16 June 2010
I've been watching movies of the scary and zombie variety lately, and this was the first one that kind of turned me off the idea of making my own horror film. The story itself was all right. The stakes were high and the cast was good, but the more I watched, the more I felt like it had sucked everything wonderful and original out of 28 Days Later and just left a hollow shell. The cinematography wasn't in aid of anything other than a "28 Days Later feel," the music kept coming and going as if to remind us of the film's predecessor, and the editing... well, honestly, I think this might be the single worst editing job I've watched in a feature film. Well now -- that's not fair; it's not "bad editing," it's just aggressively avant-garde editing that, like the avant-garde cinematography and guitar-driven orchestral score, was in aid of nothing. In fact, whoever cut this film seemed stubbornly unwilling to move fast action along fast enough or to allow the breathing moments to actually breathe. It felt like an exercise in "wrong pacing," like deliberately playing every song at the wrong tempo. And it was extremely frustrating.
The reason it felt a little discouraging is it showed me a worst-case-scenario of my own film. I felt like the structural choices -- things like who lives and who dies, what obstacles would pop up and when/how -- were transparent and, again, hollow. None of it felt in aid of any bigger meaning or larger thematic picture. The recurring antagonism of the father; the choice of showing the photo of the mother and then the mother burn up in the firebombing; the death of the adults protecting the children: all these beats felt like what the story should have, but just because that's what the story needed to move along. Ideally those beats should feel organic and resonant with the themes of the story, not just apt for the drama. I have a sudden new fear that my project will turn out like this one. It's like classical concertos: you can hit all the notes and the song can still be meaningless. 28 Weeks Later is essentially a meaningless, style-aping sequel, hitting all the right notes but lacking any of the sheer poetry that permeated every facet of 28 Days Later.
And honestly, for all the blood and whatnot (and since when did Rage zombie vomit blood like a fire hydrant?), it was tense, but never very scary.