It’s a tough task to take a short film and stretch it in to a feature length adaptation worthy of the original concept. Often it can fail and other times if we’re lucky, we can end up with something pretty special. Thankfully “Cargo” falls in to the latter category, as it’s a touching, heartbreaking and eerie tale, about finding hope when all hope is lost. The original Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling short film “Cargo” is one of my favorite independent short films of all time, and the team of Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling thankfully keep in touch with the original short’s idea of a dad trying to give his daughter a second chance in a horrible world, while also expanding on the premise.
In a small southern town, scientists test new chemicals on local crops. Soon thereafter, people start turning into flesh-eating zombies at a local fair.
After suffering a major identity crisis for the last three seasons, “Fear the Walking Dead” finally finds it footing. By throwing everything it’s established out and keeping only a few main characters here and there. What began as an urban retelling of the zombie apocalypse involving two families, the Manawas and the Clarks, is now really nothing more an immigration allegory with characters basically bumping back and forth. “Fear the Walking Dead” managed to have the opportunity to really unfold an epic tale of a mixed race family, and how they learned to get along with get to know each other. Their mixed and uneasy union would have to be tested. Except, all we get is a lot of goofy switches of the premise, and wastes of some good characters.
I’m not a subscriber to Hulu but my mom is, and she’s often on the hunt for horror series’, as someone whose own love for horror dwarfs my own. For the last year, she’s been insisting that I check out a show called “Freakish,” a show that she describes as a “great zombie show” and one I’d particularly love, since I tend to have a real weak spot for shows about zombies and the apocalypse. Hell, I am a regular viewer of “Fear the Walking Dead,” “The Walking Dead,” and even love “Dead Set,” so “Freakish” is kind of up my alley.
Zack Snyder re-invents the late George Romero’s masterpiece in a mess of a remake that starts off very strong, gives up trying to make sense mid-way, and them limps to the finish line as fast as it can. Snyder and James Gunn’s script never takes time to slow down and breathe, jumping from one action scene to the next, from one musical laced montage to the next, and from one weak moment of tension to the next. Characters are stale and barely developed, and the script never hides that these people are meant as cannon fodder and nothing else. Worse, the script is clumsily paced, the overall film is tonally uneven, and often times the horror element is an afterthought.
It’s fitting that Shout Factory would release “Land of the Dead” right around the same time as 2004’s version of “Dawn of the Dead.” After almost twenty years in development hell, and with the title “Dead Reckoning,” Romero was able to finally complete his planned fourth part of his dead series thanks to the success of “Dawn.” Even Romero admitted that he owed a lot of his ability to make “Land” thanks to the evident success of “Dawn.” While “Land of the Dead” feels incomplete and under developed, I give Romero a huge pass mainly because he was given so much hell while filming the long awaited sequel. Not only did he have to scale down his story yet again like he did with “Day of the Dead,” but he couldn’t film in Pittsburgh which he always did with his zombie epics.
Written and directed by Mat Johns, A Father’s Day creates a relationship that shows how strong the bonds between a father and daughter can be in a gut-punch of a short film. He uses the zombie apocalypse as a backdrop to show family bonds and how people can relate to each other. It’s a simple set up, yet it contains so many layers and so much in terms of emotional baggage. The film shows different levels of zombies and different levels of human interactions and bonds.
Colin Minihan’s “It Stains the Sand Red” is a movie that only has about an hour’s worth of story for its premise. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a neat and interesting idea for a zombie movie, but one that runs out of steam by the time the second act is introduced. You can literally see the wheels falling off mid-way, and what should have been the end, feels a lot like a ton of filler that belongs to another movie altogether. As with all zombie movies from indie filmmakers, there are a ton of George Romero nods and winks, and they’re a mixed bag. Some of them are neat, like the opening of the film, which is an homage to the opening of “Night,” while some induce eye rolls a la the newspaper with the headline “The Dead Walk” dangling from a police vehicle.