i was the only person at work this morning. the bosses and the project manager and the entire design department (3 art school graduate strong) were off at a client meeting, so i had the office all to myself. i danced around a bit then sharpened my day with a starbucks venti chai latte, confined to the small room in the front office to debug the jellyfish fish, no internet access. but who needs internet access to play with when i had pliable hair? by noontime everyone had returned to the office.
on my lunch break i went down to the boston common theatre to buy my ticket for tonight's showing of the dawn of the dead remake. i went to cvs to get some contrabands for later tonight, went to bank to get some money, and got a vietnamese sandwich.
i left work to meet dan and the guys (elias, bob, mike, coworkers to one another, as well as gambling buddies) at bennigan's around 5:30pm. originally we scheduled to meet at 6pm, but dan wanted to push up the time. so i raced down to the restaurant (opposite the theatre district), went inside looking for them, and finally had to call to find out where they were (they were enroute). 30 minutes later they finally showed up. how did they know i love waiting for people when they say they'll be somewhere and show up much later?
i've never been to a bennigan's before, one of those franchise restaurant chains, the theme for this one being irish-american food and drinks. the popular dish of the night was the golden chicken strips, dan, mike and myself all ordered that (only because brain wasn't on the menu - zombie reference). we ate quickly, and while waiting for the check, bob told the story of three mile island and chernobyl (not sure how we got onto that subject, i think we were talking about real life horrors).
we got to the theatre with 20 minutes to spare. once we got our seats (absolute prime seating area, i was dead center because i argued i was the oldest member of the group and didn't have too many movie watching years left), we took turns going out and using the bathroom one last time before the film started. bob surprised me when he told me he was only 24. i thought he was older than that. i group people into 3 categories: people who are younger than me, whom i don't respect because i think they're immature to some extent more or less, people who are older than me, whom i do respect only because i see them as me in a few years, and people who are my age, THIRTY, and these lucky people (born in 1974) i feel a special kinship to, true equals.
DAWN OF THE DEAD: this movie is awesome. it's a remake of george romero's original dawn of the dead in the sense that it's about a group of people trapped in a mall surrounded by zombies. but that's where the similarities basically end. some people see romero's original dawn of the dead as a sacred zombie classic and see this new version as a corporate wannabe trying to cash in on this recent surge in zombie popularity. the original i've seen a long time ago and i can't remember much of it except that it was gory and cheap. this new version is just as gory (and i'd argue even more so, with the help of cgi effects that can do things zombie make-up master tom savini never dreamed of, who by the way has a cameo in the movie as a macho country sheriff) but it's slick like the pool of fresh blood after a zombie attack. like the original, i feel it has the moral ambiguity of an independent film except with a bigger budget. the thing that troubled me the most at first when i saw the trailer was the fact that the zombies move fast. zombies, by the very nature of the fact that they're dead, move slow, just like all dead things (if they move at all). to give these zombies lightning fast speed seems to violate some unspoken zombie law. the last zombie movie to do that was 28 days later, and technically those weren't exactly zombies but living people affected by a rapidly infecting virus which causes berserker rage. the first movie i saw that featured accelerated zombies was re-animator, and my heart hasn't stopped racing since. but like i say, any zombie movie is a good zombie movie, and regardless if they're fast or slow, i'll still watch. in this new dawn of the dead these fast zombies are frighteningly effective. in this ensemble cast, we identify with ana, played by sarah polley. the fact that she's a petite blonde gives her role a sharper contrast compared to the zombie madness happening all around her. i had seen the first 10 minutes of the movie already on television, one night on the USA Network when they tricked me into watching 2 hours of a tv-edited final destination before offering me the sneak preview. all you need is 10 minutes and you're hooked into the story. armageddon is happening, the dead are walking the earth, and for the first few minutes of the movie ana doesn't quite catch on although we're given clues here and there. she works as a nurse in a hospital, someone badly mauled is seen being brought in on a stretcher that morning while she's leaving, the paramedics say something in the background to the effect of "we're starting early today" as they rush to a call, and on the radio while ana switches the stations we hear a snippet of some news broadcast. the audience knows it, but ana is completely unaware at this point. you just want to shout at the screen "hey, there are zombies coming! lock your doors!" it's that kind of movie. and during the rest of the film, you can't help but to cry out to the celluloid canvas, "don't go in there stupid!" or "don't touch her, she's a zombie now damn it!" ana comes home, exhausted from a long shift at work (who hasn't felt like that before?), her loving husband embraces her, they make sweet love in the shower, they go to bed, and the next morning all hell breaks lose, but it first starts quietly in their bedroom, one of the neighbor's daughter is standing in the doorway. the husband wakes up, asks her what's wrong, sees that she's all bloody and a chunk of her face is missing, jumps out of bed to help her, only to be suddenly attacked. ana throws the little girl out of the room, locks the door, and tends to her husband, who's quickly bleeding to death from a punctured jungular wound. seconds after he dies, while ana is frantically calling for help (why won't the phone work?), her husband comes back to life as a zombie and tries to eat her. she escapes, but crashes her car after an aerial shot of her neighborhood and the city beyond, fires burning, people being chased by zombies, roads littered with smashed up cars. "holy shit," you repeat to yourself over and over again, it's that kind of movie. it's breathtaking in scope, in the horror, but graphically and also emotional, as you come to connect with these characters. the cast is excellent, besides sarah polley, there's ving rhames (he's got that bad ass thing down cold), jake weber (wendigo with a very sexy patricia clarkson), and mehki phifer. it is a horror movie, no doubt about that, but it's also a very human movie, about the interaction between people under a crisis. i think it's also great that the movie doesn't waste time trying to explain why this is all happening. we get a few snippets of news broadcast, some man saying he doesn't know what's happening ("are they alive?" a reporter asks, "i don't know," the man answers), a preacher saying the catchphrase, "when there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth" - all this before stations all go off the air. when there are zombies trying to eat you, why ask why? and if this happened for real, most people wouldn't know anyway, with no access to news. there are just so many great little details in the movie, it's one of those films you see with a friend and then for hours later you two just talk about it, "remember that scene?" "oh yeah, that was cool." i have a head full of really amazing images, the propane tank exploding during their escape, the appearance of the faux zombie dog, target practicing with zombies using a sniper rifle, there's more but i don't want to spoil anything. oh, and the music. the best movies have a great soundtrack, and this film has got one with a sick sense of humor, like being chased by zombies while listening to shopping mall muzak. this is just a great great film, never mind a zombie movie, it's definitely on my list of top 10 horrors. i can't recommend it more highly.
after the movie, we disbanded. elias stuck around in the theatre to sneak into another film (i would've done the same, except my mind was still reeling from that mind numbing zombie trauma), dan grabbed the green line, mike went with the blue, and bob and i hopped on the red, he getting off at kendall while i went to porter. when i got home i soaked in the tub for half an hour, reading the latest issue of entertainment weekly (the one with van helsing on the cover), now becoming my friday night ritual.