I’m pretty sure I never would have seen this movie if it weren’t for writing this blog. Growing up I had a lot of good times watching older movies on TV but as I’ve gotten older and the internet has saturated my life with more content than I can really consume, I’ve lost touch with sitting down and really watching older films. So even though this isn’t my favorite flick, that’s what was running through my had as I watched this. (That and a seriously bad case of bronchitis.)
Let’s start with the poster:
I’m not sure the poster jives with what I personally got out of the film, but it’s not far off. The poster shows the central female character with slightly green or blue skin and a bloody teardrop coming down her cheek. The people below her are pretty creepy but I don’t really remember any actors who looked quite like that in the film.
Something about the poster says vampires to me much more than zombies, but this is a fairly unconventional horror flick.
This movie seems to have a lot of interesting facts and information surrounding it that are actually a bit more interesting than the movie itself.
For example, this movie was released under a number of other titles including Return of the Living Dead. Fancy that! But, guess who wasn’t happy about the suggested connection to Night of the Living Dead? George Romero that’s who. And he sued successfully to have the film distributed under a different name. Unfortunately for George though that case also sealed the fact that he doesn’t own the rights to the terms “The Living Dead.”
Here’s another odd factoid I found while I was casting about. (Ok I was reading the Wikipedia page on the movie. So sue me.) This movie was made by a husband and wife team who also made Howard the Duck and American Graffiti.
The movie follows a woman as she goes looking for her father, an artist, only to find him missing, and some cryptic entries about impossible animals in his journal. She ends up finding some oddball hedonists who she allows to stay in her home, and becomes close with the man as the movie progresses.
Everyone in the film seems to be acting very strangely and the movie has an odd dreamlike quality to it. You’re never really sure of what is going on, if the town is in on a conspiracy, if everyone is into witchcraft or if the nasties in the film really are zombies or not. There seem to be a lot of contradictions and oddball plot twists that would lead you to think in very different ways. (It also has a classic but disappointing ending that really did put me off, but I won’t give it away in case you like movies that end like a Bob Newhart series.)
The first hint that something zombie-like is going on in this movie is a point where one character follows a guy into a grocery store that seems to be abandoned where she finds a group of people? zombies? at a meat counter chowing down. The whole oddity of these people standing around freaks her out so bad that she takes off running, they chase her down and eat her. At this point in the film though we can’t be sure they are zombies and we are more tempted to just think they are cannibals.
This scene is a perfect example of a zombie-style movie but it feels incongruous with the rest of the story which is trying too hard to be atmospheric and weird. Only a few moments before this same woman had taken a lift from an albino who showed up with a load of corpses in the back of his truck. (Actually his second appearance in the film. The first was just after the gas station scene I’m about to mention below.) He talks nothing but creepiness and bites the head off a rat before simply letting the girl go. She walks off totally calm. So what was it about the people in the grocery store that put her off so much worse than the psycho albino with the corpse truck? Why didn’t she run from it?!
Picture the scene: A single woman driving alone at night. She pulls up to the full service gas station, gets out of her car and hears the sound of a dog, more like a werewolf, then spies the gas station attendant firing a handgun into the dark, rapidly. He empties his gun, turns his gaze to her, walks up and says, “Fill er up?”
What would you say in that situation? What would any NORMAL person say or do? I’d be in my car speeding the hell away from there with a load in my pants. This woman, the queen of calm apparently, stands properly and says. “Sure.” As if nothing at all out of the ordinary were going on.
So to sum all that up, this movie seems to have a lot going for it but gets lost in trying to throw the viewer off the scent while doubling back on itself. We do eventually get the “zombies” in the film but the lead up to that is more like a story about a freaky little town than anything else. Once we have zombies in the movie we can’t be sure they really are zombies and once we are sure we don’t know what to do with them because there’s so much other BS being built up about why they are taking over.
This movie is definitely worth watching, but taken with a grain of salt. I’d say it could seriously use a remake.
My favorite quotes:
We do get magazines in Point Dune. Some of us can even read.
You don’t just unzip a man and say goodnight.