Can hopping zombies still be scary?

Mr. Vampire
Mr. Vampire

It will probably damage my credentials to argue that Mr. Vampire is a zombie film.  Hell, I don’t really think it’s a zombie film.   But it’s an interesting movie to look at in the context of zombie films, as it draws on the Chinese tradition of hungry ghosts, rather than the European vampire tradition.  The film tells the story of a mortician, his bumbling assistant, and a local dignitary who wants to re-bury his father in order to gain … um … some kind of mystical blessing for his business.  But when they dig up the man, he’s not decayed at all, and he turns out to be a hungry ghost, intent on stealing the life-breath of the people in the village.

Traits of the creatures in Mr. Vampire that seem vampiric:

  • They have fangs and pursue people, trying to suck the life force from them.
  • They only come out at night, usually.
  • One must conduct elaborate rituals to kill them.
  • They don’t like mirrors.
  • The succubus character, who seems entirely disconnected from Mr. Vampire himself, seduces and drains her victims.

Traits of the creatures that are exclusive to the Chinese hungry Ghosts:

  • They move by hopping with their arms held straight out like a Universal Mummy.
  • They can be restrained by magic string, prepared with a blood sacrifice and the right incantations.
  • They have claws, and use them to pierce and kill their victims, despite their fangs.
  • They can only see people who are breathing.  Holding your breath and plugging your nose makes you invisible to them.
  • They can do a limited form of Kung-Fu.

Traits of the creatures that are zombie-like:

  • Like the Haitian Voodoo zombies, they can be controlled by spells, and ordered about.
  • Like Romero zombies, when they’re out of control, they hunger for human beings.
  • They are very hard to kill, and keep coming relentlessly.
  • They often go about with their eyes closed, not unlike Fulci’s zombies from Zombi and subsequent films.
  • Being killed by one of these creatures turns you into one, and being injured will also send you down that road.

I’d been meaning to see the film for a while, but my interest was really piqued when a student in my class two years ago introduced the Chinese zombie during his presentation.  He showed clips of Mr. Vampire and discussed how the hopping ghost was more like a zombie than our vampire.  A few more thoughts:

  • The bumbling assistant and his love interest were both amusing. I particularly liked the scene where the assistant cast a controlling spell on the officious chief of police, making the latter tear off his clothes and hurl himself around the room.  A close second to that scene comes when the mortician and the assistant attend an English tea and don’t know how to eat or drink any of the food.
  • The ghosts/zombies can be controlled by putting a special scroll on their forehead (or, apparently, a daub of one’s own blood).  With these scrolls on, the zombies are in control and can be bossed around (though they move by hopping).  It reminded me of the Golem story, in which the Rabbi controls the clay man through the scroll placed in the man’s chest (or mouth?).
  • About a third of the way through the film, a beautiful woman shows up on a palanquin and begins pursuing the bumbling assistant’s best friend, a suave shop clerk.  She seduces the clerk and turns out to be a succubus, even manipulating the young man to see danger in his own master and to fight on her behalf.  When they capture her, they decide to let her go, presumably so she can ensnare some other lonely man along a different road.  Odd choice there, master.
  • Particularly entertaining was the breathing aspect and the humorous ways the filmmakers found to play out the idea that you must hold your breath to become invisible to the ghost.  That said, it wasn’t clear to me why one couldn’t run away from the ghost while holding one’s breath.  Movement didn’t seem to matter to it.

All in all, this isn’t a zombie film.  It isn’t really a vampire film either.  It’s really a Chinese film, including all the stereotypes and characters that you’d expect.  An enjoyable romp — well worth a view.



