Annual catch-up: zombies and slashers

Besides the annual Christmas movie marathon, this short work break has allowed me to catch up on the other worthy genres that inspire my devotion.

Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)

The first Zombieland was a whole 10 years ago, in 2009, but its combination of humour, zombie goodness and star power (with Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson and Bill Murray) made it a movie to remember, and this a sequel to cause great anticipation.

This had all the humour, and all the above star power returning, plus Rosario Dawson and Luke Wilson, but zombie goodness it kinda lacked.

Apart from a reasonably inventive climax, it had little large-scale tactical zombie battle scenes, and also few scenes of the opposite end of the scale, the intimate teeth-clenching hand-to-hand zombie combat scenes.

And those are why we watch zombie movies – the humour and Hollywood personality power, while they set it apart, are essentially window dressing.

Then there was the cool idea of famous settings that never realised its full potential.

The first third was set at a crumbling White House repurposed as a stronghold, with the Oval Office and a bunch of ripped-up portraits and accessories of the former first lady all put to good effect.

The middle was set at a resurrected Graceland, repurposed as a waystation. You saw all these iconic interiors of the real Graceland, like the white piano room and the jungle games room, rise up in surreal splendour in a zombie-ravaged wasteland, only to be half-destroyed and blood-spattered in some of the film’s best fight scenes.

But the makers ultimately missed an opportunity to balance these out structurally and thematically by setting the ending at a third and equally famous American location or building, transformed by the new world order.

Instead they set it in the fictional location of Babylon amongst some useless hippies, which had minimal value for either plot or atmosphere.

A reasonably enjoyable movie, but the overall effect was slightly thin and lacklustre. Nothing as memorable as the original and will not have the same re-watchability.

Halloween (2018)

Jamie Lee Curtis is now a badass grandma who’s spent the rest of her life since the events of the original movie prepping herself, her daughter and granddaughter for the inevitable return of Michael Myers. She’s gone nutty and unfit for society from this process, but she’s very cool and outfitted with many guns at her crazy-lady fortress in the woods. All ready for Michael Myers to escape and return to finish her and her loved ones off.

Bar the new premise, they keep it very much along the lines of the original Halloween, with the opening credits and the classic-slasher plot line of the middle of the movie all echoing the original, as well as fun visual homages to reward fans, including lots of coat hangers, wardrobes, and a doll’s house mirroring the original house to reward faithful fans.

They’ve kept it simple, spooky and effective and the premise delivers and builds on the original, with a bunch of useless men and policemen dispatched in one way or another, leaving what’s now three generations of Jamie Lees to band together to get the job done themselves.

It’s not quite as atmospheric and scary as the original. Most of its strength and style comes direct from Jamie Lee Curtis herself, like with Arnie in the Terminator series or Bruce Willis in the Die Hards. But it’s a nice solid, simple, satisfying movie that doesn’t mess anything up. And with any kind of iconic series, that’s pretty much all you can hope for.