Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
One of the worst movies I have ever had to review was Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland. Forget the fact that it was labored, unfunny and irritatingly mean-spirited; the scene where the supposed heroes smashed up a Native American roadside gift-shop was one of the most shockingly racist things I’ve seen on film since the grocery store rampage in American History X. The filmmakers behind Stake Land must’ve agreed, because they took the same basic concept — replacing zombies with vampires, of course — and made a moving, captivating, brilliant and important road movie about the breakdown of society and the survivors who value what’s left of it. And the kicker? The bad guys aren’t the vampires: They’re the redneck white-supremacists looking to reshape decimated America in their image. These weary travelers aren’t some one-note pop-culture references; they’re determined heroes, trying to keep hope alive in a bleak future. Stake Land isn’t another vampire movie. It’s a dark epic about keeping your soul alive in the face of apocalyptic adversity.
Straight outta the slums of Mexico comes the next big name in horror, Jorge Michel Grau. His breakout film, We Are What We Are, is a moody, dysfunctional family character piece more worthy of comparison to, say, Noah Baumbach than a fellow statesman like Guillermo Del Toro. True, We Are is about a family of cannibals, but when their whore-mongering father, the hunter who brings home the meat, unexpectedly dies, the despondent mom and her three socially awkward kids need to find a new food source. All hell breaks loose in only a couple of days, as the closeted older brother tries to assume the patriarchal role and the younger, more violent brother engages in a pissing contest for it. Sister tries to hold it together as mom mentally crashes. The whole thing is a masterful exercise in extremely detached, extremely off-putting filmmaking, striking a horrific balance that even our best indie auteurs can’t maintain.
The entire time I’ve been writing CineFiles, I think I’ve reviewed Donnie Darko and its various double-dip digital video disc incarnations at least two other times. They are going out their way to make sure that this movie is kept alive by disaffected emo youth, aren’t they? This latest incarnation is the “10th Anniversary Edition” and, admittedly, it’s packed with extras and special features and the like, but none of it new. It contains two versions of the movie, the theatrical and director’s cuts on Blu-Ray; two regular DVDs featuring embarrassing docs like “#1 Fan: A Darkomentry” that will suck any bit of cool left right out of the room; and, finally, a digital copy of the film. If you already own Darko, do you need this new one? No, not in the slightest. However, if you’ve just entered junior high and are looking for the perfect manifesto to your growing faux angst, buy this immediately. Hell, buy two!