Laserblast, August 24: Lost The Final Season & Lost The Complete Collection


click to purchase
click to purchase THE FINAL SEASON on DVD

Tuesday, August 24 is a big day for horror, fantasy, and science fiction on home video, with numerous titles ranging from cult films to classics, from traditional horror to cannibalistic zombie mayhem, from television to theatres to direct-to-video. Of course, the titles  likely to make it onto most viewers’ lists of “what to have if lost on a desert island” are LOST: THE COMPLETE SIXTH AND FINAL SEASON and LOST: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION, both of which are available on DVD and Blu-ray.
With the LOST television series now only a fond memory, ABC has assembled all sixteen episodes of Season Six into nice five-disc set, available in either DVD or Blu-ray, that offers lovely widescreen transfers, 5.1 stereo sound, and some informative bonus features:

  • A new 12-minute LOST chapter called “New Man In Charge,” which offers a look at what Hurley (Jorge Garcia) and Ben (Michael Emerson) do as the new Island overseers
  • The End: Crafting A Final Season – Join the LOST team along with other producers of some of television’s longest running shows as they examine the challenges of ending a landmark series
  • A Hero’s Journey – What makes a hero? Which survivors of Oceanic 815 are true heroes? These questions and more are explored
  • See You In Another Life, Brotha – Unlock the mysteries of this season’s intriguing flash sideways
  • Bloopers
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Audio Commentaries
  • Lost University: The Masters Program is a Blu-ray exclusive, BD Live-enabled feature that requires a broadband connection to your Blu-ray player.

click to purchase
click to purchase LOST THE COMPLETE COLLECTION on Blu-ray

LOST: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION is a massive set (36-disc Blu-ray discs or 38-DVDs) that contains over 84 hours of material (5,074 minutes to be exact), including “New Man In Charge.” Other bonus features on the COMPLETE COLLECTION:

  • One full disc of never-before-seen content
  • Special edition collectible Senet game as seen in Season 6
  • Custom LOST island replica
  • Exclusive episode guide
  • Collectible ankh
  • Black light
  • Plus all episodes and 30+ hours of bonus from Seasons 1-6

As if that were not enough to keep rapacious fans of cinefantastique satsified, this week also sees the Blu-ray debut of TIME BANDITS, the wonderfully comic time-travel fantasy from director Terry Gilliam. Despite the Monty Pythonish humor, TIME BANDITS works as an elaborate fantasy film, filled with memorable images that deserve to be experienced with the clarity that Blu-ray can bring to the home video experience.
American fans of the classic approach to the horror genre may be interested in DORIAN GRAY, a 2009 adaptation of of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Starring Ben Barnes as Dorian, with Colin Firth as Lord Henry, the British film was released to theatres in its native land but never scored a stateside theatrical release. Writing for Cinefantastique Online, our own Deborah Louis Robinson called DORIAN GRAY a “well-directed” effort in the style of “old Hammer Horror films.” The film is available on DVD and Blu-ray.
George A. Romero’s SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD arrives on home video after a VOD debut and limited theatrical distribution earlier this year. The film is not up to par by the standards of Romero’s previous work (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD, DAY OF THE DEAD, LAND OF THE DEAD, DIARY OF THE DEAD), but fans may be interested in checking out the few new wrinkles he adds to his familiar cannibal zombies. The film is available in three forms: single-disc DVD, a two-disc “Ultimate Undead Edition” DVD, and Blu-ray.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the weird artsy animation experiment NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: REANIMATED also arrives on DVD this week. For this film, various animators were asked to recreate scenes from Romero’s 1968 NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, each in a different style. Worth checking out for curiosity if nothing else.
As for the rest:

  • Synergy offers two of their DVDTee discs, which consist of old movies packaged with T-shirts featuring recreations of original poster artwork. This week’s titles are KING OF THE ZOMBIES (1941) and ASSIGNMENT: OUTER SPACE (1960). The later was recently reviewed as part of Cinefantastique’s 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction Films of 1960.
  • Plus a handful of direct-to-video titles: HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT (with Joe Mantegna), METAMORPHOSIS (with Christopher Lambert), THE HAUNTING OF SORORITY ROW, DEVIL’S DIARY, NINJA VS. ZOMBIES, and DIENER (GET IT?).


