own mortality. We have romanticized them right into pop culture.

Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lover Left Alive is a perfect example of using the supernatural to reflect the fears of the natural. The story follows Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), a husband and wife who truly love each other after centuries together. Eve returns home to despondent and suicidal Adam. He is tired of the world and how the humans treat it. His life is only made more complicated when Eve’s “sister” visits them.

The movie is beautiful allegory for drugs and rock and roll. These vampires are almost hippy like with their vintage music and soul charging highs. A search for the purest source is like that of a true drug aficionado—not just some crack whore. It’s the typical drug story just trapped with vampire edges and dark humor. Chaos and death reign in this world even though Eve and Adam only want to spend their time enjoying the world and each other. But like all drug tales, the source dries up and Adam must come face to face with an inevitable death.

The casting is superb. Hiddleston is so much more than the impish Loki of the Marvel universe. H nails the suicidal rocker on the head giving more depth to a character that could be one sided. His chemistry with Swinton is tight, and Swinton herself is, as always, superb. Mia Wasikowska plays the younger and fickle sister infusing chaos perfectly into the couple’s tiny world. And  Anton Yelchin evokes his best Matthew Gray Gubler as Adam’s minion who is a needed source of comic relief.only-lovers-left-alive-jim-jarmusch-05

The only issue with the movie is that Jarmusch wears his symbolism on his sleeve. He forces the use of spinning imagery upon the viewer wasting an endless amount of time with either dancers or spinning records. These sequencing using music are used to drive the story, but it really just slows it down. By the time you get to the end of the movie and a music sequence that was vital to the story, the viewer has lost interest and ready to move on.

Despite of these, Only Lovers Left Alive is a captivating and complex tale mirrors our human emotions in the faces of vampires. If they can find both self-love and romantic love why can’t we? But at what prices do we pay for our lives when we are just seeking out our next high?

A Second Visit to Silent Hill Turns to Hell

Silent Hill Revelation 3D
Contains Spoilers

The genre of video game movies has always had a torrid past. Sometime decent films are made (Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil), but the majority of them are just horrid. One of the best adaptations was the original Silent Hill. Created by people who played the video games either before or during the filming process, it was a labor of love that brought a video game world to life. While it took some liberties with the original game concept, the beauty of the landscape, the casting, and shot for shot sequences from the first game make it a true adventure in Silent Hill.

I had high hopes for the second movie installment Revelation 3D, but it was an ill-conceived mash-up of the games and poorly thought out new ideas. The movie is schizophrenic: it goes off on its own story but pays homage to so many ways to the games. Only gamers would get the significance of the one red shoe in the hotel or the fact that one of Heather’s other names was Mary. But the story goes off course convoluting the story of Silent Hill 3 and taking on a life of its own.

Silent Hill Revelation tells the story of Heather, the teenage version of the Sharon in the first movie. Her and her father now named Harry, live a gypsy life style moving often and changing their names. Heather thinks it’s because Harry killed a man; she has no idea she is on the run from a cult. This cult isn’t some Jim Jones group of wackos; their God is real and has trapped the members in Hell on Earth. This hell differs for each visitor shaped by their own sins and fears. When her father is kidnapped, Heather and one of her fellow high school students head back to Silent Hill to rescue him.

Robbie the Rabbit and Heather Mason

At its core the plot mirrors that of the third game. Heather is found by a private detective who was hired by Claudia to bring her back into the fold. She uses Harry to drag Heather back in. But the plot similarities end there. The private investigator Douglass is no longer her companion. The film writers have warped the Samael worshipper Vincent into Claudia’s son and pawn. Leonard is actually humanoid (with a wonderful performance by Malcolm McDowell). Harry doesn’t die. The list goes on and on. For a Silent Hill fan, this is a farce, turning beloved characters into something new and obscene (pyramid head being beat up by another creature? Please). Silent Hill Revelation is the bastard child of Hollywood and gaming.Let me take a moment to complain about Vincent. As my favorite character in the third game, I was dismayed to see how his character was warped. He was no longer the bookish scholar whose talk indirectly stated that people saw Silent Hill differently, but a high school student sent by Claudia into the real to retrieve Heather. While Kit Harrington did well with what he was working with, the character is a sham to any one who knows the character. Unlike Cybil (who the casting department took seriously and cast Laurie Holden perfectly), he is the most disappointing character adaptation in the series. I would have accepted three actors to play Vincent: Jackson Rathbone, Matthew Gray Gubler, or Cillian Murphy. At least Harrington has good hair.

There are some merits. Most of the casting is pretty spot on. Douglas’s voice is great, and Heather is perfect. (I wish I could tell you more about Carrie-Ann Moss as Claudia, but she was only in for about ten minutes.) The 3D is fun and adds to scares to the creature arracks. Robbie the Rabbit is insanely creepy. The music is either directly from the games or created by Akira Yamaoka himself. The town of Silent Hill is still beautiful and very much reminiscent of the game, and with the music, is haunting. But the movie doesn’t spend much time in Silent Hill itself. A valid complaint of many of the game, it is a fatal flaw of the movie.

The second fatal flaw is that this movie leaves behind everything that made the first movie good. The movie relies too often on heavy CG and many of the creatures lose the organic look of the first movie. While CG has to be used in a movie like this, part of the scariness in the games is how real everything looked. The first movie understood this perfectly. The current installment also focuses more on the bloodiness and shock value. Cooking people alive, cutting off arms and fingers, and the sexual assault of a mannequin are in your face and disturbing instead of psychologically disturbing. It seems odd to make that complaint about Silent Hill which has a history of disturbing images. But it’s never been about gore, and all physical reactions are from a sense of psychological dread. Revelation instead relies on cheap scares.

Is this a good movie on its own? I can’t tell you. As a devoted fan, I have yet to emotionally remove myself from this project. It will take another viewing to decide the merits of it as a stand alone film. Though I fear, even trying to watch Revelation as a separate entity, the movie will not fare much better.

But the end did leave me happy. SPOILERS: Harry goes to look for Rose ala Silent Hill 2, Travis Grady picks Heather up to take them out of town, and we see Murphy Pendelton’s prison bus head in. For the first time, I truly felt embedded in Silent Hill.  If the rest of the movie could have been this spot on, it could have been as good as the first.

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