Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Quick and the Undead

Directed by Gerald Nott, 2006

Oh my God; it's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly with zombies. To my knowledge (which is extensive though admittedly imperfect) this is the first film to transplant zombies into the Wild West. The Quick and the Undead benefits from this additional genre, as it effectively cannibalizes (pun intended) horror, comedy, and westerns.

In fact, fans of westerns will probably get more out of this than I did with my limited exposure. I identified character analogues of Blondie, Tuco, and Angel Eyes right away but I'm sure I missed plenty of cinematic homages. Everyone's familiar with the showdown trope, though, and it's particularly delicious when mapped onto horror: the zombies won't voluntarily come out and fight you in the middle of town, so you might have to lay a trail of dismembered body parts before you can start shooting. Cool.

The familiar storyline takes a right turn soon enough, and comes down to two groups of zombie bounty hunters. Their career depends upon compensation for zombies' index fingers, and there are a few ways to maximize your payout. You can steal a bag of fingers from your rival, for starters. And the bad guy's thought of some even juicier methods.

The director's style reminds me a bit of David Twohy's Pitch Black. Jump cuts add a feeling of action to something as simple as a walking scene. As the landscape holds still and the raiding party jumpcuts their way along it the audience is reminded of the permanence of the land compared with the transience of humanity, especially when a virus has made most of humanity into zombies for the past 85 years. The look and feel of the movie is so vital that I'm surprised I hadn't heard of this before-- seems like this could have been given an effective marketing push due to its original mix of genres. It might be too vital an editing style-- but I've seen a dozen low-budget zombie films with interminably overlong timing and I'm favorably disposed toward the MTV style at this point.

Zombie explanation: Virus.

Contribution to the zombie canon: Introduction to a good old-fashioned western.

Favorite zombie: The bloated, bald, pale zombie in the early shootout. Something about all those folds of flesh makes for a scary zombie-- there's a big fat zombie in Savini's Night of the Living Dead remake that scares me, and there's Henrietta in Evil Dead 2, too. It probably all comes back to Tor Johnson.


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