The Regulators

"The Regulators" by Stephen King
The Regulators by Stephen King

by Stephen King (as Richard Bachman), performed by Kate Nelligan

It’s a peaceful day in suburban Ohio when the fleet of futuristic vans rolls into town, bringing hell with them.  The residents of the neighborhood are trapped and confused as gunfire opens up, people start dying, and the world around them slowly starts to crumble.  A few thoughts:

  • I’ve only read a few Stephen King books, but this one feels the most strange, with a bizarre plot plucked from the air like a nightmare.  Despite the otherworldly horror King built his career sprinkling through his books, The Regulators takes the chaos to another level, pushing the boundaries of how much a reader can take before it starts to provide context for the madness.
  • As usual, King does a good job developing believable characters with human motives and emotions.  He sprinkles the novel with popular culture references and straight-forward, believable dialogue.  The strange mix of people on the street are revealed quickly and slowly, some fully, some hardly at all.  And most in keeping with the vicious and capricious nature of the attackers, it’s nearly impossible to tell who will and will not survive any given scene.
  • King uses a strange mix of perspectives to tell the story, drawing on journals, letters, diaries, and an omniscient narrator with little or no sense of order to the choice.  I felt like this was the biggest weakness of the novel, as its method of storytelling doesn’t move the story forward, but instead breaks the suspension of disbelief by asking the reader to switch perspectives and modes with little or no warning.
  • King takes his title, and many of the plot elements, from a Western movie that, as far as I can tell, doesn’t exist.  It’s a little disappointing, actually, as I wanted to go back and understand the book better by watching the film.  In looking for it, though, I’ve learned that King wrote a mirror novel at the same time as The Regulators called Desperation, which apparently features many of the same characters.  I’ve requested it from the library.
  • Kate Nelligan does an excellent job with the reading, bringing strong emotions and characterization to her voice acting.  The production also includes some downright creepy sound effects and discordant music to throw the reader off their complacent game.  The terrible voice she provides to the supernatural power toward the end of the book is marvelous.
  • I’m certainly not one to insist that all stories have a purpose or a meaning, nor that a big lesson must appear or apply at the end of the tale, but The Regulators feels particularly purposeless in this regard.  Perhaps that itself is the point — the horrible unreality these suburbanites find invading their neighborhood feels as old as time, not unlike the villainous demonic force at the heart of IT or the malevolent spirit haunting the Overlook Hotel in The Shining.  Such stories become allegories for both the random acts of violence and terror that individual humans perpetrate to one another, but they also represent the terror the unknown holds over us.  At any time the Earth could open up and swallow our city, or bring a flood or a tornado, or a stray asteroid could trigger another ice age.  King’s supernatural menaces spring from the same ancient fear, the instinctual horror we recognize lurking in the dark places just beyond the reach of our feeble torches.

It’s a good, entertaining horror story, but runs a little long for my taste.  When I was about a third of the way through, I found myself wondering how it could possibly go the full length, though I didn’t feel the book stretched out too much. 

Update: As I went to the library website to request Desperation, I learned that the edition of The Regulators I listened to was abridged.  DAMMIT.  No wonder the pacing seemed weird.  I HATE discovering that I’ve read an abridged version of the book.  Now I don’t know what I missed. ARRGGHGHGHHH!

On Police and the Panopticon

In Charles Stross’ near future crime thriller Halting State, the police officers wear “life recorders,” embedded video cameras that record every moment of their work.  While most of us would bristle at that kind of observation in our own lives, I have become more and more convinced that such practices must be part of the future of law enforcement.

"State Police Hunt for the McMath Kidnappers" used under cc-license
"State Police Hunt for the McMath Kidnappers" used under cc-license

Consider, for instance, the current fracas over the Treyvon Martin case.  In one set of descriptions, you have a young man, unarmed, hounded through a residential neighborhood and shot by a man for no reason other than that the young man was black.  In another set, you have a concerned citizen who sees a stranger walking through his neighborhood, gets jumped and beaten, and shoots the stranger in self defense.  I don’t particularly want to write about that case here, but I will point interested readers to two posts that sum up my views on the case:

But much of the fracas over this incident could have been avoided if the police had been wearing cameras and recording their interactions.  Was Zimmerman bloody when they found him, or was that added to the statements afterward?  Did police speak to any witnesses who contradicted the story?

Consider, also, the cases where police are accused of various crimes–how handy it would be for them to have video that exonerates them.  And witness testimony, which is notoriously unreliable, could be vastly improved by this technology.