The Score: Robert Carli on Survival of the Dead

Survival of the Dead (2009)

Joining the ranks of Italian prog rockers Goblin and film composers Norman Orenstein, Reinhold Heil & Johnny Klimek, John Harrison, and a battalion of library music composers whose work has accompanied the walking dead in their nights, dawns, days, lands, and diaries of the dead as brought to shambling life by George A. Romero, is Canadian Robert Carli. His music has become part of a horror film legacy that runs from 1968’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD to Romero’s sixth zombie epic, SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD, now in theaters, underscoring the definitive cinematic zombie myth that Romero has defined and perpetuated for over 40 years with his own definitive presence and a visceral aesthetic.

Romero’s seminal NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was compiled from library music in the vast holdings of Capitol Records – cues culled from compositions that had graced all manner of low-budget horror movies of the late ‘50s and early ’60s. DAWN OF THE DEAD would have gone the same way had not producer Dario Argento suggested Italian rock band Goblin, who had recently scored Argento’s SUSPIRIA; Romero mixed Goblin’s original music with his beloved library tracks. CREEPSHOW composer John Harrison proved the value of his original score on DAY OF THE DEAD, replacing many of the library tracks Romero had selected in favor of his electronic music. When Romero revisited his shuffling dead things in LAND OF THE DEAD and DIARY OF THE DEAD, he’d become accustomed by then to fully original scores, and had these new films composed by Heil & Klimek (known for their work with Tom Tykwer on RUN, LOLA, RUN, etc) and Norman Orenstein (whose long history in B-moving scoring included sequel scores like AMERICAN PSYCHO 2 and STIR OF ECHOES 2: THE HOMECOMING), respectively.

Robert Carli IMG_0678Thus it came that Robert Carli was brought in to compose Romero’s latest flesh-munchers epic, SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD, which was filmed up in his territory, in and around Toronto, Canada. The producers had approached several composers and invited them to score three scenes as a demo. “The direction we were given is that George wanted an orchestral horror score, somewhat vague, but I think fitting for the exercise,” Carli recalled. He got the gig.

Since he began scoring films in 1999, Carli has composed some fifty film and television productions, including the popular Canadian detective series THE MURDOCH MYSTERIES. Carli studied at the University of Toronto, graduating with a degree in composition, after which he began performing as saxophonist with The Toronto Symphony, The National Ballet of Canada, and The Esprit Orchestra. He has toured with rock bands and jazz groups across North America and throughout Europe, and he teaches saxophone at the University of Toronto, while continuing to perform with classical and contemporary music ensembles.

Fueding families underly the tension in SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD.
Fueding families underly the tension in SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD.

Carli worked closely with Romero and editor Michael Doherty on spotting SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD and determining the best placement of music. “My impressions were informed by some direction that George had given me in advance of the spotting,” Carli said. “He was interested in a traditional orchestral score, and Michael had suggested I employ various character themes and motives throughout the score. Also, there is a narrative arch in the film that touches on family (and its possible devolution), so I wanted to come up music that would somehow touch that.”

Early in the process Carli created a number of different themes and sonic textures which he pitched to George. These included a military theme, a “walking dead” theme, the island theme, a family theme etc. “I should note that I didn’t use ‘character themes’ so much,” Carli said. “Rather I used what you might call ‘situational’ themes. While George’s films often use rich characters, I believe that it is the environments and situations in which these characters are used that speak to his style of film making. For example, there are antagonists, but often they are a group of people, rather than an individual.”

Carli said that his biggest challenge in scoring SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD was simply a matter of time. “Like most films, it comes down to time,” he said. “I had very little time to complete the score, but I don’t really mind working in those parameters. It’s nice to have a looming deadline. Also, there was the challenge of trying to create a big orchestral score without a big orchestral budget.”

