Sunday, September 8, 2013

Anger of the Dead (2013) Review - Fear More Than The Zombies

I first became acquainted with the work of Francesco Picone during Italian Horror Week last year and then immediately following had the pleasure of watching his movie Io sono morta (I’m Dead) during the Killer Film Festival that I judge each year. Io sono morta is brutal and clever, transitioning between near torture porn level violence with clever psychological intrigue. Remember that when this writer uses the term “torture porn” I mean it in a positive way; a chance for the effects people to show off and for the audience to let their innocent eyeballs drip from their sockets while they are skull-fucked by the visuals on screen. That’s a great way to describe Io sono morta, and I’m glad to have experienced it now, multiple times. Today, we’re here to talk about Anger of the Dead, the new short film from Picone which, as the title might suggest, is a zombie picture.

Now I know what you’re going to say. The zombie market is flooded, oversaturated and washed up. While I would agree that the market is saturated with zombie films due to the success of recent undead programming, and it’s difficult to find fresh meat, I do not believe that the well has run dry. There are plenty of new stories to tell involving zombies, new ways to tell them and from different perspectives. Remember that one of the reasons we love zombie films is because they allow us to deal with social critiques in a fun way in order to address our fear about ourselves and not necessarily about the undead, with teeth monsters that walk around when they should be gathering flies. The level of criticism and personal story varies per movie. The success of a zombie film, aside from pure entertainment value, should be gauged on whether it makes you feel something about your own, living life; the world that isn’t plagued by zeds.

When a casual bistro dining experience between two couples is interrupted by one of the diners transitioning into a zombie, the world begins a quick descent into an apocalyptic, bleak urban jungle filled with hords of ferocious undead. Two of the survivors make their way through the cityscape and onto a bridge looking for any means of survival. They are not alone. The undead take notice of their presence, but that’s not the only terrifying thing on the bridge.

Francesco Picone has created a fine short film that deals with issues ranging from the death of young children or the inability to have children to male sexual aggression and all within the framework of an outbreak of zombies that, as the title suggests, might be a little pissed off. The root of the zombie’s anger seems to be linked to the lives they live before they turn from living people to aggressive monsters. It’s important to remember that zombie stories are more or less human stories and that writer/director/producer, Picone isn’t just asking you to be scared of what lurks in the gums of fantastical zombie creatures; he’s asking you to fear the living; both aggressors living in the world and in our own mind. There’s a story to watch here, and not simply a new blood bath/action film.

The zombies are made up well. We’re looking at somewhat faster Romero zombies with elements of Walking Dead Walkers/Biters. These are not the zombies of 28 Days Later or other contagion based plagues and these are not the super slow movers seen in other Italian films of the 80’s. While the undead are ominous with brows punched forward and eyes deep in socket, there’s not much in the way of rotting, grueling gore. After Io sono morta I think I expected more of gut show. It doesn’t detract from the picture or my enjoyment of the film. I am not a fan of the computer graphics used in the film to emphasize kills. That’s not because it the CG isn’t executed well. It is. It’s just not for me. I prefer more Karo Syrup in my splatter and less digitized spray. Buy an extra barrel of latex and one of those t-shirt guns and spread the gore around. That's not to say that there aren't practical effects or that those practical effects aren't effective. They are effective. They're damn good.

Overall you’ve got a film filled with strong performances (is Alex Lucchesi the next Bobby Rhodes?) and intense scenes of action with suspense centered on the fate of our aforementioned couple. I was able to feel sympathetic toward their plight and internalize their personal struggle to survive. Being able to root for the protagonist is no easy task these days. In that Anger of the Dead is successful. The zombies are mean enough to be scary and the very real human enemy element is equally terrifying.

Keep your eyes out for this short, socially relevant zombie flick. I would imagine will see it pop up in the festival circuit soon enough and it should have success in that endeavor.

Make sure to follow Anger of the Dead on Facebook.

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