Stross imagines a couple side-effects of the cameras that are interesting–only very drunk people would ever mouth off to the cops, as everything one does around them is being recorded.  And any cameras that malfunctioned would probably result in mistrials in a way that such things do not occur now.

In mentioning this idea to a friend, she suggested that the police wouldn’t like it–of course they wouldn’t–but then she said it would be hard to get people to be police officers if they knew their every move could be scrutinized.  I responded that we should have police officers who aren’t afraid of having their moves scrutinized. I also reminded her that police officers didn’t like being told they had to Mirandize suspects either, but we (by way of the law) told them they HAD to.  Just because they don’t like the idea of something doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do.

In fact, constant recording might help clear up a fair amount of criminal behavior by cops — it gets a lot harder to take a bribe if you are being recorded all the time.  A This American Life episode a while back documented how many police officers join the force under the best of intentions, only to discover graft and corruption throughout the system when they arrive.  Afraid of losing their jobs or being punished for speaking out, such officers often become corrupted by the system itself.  Perhaps this would go some of the way toward reducing that corruption.

Which leads me to the problematic CCTV camera system so common in England and growing in prominence elsewhere.  The CCTVs are pointed at the wrong people–when you have individuals with authority, they should be monitored more, not less.  They should be held to a higher standard–with great power should come great responsibility, not a smorgasbord.  And if some people decide they don’t want to be police officers because they’ll be monitored all the time, then we don’t want those people to be police officers.  But when their testimony can put people in jail, can ruin their lives or their livelihoods, those people are accountable to the people they serve.



With all that time for weight-lifting, I’d think you have time to comb your hair

Muscles and Medals
Muscles and Medals

Nerds, nerds, everywhere, and nary a beer to drink.

Crazy, Stupid, Love Nerdcore Rising

Nerdcore Rising and Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Nerdcore Rising is a documentary–or rather, a Rockumentary– about the inventor and progenitor of the ‘nerdcore’ hip hop subgenre (nerdcore aims neither at novelty nor parody, but rather makes hip hop music whose subject matter is nerd culture instead of the usual fare).   The film follows MC Frontalot on his first tour as he shifts from making music part time to making music full time.  Crazy, Stupid, Love. follows the love lives of four people, mainly — a married couple who are getting a divorce, a pick-up artist, and a young woman on the cusp of real adulthood (as defined by the move into career solidity, rather than the artificial ‘end of college’ landmark). A few thoughts:

  •  I connected with both of these films in a personal way.  As with many of Steve Carrell’s films,  the qualities that make his character admirable in The 40 Year Old Virgin and Dan in Real Life are similar to mine– I’m generally soft-spoken, I’m ethical and honest.  Hell, I’m nerdy.  So while it would be true to say that once again Carell’s character in the film reminds me of myself, there are also aspects to his personality that are absolutely not me — one example: early in the film, he shows a distinct inability to listen or connect with people in a meaningful way; this has never been a problem for me.   Nerdcore Rising is, of course, about my peeps.  While my profession and my children have shifted my attentions away from nerd culture significantly, I still feel resonance with the men and women who appear in the film.  See David Anderegg’s excellent book Nerds: Who They Are and Why We Need More of Them.
  • Both films focus on men trying to find themselves.  In Carell’s case, it’s a shift away from the lazy middle-aged father he had become toward the smooth ladies’ man and back to some middle ground.  In Ryan Gosling’s case, it’s toward a more emotional, connected kind of life than he has as a pick-up artist.  In Nerdcore Rising, Frontalot makes his tour with the express purpose of finding out whether a career or life as a working musician is in the cards.
  • I discovered, despite my interest in nerd culture and novelty music (which is the genre Frontalot most often lands in), that I don’t really like MC Frontalot’s music.  Alas, in my heart I’m not a fan of hip-hop, at least not the kind he creates.  Thus, his music takes a place in the ever-expanding pantheon of nerd culture with which I share affinity but not interest.
  • I’m puzzled by the official punctuation of Crazy, Stupid, Love.  On the poster, there’s no punctuation at all.  This leaves it to the reader to consider whether the love in the film is crazy and stupid (crazy, stupid love) or whether crazy is an adverb modifying stupid, as in “Oh man, that love is CRAZY stupid.”  One might use this inflection to say “This pizza is crazy spicy”; this sentiment would be illustrated with no punctuation (crazy stupid love).  Then there’s the punctuation I’ve seen in numerous places, including IMDB: Crazy, Stupid, Love. The two commas and the period make me wonder if the film is meant to depict all three? In this film, you will see crazy, you will see stupid, and you will see love.I think the ambiguity in the poster is meant to challenge the reader to find the lines between the three concepts or to discover that all three are the same.
  • Neither movie passes the Bedschel test, as far as I can remember.  Nerdcore Rising does feature a couple interviews with pairs of women, but they’re always talking about MC Frontalot.  To be fair, it is a documentary about him.  Crazy, Stupid, Love also fails the test, but since it’s mostly concerned with romance I’m not as bothered by the fail.  That said, we get very little of the life changes being experienced by the two women in the film, but the two men talk with one another a lot and stare meaningfully at things.

