Sunday, April 29, 2012

Horror Film Review

DIE-ner (2009):  Zombie flick!  When I first saw those film festival award logos, I paused and very nearly didn't watch it.  If they'd been from Sundance or some similarly weighty festival, you'd think the print would be large enough to, you know, read.  The other mark against it is the subtitle.  The full name of this movie, and I'm not kidding, is DIE-ner (get it?).  I'm thinking, gee, the DIE is capitalized and situated above the pic of a diner in front of which walk a couple of zombies.  No, I don't get it.  Maybe you should beat me over the head with the DVD case for a few hours until it sinks in.  Good grief.  Anyway, these negatives right out of the gate didn't bode well for DIE-ner and my expectations were lower than a gopher's butt.

It opens with waitress Rose (Maria Olsen) chatting with customer Ken (Joshua Grote) at a virtually deserted truck stop.  Ken is charming and flirtatious.  Rose, not exactly young or a what you'd call a looker, enjoys the attention...right up until he kills her.  He then kills the cook Fred (Jorge Montalvo) and puts both bodies in the walk-in freezer.  A bickering couple (Parker Quinn and Liesel Kopp) come in, Ken pretends he works there, but before he can bump them off, zombie Fred stumbles out of the freezer.  All right...a few things I should explain.  Ken is a hitchhiking serial killer.  Why does he kill?  Who the hell knows.  There are some flashbacks when he was a boy, none makes much sense, though.  Also, there's no explanation as to why folks are turning into the walking dead.  That bothered me...for around ten seconds.  I discovered that if I suspended not only my disbelief but also every iota of logic and common sense, I could keep watching without screaming at the TV. 

I should point out that the filmmakers did not make a straight horror flick here.  They went for comedy.  Oddly, it mostly works, which is unheard of in low-budget zombie movies.  This is thanks in part to Grote but also to the performance of Larry Purtell as Sheriff Duke.  Purtell is a hoot as the small town lawman and the perfect foil to serial killer Ken.  One other odd bit that shouldn't work but sort of does is the music.  It's from a pipe organ and plays the kind of thing you hear in church while folks are finding their pews before the service begins.  Weird?  Yes.  But it bothered me for only around ten seconds. 


Acting:  I was surprised it didn't suck.  Well, suck more.  Grote delivers the dark humor and succeeds more often than not.  But it's Purtell who steals the show.
Story:  Writer/director Patrick Horvath wasn't trying to reinvent the wheel here, rather he put his own twist on the zombie genre.  Pitting bad guys against the undead isn't anything new.  Pitting a serial killer against the undead and making it funny, however...
Direction:   Horvath makes the most of the short 75-minute running time by keeping the action moving right along or by the use of humor.  The flashbacks, though, were unnecessary and bogged the film down.
Production Values:  I find it extraordinary that this movie was shot (on film, not video, thank God) in eight days for about half a million bucks.  Realistic sets and decent lighting are offset by unrealistic weapons fire and below average sound quality. 
Gore/FX:  What gore there is isn't bad, just nothing special.  The zombie make-up is uninspired but not awful. 
Scares:  Nothing comes to mind. 
Ending:  Too bad Horvath couldn't have come up with a new twist for the ending.   
Verdict:  Should you see DIE-ner (get it?)?  Zombie fans have to, of course.  Otherwise...I don't know.  If you like black comedies, then I think you'd enjoy it, although it's not to die for.  Get it?

My Rating:  2 out of 5.

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