Scary Movies?

Shaun of the Dead

Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead has a great title and a strong premise, and it’s certainly more character-driven than most comedies or horror movies. But the film is only a marginal success. It’s cool that zombies are initially mistaken for the homeless and the fatigued urban dweller, but the movie would have been a lot more fun if that conceit had been taken to an even higher level of absurdity — if, for example, it took the slacker heroes even longer to figure out what was really going on. But the larger problem with horror comedies generally and Shaun of the Dead specifically is that they eventually have to decide which they are; Shaun of the Dead comes down on the comedy side, but it’s not quite funny enough to make it worthwhile.

Super Size Me

The scariest movie I’ve ever seen is probably Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, which takes first-person documentary filmmaking to a horrifying level. Spurlock eats McDonald’s and McDonald’s alone for 30 days. When one of his doctors suggests a multivitamin, Spurlock declines, because it ain’t on the Mickey D’s menu. It’s high praise to note that no movie before this one had ever prompted me to seriously evaluate an aspect of my life. And unlike Michael Moore, Spurlock puts himself at risk for his cause, and because of that, his guerrilla methods are a lot easier to swallow. Furthermore, his righteousness is tempered by a light touch, as well as his genuine eagerness to live out the junk-food fantasy of most children.

Trembling Before G-d

I was too drunk watching Trembling Before G-d to mount an extensive critique, but the documentary about gay and lesbian Hassidic Jews has two glaring flaws. (1) It’s formless as a film, with no clearly stated thesis to propel it and no discernible structure. (2) It never provides the context to show that being Hassidic and gay is significantly different from or more difficult than being Catholic and gay, or Mormon and gay, or agnostic and gay. The movie is obviously well-intentioned, and for that reason it’s a genuine shame that it’s so awful.

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