Went to see Zombie Honeymoon and the comedic short Snow Day, Bloody Snow Day on Sunday afternoon with Kath, Bascha and B. The two films were paired together as one program, and we were very excited to see zombie action with a twist. Below are my thoughts.

Zombie Honeymoon: very well done, good acting, but somehow not the best zombie movie ever. I’m not sure why, but it lacked some sort of unifying vision or message or something. All the best parts were the understated, often entirely unstated aspects of the relationships of the characters to one another and the way zombies “work” in that world. It has a very interesting spin on how zombism manifests and spreads, and the main characters’ relationship was entirely believable – and likeable – right up to the point that the wife decides to try to make it work after her husband starts eating people (this is not a spoiler, this is information that can be gleaned from the title). In particular, I really liked the scene where they decide to go live their fantasies rather than spend their lives wishing they’d done what they wanted; it was a deeply human and exhuberant and tragic scene, well acted and well filmed. Likewise, the scene where the husband and his friend discuss an old girlfriend is brief, understated but very tragic and very significant. The film does this very well, overall – the subtle touches of horrific indications, the signs that the husband’s old life really is gone now. The Boyf wondered whether there was a bit of the heroin addiction theme here in the tragic unfolding of the wife’s ability to put up with pretty much anything in order to keep her husband rather than face his death, and I think that sort of theme of addiction and a sense of betrayal inherent to such discoveries was very integral to the film’s conception. The comedy, likewise, felt largely natural and genuinely clever in the same way Buffy could inject comedy into serious circumstances not by inserting haphazard slapstick but by allowing the characters to be fallible and self-effacing about those failings. A part of this success with its brief touches of comedy, however, stems from what a fantastic job the actors do. They are really very good, and they give it a serious go in their roles.

Still, it just didn’t click somehow. I have no problem with genre mixing, thematic mixing or, even, the utter lack of a unifying theme or vision. I love some movies that are just all over the map in terms of what they try to be – Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a prime example of a great film that doesn’t fit easily on any one shelf at the video store – and yet that seems to be the closest I can come to an articulate criticism of the film: was it a tragedy? A horror film? A gore flick? A comedy? A drama? All of the above?

The problem with trying to classify it as “all of the above,” a la, again, Buffy or Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Six Degrees of Separation or Hedda Gabler, is not that they transgress in their refusal to be pigeon-holed. Rather, they defy classification because of their greatness at portraying realistic emotional lives, a rocky road of irrational reactions that, as in life, leads the characters around abrupt corners so that they cut from tears to laughter to tears again in unpredictable ways. The fact is that emotions are messy and complicated things and in each of these works we see people trying to deal rationally with the irrational morass of emotions their circumstances present. In that, we see ourselves reflected and writ large, exaggerated so that in the distortion we can find some comfortable distance. As long as the truth of human experience – that troublesome intersection of reason and feeling – is preserved, the art works for us. Well, it works for me, anyway.

And that, I think, is my problem with Zombie Honeymoon. The emotions are so real and raw and believable for the first reel, but as soon as she’s gone from shocked horror at her husband’s transformation to something more like an I Love Lucy routine with intestines in, I stopped believing in the feelings being portrayed. She’s not thinking, she’s justifying, and that made me feel like the character was dumb, and that made me stop liking the movie. The great irony here, I know, is that in real life the partners of addicts spend much time justifying and not thinking and thus the movie is quite realistic here. Still, there comes a time when those partners are done, are fed up, are tapped out, are unable to care, are unable to think of new excuses, and this movie was utterly devoid of that. By the last ten minutes I was mystified as to what must be going on in her brain; while I deeply understood her fear of change and loss, at the same time I had real trouble connecting some of her feelings with some of her actions. I felt that if there was an explanation for some of her behavior that either (a) I was too dumb to understand or (b) that her inner life was so closed off to me as the audience that I could no longer attempt to draw those lines of cause and effect necessary to backtrack from action to motivation to create that sympathetic bond.

And yet, I’ve talked and talked and talked about it, so it’s not at all like I regret seeing it. In fact, I would highly recommend it to fans of zombie films, or fans of the Buffy-ish subgenre of supernatural tragi-dramedy-whatevers without reservation. That doesn’t mean I think they’ll all like it, though, or that I think they will come away from it entirely satisfied with the job it’s done of presenting its stories.

Snow Day, Bloody Snow Day, however? Hilarious, cheaply made and well worth watching. There’s some gods-awful dialogue delivery and some hack-work gags about nerds being shy, but it has some top-notch slapstick and some very clever jokes. I recommend it without reservation, in part because it is exactly what it advertises itself to be – no more and no less.