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In the ‘50s, it was the threat of Communism. In the ‘70s, it was personal alienation and the individual struggle for identity that fueled the monster movie metaphor. In either case, the conclusions were the same in that humanity was doomed by its own inability to embrace individualism and think for itself. That such a message was made out of a narrative revolving around alien pods infiltrating the planet underscore the update’s sensational social commentary.
Zack Snyder pulled off one of the greatest motion picture magic acts ever. He took what many consider to be the seminal splatter zombie shocker from the late ‘70s and made it his own. Some believe he made it even better. Sure, the living dead are aggressive and fast moving, avoiding the sinister shamble associated with the genre. Still, they pack quite an impact. While not actually in Romero’s league, it’s pretty damn close.
How do you improve on the one film in the last decade that made the vampire viable again? Easy, you turn the project over to Cloverfield‘s Matt Reeves and you let him explore the darker, more deadly side of the seminal Swedish creepshow coming of age. It also helps to hire actors as strong as Chloe Grace Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee as your doomed member of the undead and her intended caretaker, respectively. A genius revamp.
Thanks to John Carpenter’s precise direction and Rob Bottin’s still sensational special effects, this take on the favored ‘50s film remains the benchmark for all remakes: smart, uncompromising, inventive, and above all, truly horrific. Few will ever forget the wicked watercooler moments that made the movie so memorable—the dog attack, the severed “spider head”, the bravura blood test. Put together with a bleak setting and true auteurism behind the lens, the overall effect was terrifying and terrific.
David Cronenberg’s operatic take on the hoary old Vincent Price b-movie from the ‘50s couldn’t be better. Brilliant direction, strong performances, and more than enough physical F/X grue to make even the most stalwart scary movie fan gag. But the biggest improvement over the source is the sense of seriousness. Cronenberg’s obsession with biological terrors gives his update a sense of significance that few fright films can ever imagine achieving. A classic in its own right, with an ending that will cause you to cry as well as scream.