I can recommend Crazy, Stupid, Love wholeheartedly.  It’s a funny, sad, thoughtful comedy about real people in hard situations.  It doesn’t make light of feelings or relationships.  I can only recommend Nerdcore Rising if you’re a devotee of nerd culture.

Shadow Man

Shadow Man
Shadow Man

Shadow Man: The Life of Dashiell Hammett by Richard Layman

I read this book for a research project I’m working on, but it’s a mainstream book and pretty enjoyable.  Layman takes a practical approach to writing about Hammett, not investing much of his personal voice in the writing, but still giving room to Hammett’s witty reparte and expansive personality.  A few very quick comments:

  • Hammett describes himself as a “two-fisted loafer” who doesn’t work when he doesn’t have to.  His track record on the job shows about the same amount of commitment.  The sad thing was that he wrote only when he had to, despite his claims that writers don’t write for money.  Once he had enough money to live on, he stopped writing (and drank himself into a two-decade stupor).
  • Hammett was a patriotic Marxist, committed to defending the freedom of speech and willing to go to jail for same.  He organized for the U.S. Communist party quite a bit in the late 1930s and the 1940s.  When he refused to name names in the early 1950s, he went to jail and lost most of his income.
  • He was also remarkably loyal, honorable, and equality-minded.  When he ran his camp newspaper during World War 2, he had the only integrated unit on the base.  Later in life he hired a maid whom he gave extensive independence in how she ran his house — she became a lifelong friend and helpmeet.
  • His affability meant he often lived in excess of his funds, running up debts and living off friends so lavishly that he ended up broke and owing money to the IRS.  One story goes that he came to town (San Francisco?) to repay a debt of $500 to a friend.  He visited the friend and gave him the money, then spent a week in town hosting lavish parties complete with exorbitantly-expensive prohibition booze.  At the end of the week, he had to ask the same friend if he could borrow $800 to pay his debts and get himself back to L.A.
  • Because of his drinking and high-living lifestyle, Hammett only wrote five books, publishing all of them within a few years.  For a man with such a distinctive voice, it’s too bad that his habits and life kept him from producing a bigger body of work.

Shadow Man represents a nice summary and discussion of Hammett’s life, and is generally cited as the key biography currently in print.  It’s not particularly well-written, but a good read if you want to know about the man who created Sam Spade and could arguably be credited with creating the hard-boiled sub-genre.

2012-03-25 Tweets

  • Me: What do you want for breakfast?
    Finn: Oatmeal.
    Me: Oatmeal?
    Finn: Yeah. When you asked, I smelled my nose and it smelled like oatmeal. #

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Look behind you! No seriously, we can see behind you and it is scary as shit back there.