Survival of the Dead (2009)

The budget demanded few real instruments and most of the score was crafted out of synths and orchestral sampled worked out in the computer. Carli had offered suggestions to Romero about instrumentation to be used. “I wanted to feature the bassoon prominently in the family theme,” he said. “It has a wanton forlorn quality in the upper register that I thought could work. I also had sampled a number of ‘metal’ tools and pieces from a friend of mine who is a metal sculptor, and I thought they would add an interesting dimension to the score. Also, you can hear the saw from time to time in the score, which I’ve always loved and I tend to use a lot, since it can be simultaneously eerie and warm and melodic.”

Carli put together the music using orchestral samples, manipulated on the keyboard and mixed to sound convincingly realistic, sweetened with a handful of live musicians. “On SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD, we used 3 or 4 fiddles, bassoon, clarinet, sax, bass clarinet, baritone sax, saw, soprano sax and piano as the live components,” Carli said. “I guess the secret is trying to get the fake instruments do what they do well, and get the real instruments to do what they do well. The next result can be a decent compromise in many cases.”

His experience among the living dead was favorable, and Carli enjoyed taking a journey into the further reaches of what horror music can accomplish. “I did score a psychological thriller called CORD (2000, aka HIDE AND SEEK) that starred Darryl Hanna and Vincent Gallo,” Carli recalled. “It was pretty dark. But generally, I haven’t scored too many thrillers. I loved doing SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD, and I hope to do more.”

Carli enjoyed working with director George A. Romero.
Carli enjoyed working with director George A. Romero.

Carli also enjoyed his working rapport with legendary zombiemeister Romero. “It was a great opportunity to work with George,” he said. “It’s curious to meet such a warm and friendly person, and then look at the body of his work, which is anything but warm and friendly. A bit of a disconnect there, but I guess you can attribute that to the magic of film making; the reality on screen really is imagined, and not real at all.”

Carli is now currently scoring Cartoon Network’s first live-action series, UNNATURAL HISTORY (2010), produced by Warner Bros. This youth-oriented adventure series includes a number of fantasy and sci-fi permutations which will give Carli plenty of musical opportunities.


Shrek Forever After & Survival of the Dead: The Cinefantastique Podcast 1:15


This week, the Cinefantastique Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction Podcast scrutinizes a pair of sequels that seem to have nothing in common: SHREK FOREVER AFTER, the latest family-friend CGI fantasy from DreamWorks Animation; and SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD, the latest horrifying episode in George A. Romero’s on-going zombie apocalypse, which began way back in 1968 with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. What’s the connection? Although each film has their worthwhile moments, both raise the question of whether their franchises are tapped out and in need of a hiatus to recharge their batteries. Also on the menu: a round-up of recent news, a preview of the week’s home video releases, including TRUE BLOOD: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON and THE ROAD; and listener mail.


SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD and MICMACS: Horror/Fantasy Interview Podcast

Y’know, people probably shouldn’t be this gleeful about issues of mortality, but in the cases of the movies being discussed in this episode, we’re kinda glad they are. This episode features interviews with Jean-Pierre Jeunet and George A. Romero, both of whom have previously addressed matters of life-and-death in their own, unique ways, and have decided that there’s still more sport to be had from the subject.

Twisted Love: Dany Boon (left) and Julie Ferrier meet peculiar in MICMACS.
Twisted Love: Dany Boon (left) and Julie Ferrier meet peculiar in MICMACS.

In MICMACS, Jeunet gives us a cockeyed protagonist in the person of Bazil (Dany Boon), a man who quite by chance winds up at the precipice of the eternal when a stray bullet gets lodged in his brain. This makes him not so charitably inclined towards the manufacturer of said bullet, a matter only exacerbated when he discovers that the land mine that killed his father in the Middle East was created by a neighboring company. His only recourse: Take down both corporations, with the help of a ragtag assortment of unusually talented junkyard misfits. For such a dire theme, the film turns out to be quite a lighthearted adventure, with Jeunet deploying all his powers of visual invention into the narrative, while also making copious nods to film history, particularly to the works of silent comedians and Sergio Leone.

