Thursday, May 22, 2008

The death of death


By mostly happenstance, I read a bit of an interview with Greg Cox, author of The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh. He said he manipulated the Eugenics Wars into a more covert X-Files type wars outside our notice, because it's important to him that Star Trek takes place in our future.

I understand the logic of that. I really do, but "Star Trek" already doesn't take place in our future. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home has scenes that take place in 1986, presumably, but anyone can tell its an alternate 1986, completely different from the 1986 I experienced.

How so? Well, in the 1986 that I lived through, if Spock had been walking down the street in Vulcan robes people would look at him like he was a acid casualty, but recognize him as Spock. If Chekov asked me where there were "nuclear wessels", I wouldn't have though he was a Soviet agent, I'd have been like "It's Mr. Chekov!"

By 1986, in this universe, "Star Trek" had was a cultural phenomenon. Everyone recognized the characters and knew the concepts, whether they wanted to or not. So that movie most decidedly takes place in an alternate 1986.

I mention this because ordinarily when I tell people this, they turn their heads to the side and stare at me blankly like frightened puppies, unable to comprehend or grasp exactly why this would be or what sense this means. No matter what else may be true, however, the "Star Trek" universe is, and shall remain, a strange alternate Universe in which Star Trek never aired.

I mention this, because despite the greater cultural influence of "Star Trek" compared to that of the flesh-eating ghoul styled-zombies, it seems to really confuse some people that Diary of the Dead takes place in a world in which Night of the Living Dead never happened.

I have to say, I thought this was actually blown away by the movie. I thought it was the scariest Romero movie since Martin and his best movie since at least Creepshow. And, mind you, I enjoy and admire the movies he's made between, despite their lesser reputations.

I also thought it made much better use of the subjective camera than Cloverfield, although possibly that's partially affected by it cheating more. It's more important even that I actually cared about and believed the characters in this much more.

Some part of me wants to think that I was just in the right place for it, and maybe I was.

However, I've not been in horror place recently. I've watch very few in recent weeks and months, and have been considering writing a post swearing off writing about the ones I do watch here. And for even longer than that, the rash of zombie movies has had me feeling like one of those pretentious dickweeds who stops like their favorite band after they sign to a major label, hard as I try to keep it in check.

This really caught me, however. Maybe it wasn't in spite of my lack of recent horror interest but because.

I will note that Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead both famously caught the zeitgeist of their time. I think both Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead missed it, despite being admirable works with many things to recommend them, and quite a few interesting things to say about their times.

Perhaps I'll be wrong and perhaps this blog won't last to hold onto my prediction, but despite the generally lukewarm reception it's gotten, I think it's reputation will grow considerably in years to come, more so that the previous two Dead movies.

And while I understand that "Diary of the Dead" was more marketable, I can't help thinking that calling it "The Death of Death", the title of the documentary inside the movie, wouldn't have helped separate this movie from the other four and make the "back to first night" more palatable and understandable.


4 comments:

r_sail said...

I really liked what Cloverfield did with the hand held camera. The whole thing with the two buildings was a great idea... and, the bits of what was already on the tape. It was heavy handed, but a great idea. I liked the way Cloverfield delivered more than what it delivered.

Jeremy Richey said...

Total agreement...I think this is one of Romero's major works. Absoultely audacious and spellbinding. I can't wait to pick up the disc.
I was fortunate enough to see him present the film in person...something I will never forget.

Neil Sarver said...

Sail, I agree about the camera work, etc. in Cloverfield. I thought it was a technically well-made movie that was impressive for creating suspense despite its lack of characters I liked or believed in.

Jeremy, that must have been excellent. I'm glad to hear I'm not alone in my assessment.

r_sail said...

Yup. I didn't care about the characters. But from a technical and conceptual stand point I really enjoyed the film.

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