Apollo 18 poster The Woman in Black

Apollo 18 and The Woman in Black

Old-fashioned and new-fangled horror meet when they return to the roots of what make movies scary: suspense, the uncanny, and mystery.  Apollo 18 purports to be an uncovered trove of video from the ill-fated eponymous secret Department of Defense mission to the moon.  It’s unclear how the video, some of which is clearly film rather than proto- video, got back to Earth or got leaked to the web.  The Woman in Black is a Victorian-era horror movie about a London solicitor sent to organize the paperwork at a creaky old mansion in a rural English backwater.  Woe be to the solicitor when he discovers that the mansion is haunted by the eponymous malevolent spirit.  A few thoughts about the films:

  • On using suspense and sound to generate fear.  Both films make skillful use of sound to drive the audience’s emotions.  In Apollo 18, the limited perspective provided by the fixed/found footage cameras makes the sound more significant, as it gives us narrative insight invisible to the camera.  The skittering sounds in the spaceship, for instance, are terrible and wonderful.  Similarly, the sound in The Woman in Black  adds intensity to the film, often serving to punctuate visual elements that are downright creepy on their own.  To be honest, though, Woman uses one or two too many violin scares for my taste.  The audience will only forgive the filmmaker so many of those.  That said, Woman revels in silence, letting solicitor Arthur Kipps explore the house in solitude, and building the tension in the process.
  • Both films tell the tale of men sent to mysterious places that are somewhat scary, but well understood.  The men travel under duress: Kipps driven by his financial straits, the astronauts by their oaths to the defense department.  When they arrive, the local landscape becomes immediately strange: the Apollo astronauts find human footprints and a Russian spaceship, while Kipps discovers a hostile village and a mansion full of stray noises and inexplicable interference.  Once they’ve arrived, of course, the men find that the location is a whole lot worse than they suspected it could be, and they must do their best to survive.
  • Both films use fleeting glimpses to provide intense scares.  Apollo 18 uses the limitations of the surveillance cameras to limit our view of the frightening elements, particularly in the flash-strobe sequence when the astronauts are exploring the crater where the Russian died.  The Woman in Black gives us glimpses of the ghost in the same way Kipps might see her, but often operating beyond his perception.  One particularly creepy moment happens when he stands at the window of the house, looking out on the marsh, and she steps into view behind him, looking over his shoulder.  Gives me the heebie jeebies just to think about it.
  • While the exploration of the unknown plays at the heart of each film, The Woman in Black seems to turn more on the rural/city distinction, with Kipps reluctant to believe what the village folk say because his modern city ways don’t have room for an haunted mansion.  (To be fair, the darn villagers never came out and said what they were afraid of.  Perhaps if they had, they might have been able to reach him in a way that their creepy close-mindedness could not.)  By contrast, Apollo 18 operates on the “demons at the edge of space” model, in which all our technology and preparedness doesn’t equip us to grapple with the horrors we encounter beyond our usual sphere of experience.
  • The biggest difference between the two films has to do with the motivations and obligations of the two protagonist groups.  In Apollo 18, the heroes have little choice but to battle the mysterious creepy things.  They’re stuck in the lander, on the moon, and they have no choice but to proceed.  Their situation reminds me of the men on the boat in the last 30 minutes of JAWS.  Once you’re out there, your only choice is to go into the diving cage.  The Woman in Black, instead, only continues because Kipps keeps returning to the mansion.  While his financial circumstances certainly seem to force his hand, ultimately he could choose his life and safety over his financial well-being, thereby cutting short the narrative and ending the movie early.  I apologized to Jenny as I explained that I, faced with the same choice, would choose financial ruin over returning to a creepy, haunted house.

Both Apollo 18 and The Woman in Black were satisfyingly creepy movies.  The former fits the small screen well, as it purports to be the product of small-screen technologies.  As I watched it (over the course of three lunches in my office), there was a 30 minute period where I paused the film to take a drink from my coffee, lest a startle-moment would send coffee flying all over my keyboard and screen.  That’s an effective film, for my money.  I saw The Woman in Black in theatres and found it vastly creepy, with both slow hair-raising terrors and the sharp jumping kind.  I suspect it will translate well to a home-viewing situation for viewers willing to give it a silent, dark room and to avoid the pause button.  Watching it like television, on the other hand, will likely undercut its scariness.