Home on Deranged (Sorry): Joris Jarsky (left) wrangles Kathleen Munroe in SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD.
Home on Deranged (Sorry): Joris Jarsky (left) wrangles Kathleen Munroe in SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD.

George Romero is also taking a few pages from cinema history, most specifically from classic westerns. In SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD, the group of renegade guardsmen we met in DIARY OF THE DEAD — led by Alan Van Sprang — decides they’ve had enough of zombies, and aim themselves for a respite on an island off the coast of Delaware. Problem is: Not only is the place already infested with the walking dead, but they’ve become a rather peculiar stake in a kind-of range war between waged between two feuding clans. As always, Romero mixes zombie assaults with some particularly vivid death scenes — for both living and dead — along with some trenchant observations of our current, fractious times. Turns out the departed still have something to say to their survivors, and it has nothing to do with moving into the light.

Click on the player to hear the show.


Survival of the Dead (2010)

Survival of the Dead (2009)George A. Romero’s latest excursion into the land of the living dead is reminiscent of the 1990 version of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (which he wrote but did not direct): like that remake, SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD is a reasonably entertaining variation on a familiar theme, although it is lacks the inspiration that would make it stand as an original in its own right. Instead, it’s the same old formula, with the usual Romero twists: once again, the walking dead are the catalyst for human conflict; the focus is as much on the drama as the horror; the genre elements are used to express broadly stated social critique. These conceptual elements make SURVIVAL more than just another zombie movie, but the execution could use some kind of original vision to distinguish the film from its predecessors. Unlike the recent DIARY OF THE DEAD, whose back-to-basics approach (after the larger scale LAND OF THE DEAD) reinvigorated Romero, providing a fresh take on the old material, SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD evinces only anonymous professionalism; although the story traffics in the film-maker’s recognizable themes (mankind’s self-destructive impulses, the tribalism that prevents cooperation in the face of impending mutal doom), the execution gives the impression that any competent director could have been behind the camera.
The story follows a rogue military unit, briefly glimpsed in DIARY, whose search for a safe refuge leads them to an isolated island off the East Coast. Unfortunately, they stumble into the middle of a feud between rival patriarchs: one wants to clear the island of the living dead menace; the other wants to find a way to preserve the dearly departed, in the hope that someday someone will find a cure.

It's cowboys and zombies, pardner!
It's cowboys and zombies, pardner!

