Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Seriously, they looked more like zombie sea cucumbers than zombie humans

My opinion leans more toward disappointment than dislike. Go ahead and put me in the group with the girls.

The unease that zombies elicit in our psyche is based on their resemblance to “normal” humans, if you will. This movie lacked that. If I’m going to zombie movie I want to feel uncomfortable because of the zombies. Not because I’m afraid of the dark or hairless rats or because someone in the audience yells “WILL SMITH DON’T HUG THAT DOG!!1!”

I read a study (which I can’t find online anymore after a morning’s worth of searching) a few years back where participants were asked to record their levels of discomfort while watching videos of people acting in “unconventional” ways. It included people with physical and mental disabilities as well as some dressed in frightening costumes like, animated puppets, aliens, robots and zombies.

Responders were second most uncomfortable watching people who moved and acted like your typical Night of the Living Dead zombie. The more like a human the example acted, the more anxiety the viewer felt. Robots, aliens, etc were all less scary.

(Surprisingly to the researchers, the responders were most uncomfortable watching people suffering from mid-range mental retardation.)

This was one of the problems I had with the I Am Legend villains. I may be mistaken, but I believe there were only two non-CGI zombies in the entire movie and they all looked and moved unconvincingly as a result. The filmmakers would have been better served using at least a few more actors in makeup or prosthetics - especially if the main zombie was at least able to do something other than scream, dislocate his jaw and throw his body against plexiglass without sustaining injury. (I assume this zombie, who appeared bigger and stronger than any of the other ones, and lived in New York City, was an infected Jeremy Shockey.) This problem was avoided in the first half of the film by keeping most of the CGI zombies in the dark, feeding on a dead deer or masturbating or whatever they were doing in that first scene.

The movie had other faults too, including a plot hole so big that it pretty much nullified everything that happens before and after the supposed twist. But the weak-sauce zombies is what really kinda ruined it.

Highlight for the spoiler:

How did Anna and the boy get to Manhattan if the whole island was quarantined, all bridge destroyed and all tunnels flooded?


Becks said...

That's what I said, too! What makes zombie movies scary is that the creature trying to attack you isn't just some scary monster but a scary monster that, up until a few days ago, was Bob from across the street and still looks like him. I Am Legend totally failed on that part.

And I hadn't thought of that spoiler but, damn, you're so right.

qtilla said...

I have to say that what the movie did not make very clear, and what us ridiculous-super-nerds know from the book and other movies, is that they aren't zombies.
That being said, it could have been done better. There are many things that could have been better accomplished, but overall I think for me the mutants weren't the scariest part. Being absolutely alone, and partly to blame, are the most terrifying possibility. I think that the movie did really well in focusing on that aspect. If you've ever seen Omega Man (which is based on the same book) you'll see that they handled the mutants more interestingly but the despair, delusions, and loneliness much less well.