I Drink for a Reason

I Drink for a Reason
I Drink for a Reason

written and narrated by David Cross

I’ve always enjoyed Cross’ work, from Mr. Show to Arrested Development to his stand up when I’ve had a chance to hear it on SiriusXM’s “RAW DOG!” uncensored comedy station.  So I was expecting a solid audiobook from him, and he delivered.  Cross’ humor book is a series of essays, mostly opinion pieces with a few bits of fiction thrown in for good measure.  In that regard, it’s similar to other books I’ve read from comedians like Patton Oswalt and Michael Ian Black, rather than the more autobiographical books from Chelsea Handler.  A few thoughts:

  • As I expected it would be, I Drink for a Reason is funny, but also more thoughtful than one might expect from someone often labeled cranky or caustic (he even has an essay about that label).  He has a hard-left liberal perspective and rants religion quite a bit, qualities which I enjoyed but many might not.  He also has a LOT of sex jokes, which I can take or leave in comedy like this.
  • The best part of the audiobook is his performance of it.  There are several bits in the audiobook that sound like they were improvised during the recording of the audiobook, including conversations with his producer and an argument with someone trying to steal his reading time.  He also grouses, for most of the audiobook, about how weird it is to read a book as an audio book instead of just buying the book.
  • There are several essays I found particularly interesting, including his defense of an act against a random blogger (plus an articulate discussion of why such a defense should not only be allowed, but encouraged).  He often works real arguments and ideas into his discussion of comedy.  Another piece that did that was “An Open Letter to Larry the Cable Guy.”
  • As with any comedy, there are some bits that just missed for me.  I didn’t like the part about people up on a platform trying to win a truck, nor the strange story about a woman who joined a militia cult, told from the perspective of one of her naive nephews.
  • One part of the book that made me laugh every time was Cross’ use of a strange ululating cry to indicate a footnote to an essay.  It sounded as though he was shouting “Footnote!” in a ghostly, ominous voice while moving his hand in front of his mouth to make a warbling effect.  I tried to find an example for this post, but I can’t remember any specific moments where he does it, and the audio chapters aren’t searchable.  Alas, you’ll have to listen for yourself to hear it.

Worth a listen, though probably not for everyone.


Librarians tryin’ to find me.

A little NSFW


What should I do with all these awesome old paperbacks?

As you very well know, I collect Mike Shayne paperbacks, both because I like the pulpy feel of Halliday’s work, but also for the lurid and hilarious covers.  I also have an extensive collection of John Dickson Carr, Carter Dickson, and Ellery Queen novels I inherited from Peter Christensen when he retired.  Up until now, I’ve stored them in piles in my office.  But I feel like some other kind of display would be more fitting and interesting.

I’ll say up front that I don’t want to rip the covers off the books, so that won’t work.  I would also like to be able to read them at some point, so I don’t really want to attach them too severely to anything.

A couple quick ideas off the top of my head:

  • A row of thin rails along the wall, with books on top of them. Disadvantage — easily tipped over.
  • Some sort of shadowbox arrangement – Disadvantage — would be impossible to make it big enough without breaking the bank.
  • Bookshelf. Disadvantage — where would I put it?

Regarding IL bill HB 4085

Hello Rep Yarbrough,

I’m emailing as a constituent of yours (resident of the 900 block of Elgin Avenue in Forest Park, IL) to urge you to vote NO on HB 4085.

As a Democrat, I suspect you are already voting this way, but I would urge you to consider the following post, written by a doctor on John Scalzi (a prominent SF novelist) blog, in discussing the issue with your colleagues.

Thank you for your time.
Brendan Riley

Callin my science peeps

"Dark Field Ice Tea" by ttstam (cc-licensed)
"Dark Field Ice Tea" by ttstam (cc-licensed)

This has happened to you.  You have a mug or a glass or something without a pouring spout, and you want to transfer some of your delicious beverage to another glass.  Despite having failed in this task before, you attempt to pour the beverage and end up spilling some down the side of the cup.  Less commonly, you have a freshly brewed pot of coffee or some other beverage, mostly full.  When you begin pouring it, you pour too fast and suddenly the water begins running down the side of the pitcher instead of pouring out of the spout into the glass.