Romero makes a laudable attempt to add a few new ingredients to the mix, but that’s not quite enough to prevent the result from feeling watered down. With the rival families coming across like a modern version of the Earps and the Clantons (they even ride horses), SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD deliberately suggests a Western, and the tactic of inserting outsiders into this conflict is a good one, upsetting the balance of power and precipitating a crisis.
Unfortunately, these new elements do not always serve the subject matter well. Romero is revisiting themes from DAY OF THE DEAD (which focused on finding a way to feed the dead, so that they would not eat the living), but he is not really expanding upon the old ideas, just repeating them in a new context. The idea worked when the experimentors were scientists (who could offer theories about what they were doing), but the characters in SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD are just laymen with no expertise on the subject. Consequently, the opportunity to explore the theme is severely blunted. In fact, at times it feels labored.
For all this good intentions, Romero stoops to some weak plot devices, such as the old identical twin ploy, which is played so half-heartedly you wonder why he even bothered. Even worse, he gets lazy with his climactic twist, which [SPOILER ALERT] echoes the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), wherein the obnoxious Mr. Cooper (who is set up as the movie’s antagonist) was in the end proved right. This sort of irony is perhaps too delicious to resist revisiting, but its reprise here is poorly thought out. A dead equestrian (who has been mindlessly riding her horse for days if not weeks) is captured and put into a corral with the horse, and after about five minutes she decides to eat it. Why now? Why not during all that time she was riding it? At least DAY OF THE DEAD suggested that Dr. Logan was using behavior modification techniques to train his star pupil; here, it just happens. [END SPOILER]
As in DIARY OF THE DEAD, Romero replaces most of the old practical gore effects with computer-generated imagery (a decision motivated by budget concerns, not artistic ones). The results are not unduly horrible by low-budget standards, but they are immediately recognizable; at least the quicker ones go by too fast to dwell on the digital origins. In general, the result is that the horrific impact of SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD is less pronounced than that of Romero’s earlier efforts, although there are still a few good gruesome moments featuring old-fashioned prosthetics.
The cast – sometimes is a weakness in Romero’s films – is strong, particularly Stefano DiMatteo, who takes what could have been a one-note stereotype and makes him the most sympathetic of the lot. Alan Van Sprang carries off the lead role well enough, although one wishes that the script had more carefully charted his character’s progress from the ruthless thief scene in DIARY to the sympathetic comrade revealed here. (Romero has always tried to people his films with characters who are more than mere walking victims, even if their personalities were sometimes broadly defined.) The casual inclusion of a lesbian among the military unit (without the sniggering seen in most exploitation horror films) is a nice touch. q
A family patriarch fends off the walking dead.
A family patriarch fends off the walking dead.

More than George A. Romero’s previous sequels, SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD simply suffers from the law of diminishing returns. Back in their glory days, the films  benefitted from being spaced out over years if not decades, providing time for the cultural context to change and for Romero to recharge his batteries, coming back to the franchise with a maturing vision and improved expertise as a filmmaker. However, since 2005 he has made three more “of the Dead” films (LAND OF THE DEAD, DIARY OF THE DEAD, and now SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD), and it may just be too much to expect that any filmmaker has that much to say on such a narrow topic. Romero would like to do other things, and if film financiers are not comfortable handing him a musical comedy, they should at least give him an opportunity to explore other areas of the horror genre. Then, maybe sometime around 2019, he could come back and blow us away with “Return of the Dead.”


LAND OF THE DEAD (2005) concluded with a small paramilitary team hitting the road in an armored vehicle known as Dead Reckoning, in search of a safe refuge; the ending clearly suggested a sequel; however, in 2007 Romero made DIARY OF THE DEAD, which rebooted the franchise instead of following directly from its predecessor. SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD is presented as a direct sequel to DIARY (it is the first of Romero’s DEAD films to feature a returning character), yet it feels like a spiritual sequel to LAND, in that its rogue military unit takes possession of a heavily armored vehicle, then sets out on the road in search of a safe refuge. LAND also featured an isolated society broken down into warring factions, including an Irish spokesman for the oppressed – ideas and characters that are echoes in SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD.
In the U.S., SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD made its national premiere via Pay Per View on April 30. A limited theatrical release will follow on May 28.

The dead walk - again!
The dead walk - again!

SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD (Copyright: 2009; VOD Release: April 30, 2010; Theatrical Release: May, 28, 2010). Written and directed by George A. Romero. Cast: Alan Van Sprang, Kenneth Welsh, Kathleen Munroe, Devon Bostick, Richard Fitzpatrick, Athena Karkanis, Stefano DiMatteo, Joris Jarsky, Eric Woolfe, Julian Richings, Wayne Robson, Joshua Peace, Hardee T. Lineham.

Sense of Wonder: Shameless Plug for Survival of the Dead VOD

Click here to rent

Just wanted to remind everyone: the theatrical release of George A. Romero’s SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD is nearly a month away, but the film is now available for “pre-theatrical rental,” courtesy of’s Video on Demand service. For $9.99, you can get access to the film for 48 hours, either on your computer screen or on your television (if you have a Roku box or other similar device).
If you’re nice enough to rent the film by clicking through from the Cinefantastique Online Store, then we get a few pennies to help keep us in business. And you all want that, don’t you?