Science people — what’s this phenomenon called, and what is the term, or terms, for the tipping point at which the pitcher goes from being helpful liquid transfer device to desk-splattering bane of my existence?

Not that I spilled coffee all over my desk this morning or anything.

I have a job interview in Kansas City at 9AM!

Quarantine 2: Terminal
Quarantine 2: Terminal

Quarantine 2: Terminal

Before I saw this movie, two different people recommended it with the phrase “Better than you’d expect.”  I can confirm, it’s better than you’d expect.  Except that by confirming this assessment, I’m raising your hopes and you’re probably going to end up disappointed.  Get over it!

Q2 follows the misadventures of a one-third full plane of people who discover a zombie virus on board, the same super-rabies featured in Quarantine.  The plane lands and the hapless passengers and crew disembark to find that they’re … quarantined!  Zombie mayhem ensues.  A few thoughts:

  • Some of the passengers in the plane have very misplaced priorities.  For example, the dude on his way to his job interview in Kansas City is particularly ridiculous — he insists on being among the people who go back to the plane because his “life is on that laptop.”  I found this difficult to swallow for two reasons: first, he didn’t take it with him when they got off the plane the first time.  If it had been so important, I think he wouldn’t have left it on the first go-round.  Second, it’s a SONY VAIO.  Come on, who really puts their whole life on a VaIO? (Hey-oh!)
  • I watched the movie with Andrew, a friend who flew all the way from Houston to stream a three-stars-out-of-five direct-to-video zombie movie.  Oh yeah, we entertain the shit out of our guests. Andrew remarked that the plot structure of Q2 mirrors Quarantine almost exactly.  And he’s right.  I suspect if you ran the movies next to one another, you’d get the same confusions, the same banging on the door, the same visit from representatives of the CDC, with nearly the same timing.
  • The crucial difference between this film and its predecessor is the camera work.  While Q2 DOES have the single camera aesthetic, it’s shot without the premise that the camera-person is in the scene, and without the claustrophobic effect of trapping us in his perspective.  I’m sure that this lack of restriction made telling the story easier, but it also diffused a lot of the tension that the gimmick created.  That said, I’m glad that they didn’t just ape the choices made for [REC2]–I find that adaptations work better when the adapters use the core premise and remake the movie using their own needs.
  • The zombies in this film have a slightly different pathology than those in the previous film, or most movies I’ve seen before this.  The zombie virus spreads by bites, but it’s a fast-acting rabies that makes them manic and violent, but not undead.  Unlike Quarantine or [REC], the zombies don’t survive normal mortal wounds.  This puts Q2 much closer to 28 Days Later than the other movies.  Because the change happens without a period of death in-between, we get to see characters on the verge of zombieness struggling to hold on to themselves, and then failing,  Last, the movement of the zombies (which may be based on the herky-jerky movement of actual rabies carriers, for all I know) has a twitchy quality that looks weird, as though the director coached them to jitter and wiggle like the girl in The Ring when they weren’t attacking.  It’s a little weird, but works okay.
  • Despite the artistic changes, Quarantine 2: Terminal continues the storyline of the first film, expanding on the bio-terror plot and providing more motive (no matter how silly) for the villains to have developed and released the zombie rabies.    We get a few connections to the first film through dialog and a couple news broadcasts, but otherwise there’s not much overlap (of course there wouldn’t be, as the quarantine of the building seems to happen at the same time as this film).

As I said at the beginning, Quarantine 2: Terminal isn’t bad.  In fact, the second half of the film is pretty good.  The production values and FX staging works well for the most part, and the story is decent once you get past the ham-fisted dialogue setting up the characters.  Netflix suggested Quarantine 2 as a three-out-of-five film, and I think that fits nicely.  Worth a watch if you haven’t got a lot of movies higher in your queue.  Not nearly as good as [REC2], though.